Eddy Vents, is a dancer/teacher originally from Guinea Bissau but currently residing in the UK who has been a very important figure in the development of the kizomba movement in that country and who is also a regular teacher at many international congresses throughout the world.
Often a vocal defender of the original and organic style, Eddy is a true master of not only traditional kizomba but also both social as well as show semba. His motto is “To be good in any dance, the key is the music and how you master your basic.”.
Here is a video interview where he describes a little bit of his journey:
His famous explanation of the kizomba basics:
Here is an interview he recently gave to …
IDM: How long have you been dancing kizomba?
Eddy: Well, some say before I could walk (laughs), but I have been dancing it or have had exposure to it, since I was very young. And I have devoted over fifteen years of my life to studying it more intensely- its music and history and movements. And so I’ve been dancing it for about 27 years now.
IDM: Where is the dance originally from?
Eddy: Kizomba is originally from Angola, West Africa. But it’s also from the five ex- Portuguese colonies. One of them is Guinea Bissau, which is where I’m from. And I grew up in Portugal. Kizomba is from a combination of zouk and other African rhythms. I love zouk because I grew up learning to dance kizomba to zouk. Kizomba, the step, has existed for a long time. Kizomba, the music, is something new. It’s been around from the late 80’s.
IDM: Where do you live now?
Eddy: I live in London now. I moved to England a few years back. And I teach kizomba in England and have traveled to many different parts of the world to share my knowledge and passion of the dance with others.
IDM: Your dance group’s name is called Pitanga. What does the name mean?
Eddy: Pitanga is the name of a fruit. I think it’s from Africa, but I don’t know from where exactly.
IDM: What does it taste like? Is it good?
Eddy: (shakes his head and makes a sour looking face). No, I don’t like it. (laughs).
IDM: You just liked the name (laughs)?
Eddy: No, it describes a good mix of things. Well, for one thing, the fruit is not sweet. It’s sour, like citrus, but not proper bitter or as strong as a lemon. It’s a little bit sweeter than lemon. If you end up eating three or four, your face is going to be like… (he scrunches up his lips and mouth and laughs). And the reason for the name? Well, what we say is that pitanga, the fruit, is an aphrodisiac. And we used to make jokes that kizomba can be an aphrodisiac as well for certain couples (laughs).
Plus the fruit is tropical and kizomba is tropical too, so that was where the idea for the name came from.
IDM: I’m glad you brought that up, about the joke, because the dance IS really close. And I find that, well, at least in the west, where we’re still learning it, sometimes, people from the outside, when they are watching it, they have an image of what it is but it’s…
Eddy: …the wrong idea?
IDM: Yes! I know some guys who think that they want to learn kizomba because they only see that you get to be really close to the girl and it seems so simple. And then they try to dance it, and copy it, and they interpret it as just grinding or rubbing up against a girl, which is not what it is. And so it just ruins it. I’m wondering if you see that misconception a lot, and how you, as a kizomba teacher, go about changing that.
Eddy: We never can fight against that. I mean, this thought about the dance is not just in Vancouver. It’s everywhere, worldwide. I mean, I even made the joke about it now with the Pitanga name. But it’s not really how I feel about the dance.
At my venue on Sunday, I always end up having someone who goes to the bar to take a drink and he sees everyone dancing kizomba, and he wants to do it too. At first, he spends some time looking around, and invites a girl to dance. And then, like you said, he just tries to rub up against her. We always have people around at my venue who look out for these kinds of people. We are all there to dance. But when we see someone doing something more… how can I say, ‘modern’ (laughs)? We advise him to ‘gently’ follow us (grabs my arm and laughs).
No, but seriously, this is sometimes the idea that people have. It’s easy for people on the outside to think that kizomba has a lot of sexuality in it which can be true, in some ways. But that’s not what the dance is about.
What people forget is that we grew up with the dance for many years. So the sexuality aspect of it, if it was there, disappeared for us a long time ago. I mean, it’s not the purpose of the dance, or what it’s all about. I posted a video on the internet of young kids -a girl and a boy- doing kizomba. There was nothing sexual about it. We do this dance for fun. We don’t see it as sexual.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t feel a connection or be attracted to someone when dancing with them. Of course, you can actually end up having chemistry with someone you dance with. But I don’t think that happens just in kizomba. You can even be dancing house with someone, and you can feel that chemistry. But I guess with kizomba, the two people are very close in the dance, so people look at it differently.
IDM: And about that closeness, you had said in the workshops that in kizomba, it’s about two people looking …
Eddy: …like one.
IDM: Yes (smiles). I just really liked the concept. And the feeling is amazing. Could you explain this a little further?
Eddy: Okay, kizomba is all about connection. And actually, the way you connect to your partner is the way you can create better control, in terms of the dance and the movement. If you are less connected, you have less control. And the way people connect and interact with each other always seems to come from the society they grew up in.
English people, for example, in general, say hello, like this (puts out his hand and goes to shake mine).
For them, it may seem polite, but what they don’t realize is that they have already created a barrier between you and them, with their hand, before they even know you.
Kizomba is about basically killing that barrier. You and your partner are close, and you cannot have that block between you. But it’s common to see those same English people dancing with their bodies far from each other, at first.
