When lovers need to move beyond looks and murmured conversations, when joy knows no bounds, or quite simply when you feel the blues and need to drive it away by grooving, try the Latin remedy of dances like the Salsa, Bachatha, Zumba, or the Kizomba. Latin dance can be perplexing, complicated and too fast-paced for an onlooker. We get it what with the lightning footwork, sensuous twirls and mesmerising hip work. Remember Hrithik Roshan making it look so effortless when he danced away in gay abandon to the song Na Main Samjha, Na Main Jaana, Jo Bhi Tumne Mujhse Kaha Hai Senorita in the film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Rest assured even a rank novice will not hesitate to tap their feet, swing their bodies or pulse with the rhythm of a Latin music beat. Such is the allure of the Latin dance forms, which explains the growing popularity of the various workshops, classes and socials that see an impressive number of people flocking to them. Salsa and bachatha are arguably the two most popular styles among social dancers with kizomba taking baby steps in the popularity domain.
“Earlier, salsa was the most popular one among the Latin dances, but the globetrotting culture of Malayalis has exposed them to world dances which they would otherwise have seen only in Hollywood and Bollywood movies.
Hence the curiosity to experiment with these dance forms,” begins Alex, a choreographer who teaches Latin dance forms, adding that Latin dance festivals are increasingly popularising the dance forms across India. In fact, Kochi held its first salsa stage performance very recently where participants in the age group 20-50 danced away to glory. Alex adds, “We now have a Kochi salsa team that goes all over India and performs at various festivals.” There are added benefits to doing the salsa, bachatha or the kizombo. “There is no age bar and any one can dance. These dance forms are also about increasing flexibility and physical fitness.” One of the participants who was part of the Kochi stage performance was Dr. Anita Mani, a gynecologist in her late 40’s in Kochi.
Having worked in the UK earlier, Anita was exposed to salsa and attended classes there. Imagine her glee when she found salsa classes after she shifted to Kochi. It was unimaginable for Anita to even think of herself performing on a stage but then, surprise! She did. “We had been practising earlier, so I was not too nervous about being on stage but it was when I, a backbencher, was asked to come to the front that I felt slightly nervous.” Being a doctor, Anita is very vocal about the health benefits. “Latin dances are all about the hip movements. So, muscle coordination improves. The core muscles too develop and you get to burn a lot of calories as well. The best advantage, I feel, is the stress relief and since this is a social dance, you tend to meet a lot of people.”
Though many people believe salsa to be a Spanish dance, the strong ties to the continent of Africa and the African influence in Latin America has spawned the style. Salsa is performed with a partner and is centered on a four-beat combination of two quick steps and a slow step with a short pause or tap. Bachata, another Latin dance that originated in the Caribbean, has pronounced hip movements. kizomba is favoured for having a slow, insistent and sensuous rhythm which is also danced accompanied by a partner with neither tightness nor rigidity.
“Anybody can dance,” begins Rajesh Raj, cine choreographer in Kochi, and continues, “These dance forms are simple and energetic. The emerging kizomba has very light movements concentrated on the music, which even a person without too much of an experience in dance can move to.” Rajesh, who travels to Bengaluru and other cities, saw a sizeable number of Malayalis attending the festivals there and realised the popularity of these dance forms. He also touches on the popular dance nights held at leading hotels which have Latin dances holding sway over the crowds.
Minu Marie Mathew, an entrepreneur and traveller, learnt Latin dances when she was in Chennai in 2010. She later settled in Thiruvananthapuram and regularly attends salsa socials, workshops and classes. She says, “The salsa socials held in the city have 20-30 participants and there is no hard and fast rule that only seasoned dancers be there. We have novices, beginners and experts and the basic idea is to enjoy ourselves when the music takes over our bodies and we sway to the rhythm.” For Minu, these dances are also a great way to catch up with and meet people. “We all dance, enjoy ourselves and catch up for dinner,” she mentions.
Minu also asserts that age is never a defining factor while performing these dances. “We had a little girl from school and an elderly couple who came over to the salsa socials to dance.” Before she ends, she quips, “Basically, if you can walk, you can dance!”...