How did you get into dancing?
I’ve been interested in dance since an early age but somehow, I’ve always put regular sports engagements like swimming, tennis or martial arts first. It wasn’t until University when I finally pursued dance. Interestingly enough, I don’t think I would be the same dancer if I hadn’t waited 🙂
What projects are you currently working on?
With Kizomba.si, Barbara and I have been focusing on ongoing development of our teaching methodology for students to be able to enjoy any kizomba or semba dance. Whether they are dancing with the kotas from Angola, “professionally” trained dancers from European kizomba “capitals”, complete beginners, doesn’t matter.
In the 7 years that we’ve been teaching we have become confident kizomba & semba dancers and teachers, yet not one generation of students has had the same curriculum. It’s a never-ending process. There’s always something students have some difficulty learning, something that would have been a lot easier to master, if only we taught them some technique from months or even years ago differently.
Finding the root of the “problem” is what drives me, and of course fixing it so that it doesn’t occur again in the next generation of students. It’s our job as teachers that the learning curve of our students is as steep as possible, and we’ve always found that what might seem to be the longest path is really the shortest. There are no shortcuts to learning, and if you take the time to master the basics, everything else just falls into place. Neglect the proper basics and you might never even reach intermediate level of dancing.
And we have still so much to learn it’s not even funny 🙂
What’s been the most memorable moment of your journey as a dancer so far?
Wow. Through the years there have been so many moments that have had an immense impact on our “kizomba lives”. It would be unfair to pick just one.
First kizomba experiences in London and Lisbon, watching the people enjoy the company of each other, just sharing the beautiful music and relaxed atmosphere.
First weeks spent with Mestre Petchu, Vanessa Gingapura and the rest of the family in Lisbon (followed by so many that Vanessa once called us residents :)), when we started to realise just how substantial is kizomba in PALOPs’ lives, especially Angolans’ and how deep the kizomba connection is. It’s not only the connection between partners. It’s not only the connection with the music. It’s the connection with the ground, the family, the childhood memories, etc. It’s their identity. Angolanidade.
That was also the time when Mestre Petchu gave me the nickname Mateus Pele do Zangado. I am still humbled by it and I can only hope kota Pele is not turning in his grave 🙂
The African clubs in Lisbon we had to reason with the gatekeepers to get in – “no, no, this is an African party”… Usually, the length of the conversation at the door exactly correlated with the impression of the night: D
Then there are countless memorable moments from our two trips to Angola. Living with the families, meeting and dancing with the kotas, learning from the young dancers, the Carnival, dancing on three Angolan TV shows, the Angolan kizomba & semba competition, Cha de Caxinde, Kizomba na Rua, Centro recreativo e cultural Kilamba, the musseques, I could go on and on…
Last but not least our very own Kizombadas that we organise in Ljubljana, Slovenia, every two months or so. A real joy to watch the local dancers enjoying themselves to real kizomba and not just those shallow electronic beats all night.
What advice would you give to up & coming dancers looking at you for inspiration?
I believe it’s very important to never stop learning – find many different teachers and mentors, never assume or judge, listen way more than you talk, observe, learn the language (we’re still guilty of not speaking Portuguese), spend as much time as you can with the “natives”, and then share what you really believe in.
You need to be passionate about what you are doing, otherwise your energy will run out way too soon and you will be unhappy. This is exactly why we decided years ago not to become professionals – so that we can focus on sharing what we believe in, not focusing on having many students in class. Funny enough, more students followed …
No, wait, I guess that was advice for new teachers … Dancers? Just enjoy yourselves! Respect and appreciate everyone around you, be patient with your progress, but most of all enjoy yourselves 🙂
What can we expect from you for the rest of 2018?
To be honest, the future is uncertain. We’d love to keep sharing our kizomba with the world but it’s getting increasingly difficult to keep up with the rhythm of our lives. We’ll see what we come up with, and what some of our dear students are planning for us and for kizomba in Slovenia. Something’s cookin’ 😉