But with kizomba, you have to connect more, and without realizing it, you end up breaking that barrier.
You’re still going to find that people will say that it looks like two people rubbing against each other. But, only after a while, when you start to get more into kizomba, will you start to take out that sexual connection to it. You will become more relaxed, and without realizing it, your body will start to connect even more, in a deeper way. And it’s actually when you connect in this way, that you can ENJOY the dance more.
Because my perspective is that kizomba has a lot of energy around it. LOTS. We’re talking about two bodies connecting, and then that being connected with the music. And there’s a lot of energy that gets created between two people. If you relax, and just allow the music to lift you, it’s amazing and addictive. After a while, people don’t realize it, but they just want more and more.
It’s literally because of this energy that is always going on that you end up feeling that way.
The more comfortable you are with kizomba, the more you enjoy it because you don’t realise it but your body goes closer and closer and closer to your partner, and that is when you start to look and feel as if you are moving as one.
IDM: Is that what you meant in your workshops when you said that kizomba is different from other dances because it’s not about steps, it’s about the connection, and the music?
Eddy: Exactly. People focus too much on steps. I think it was with you, in the workshop, that I demonstrated a move where I swept your leg away, where I pushed your leg under?
Eddy: And a couple of people came up to me after the workshop and asked me to teach that to them. Some of them were not even getting the basic movement or a simple walk forward and back. And it seemed that the only thing those people took from the class was when I did that sweep with you. That told me everything. For them, they probably will never really get interested in the real kizomba. Or if they do get into it, it will only be about the steps to them.
And you miss the beauty of kizomba when you are only focused on steps and not connected with the energy and the music. When you are connected to the music, you will be saying, “Wow!” Sometimes, people won’t always know why they are feeling that wow feeling, but it’s because we are talking about literally moving inside of the music- your body movement is combining with the music. And it will look so natural, but people won’t understand why. And that’s the beauty of kizomba. It’s really about listening to the music, being connected to it, and playing with the different rhythms you have within it.
IDM: Because it is more about that connection and energy, it’s really hard to describe kizomba to someone else. Often, I hear it being described in terms of other dances. The description “African tango” has come up a few times, and I’m wondering what your thoughts are on that.
Eddy: I think people describe kizomba that way because they need to refer to the dance with something that is more familiar. If I explained kizomba to you by talking about the other dances it’s connected to or came out of, you probably won’t know what I’m talking about, because you’ve never seen those dances. So ‘African tango’ makes it easy for people on this side of the world, who have not experienced those African dances, to imagine the dance using something they already know.
IDM: It just bothered me when I heard someone refer to kizomba that way, because I thought well, I’m sure that kizomba has its own history and is its own dance, and by calling it something else, I feel like we are denying it that history. And the more we do that, the more I wonder when WILL we ever then make an effort to learn about it as its own dance? I mean, I know this is taking it a little far, but if tango was not well known to people, but kizomba was, and tango was described as Argentine kizomba, I wonder how tango dancers and the history of tango would suffer, or how it would make the people who came from those roots feel.
Eddy: You are right. Kizomba is not tango, it is kizomba, and it has its own roots. But maybe people think it’s easier to understand if it is explained by using things we already know. But you have a good point, because if you go deep into Africa, it is difficult for you to see tango flavor in the kizomba there. Because the kind of communication you have here- internet and all that- where everything comes so fast, we don’t have that. We don’t mix those other dances into kizomba so easily like that. For us, we don’t have schools for dance that way. We dance the way we see people dancing around us. It doesn’t mean that kizomba cannot have some tango flavor put into it. Probably in America, you’re going to see a lot of kizomba teachers with tango moves, things they’ve learned from the internet and from their other dance backgrounds. But they are adding that to the kizomba dance. Kizomba is a subtle dance, not flashy. It is for the two people dancing it. It is not for show. It is a social dance. So many times, people add tango and other elements to it to make it more showy for performances and youtube videos. But that is not the dance itself. So to say that every time you learn kizomba you will see tango is really going far.
IDM: Are there other elements of other dances that get put into kizomba or get mistaken for a part of kizomba?
Eddy: Okay, from dances like salsa and bachata, people put things in that they have the choice to use, but they shouldn’t call it kizomba. For example, in kizomba, you don’t have the movement of your rib cage or upper body like they do in salsa or bachata. And we don’t have the tap that you often see in bachata or salsa. The tap actually goes against what is the authentic kizomba body movement. But many times, I see salsa teachers teaching kizomba and teaching their students to tap in the movements. They are used to doing this in salsa or bachata but they need to recognize that we are talking about a different dance. Kizomba is different. I am not going to teach R&B the same way that I’m going to teach salsa. That doesn’t make sense. So why would I teach kizomba the same way I would teach bachata or salsa? As teachers, we should be finding a proper structure to give to people to learn from. Or if you decide to put in other movements, then let the students know that it is not traditional kizomba, but it is your own style, or something you are adding into kizomba.
IDM: What are the other dance styles that you dance in your group?
Eddy: We do funana and we do gumbe, which is traditional from my country. We do coupe de cale, which is one of the biggest dances in the world (smiles). Okay, one of the biggest dances in Africa (laughs). But in fact, it’s something big, huge, bigger than kizomba. All these dances give you African rhythms. And what kizomba actually did was take lots of movements from them, and so they are a part of where kizomba comes from.
IDM: Speaking of other dances from which kizomba came, semba is a huge part of that too, right?
Eddy: Yes, kizomba originated from semba (which is where samba came from) and zouk and other African rhythms. Semba is a type of music inside of the kizomba umbrella which allows us to do performances and more showy things. As I said before, kizomba is less showy, and more of a social dance, rather than for performances.
IDM: And you have an event running for the first time this year called Semba Camp. Could you tell us a little about it?
Eddy: I created the Semba Camps because I wanted to find a way to share our African dancing with others, but share it in its purest form -without mixing the dances with any other styles. So I have invited instructors who dance particular African dances to teach at the event. We will have funana and coupe de cale and semba being taught there. Semba Camp is based on African dance and African roots. Most other congresses are not just kizomba congresses. They usually have to have kizomba mixed with salsa and bachata at those events. But I’ve tried to create the first kizomba event focusing on the African roots without the mixing of European styles in it.
IDM: Can anyone come to the events?
Eddy: Yes, of course. I hope a lot of people do come. The events will be in Oxford, England. And they are in four stages- the first in May, the second in July, and the last two in October and November. They will include competitions and workshops. And you can come out to any of the months or all of them and still have a lot of opportunities to learn and participate as we will always be pushing foundation, foundation, foundation. Beginner workshops will be going on regularly.
IDM: Since you dance so many different dances, do you have one that is a favorite? Is it kizomba?
Eddy: They are all connected for me.
IDM: Yeah, I thought you were going to say that (smiles).
Eddy: Okay, for example, my mom is from Cape Verde. I’m from Guinea. I was born in Guinea. Guinea roots are gumbe, which I love. I grew up with gumbe. I grew up with funana, which is from my mom’s birth place. I went to Cape Verde and I grew up with kizomba. I don’t have one favorite dance. Right now, I can say that yes, kizomba is the best, because it’s the one that pays my bills. Honestly.
But the same way I see kizomba growing, I would love to see funana do the same. I wanted to teach funana and coupe de cale in England. And when I told my friend about the idea, the first thing he told me was that people in England are not ready for that.
And then I said you know what? I will try it anyway. So I started to create a regular class for coupe de cale and a regular class for funana. And they are always packed, always. And we do different events with my Pitanga group, and every time promoters ask me now to make sure that either I have a coupe de cale or funana class at the events.
IDM: You mentioned earlier that you grew up with a lot of these dances, but that you didn’t have dance schools in Africa. So how did you learn them? How did you learn kizomba?
Eddy: This is actually a good question. I was thinking the other day, how DID I end up learning kizomba? I think it’s like how we end up learning to speak.
IDM: Wow! I wish it was that easy for me (laughs).
Eddy: But no, really. How do we learn how to speak? It’s just something that comes naturally. That’s how kizomba came to me. I grew up watching my parents dancing all the time. And of course as a child, sometimes I would make jokes or I would grab my sister and we would try to copy what we saw, and we would just play with the music. I don’t know. I think I was watching it so many times, and playing and listening to the music all the time. After some time, I guess it stayed with me. I don’t know how to explain it.
IDM: But there are some people who, even when they grow up in that environment, don’t end up taking to the dance of their culture. I mean, like you said, not everyone in Angola or Portugal knows how to dance kizomba. So what made it different for you? What made it important for you to pursue and learn further?
Eddy: It’s true. I mean, there are a lot of Angolans, especially the new generation, who hate kizomba. They like R&B or house music. They don’t listen to kizomba. So I don’t know.
At the end of the day, we get a lot of influences from our parents. Maybe because my parents used to like dancing, and I used to have it all the time in my house, I grew up with that perspective. I don’t know. I don’t see any other explanation.
Because really, where do our beliefs come from? Mostly from the beliefs of our parents and the society we grew up in.
My father is an anthropologist. So he’s into history, but he’s also crazy for music. And I grew up having a lot of vinyl records because my father was crazy about having them. And then, when I started to work, when I had my first job, I started to follow my father because I spent all of my money buying CD’s or cassettes. And my father used to get pissed at me for spending a lot of what I made on music (laughs).
And my father one day ended up breaking some CD’s just to show me that he didn’t like me spending so much on them. NOW, I understand that actually, I grew up seeing my father doing the same thing (laughs). Although he complained about me getting crazy about music, he used to do it too. And so that part probably came from his influence.
But I always loved kizomba. I HAD to have the music and listen to it always. I couldn’t explain why. Even with my friends, they thought I was crazy. We would all go out, and when we used to listen to songs, I would be able to give them the name of the singer, the name of the album, the track number and the year it came out.
And people used to think, “Damn, you are sick!” (laughs). But yeah, I was always into the music. And now I love sharing it and the dance with everyone around me.
Here is another interesting article by Eddy Vents where he describes his opinion on current trends in the international kizomba scene but also applicable to salsa or bachata: