Review: BATUKE! Let’s Kizomba, Semba ….go!

The Bank Holiday weekend saw the annual Batuke! Festival, now in its 8th year the 3-day Afro-Luso event took place at Rich Mix, East London.

It kicked off with a networking evening where festival goers had the chance to meet the organizers. With stall holders selling goods that were, in many ways, connected to the continent.

Creative Director Iris De Brito, shared a documentary of her trip to her homeland of Angola, giving an insightful and exploration of dance. Kizomba and Semba are not names familiar to most. An uplifting documentary that got us all in the mood for dancing. Which was lucky as the next part of the night was a Kizomba dance class.

What is Kizomba

Kizomba, meaning party in Kimbundu, is a partner dance that many describe as sensual. On the night we were split into smaller groups depending on our ability and under the watchful eye of some fantastic teachers, we were taught some new steps. Following the dance was the opening night party.

Day 2 started early in order to try and squeeze in all the classes that were set to take place that day. With three classes taking place each time it was difficult to choose which one to attend. The first class that Alt Africa tried was called ‘Afro to Fela’, run by the legendary Alesandra Seutin. Who began the class by getting us to just listen to the beat and feel the music, and ordered us to not stop moving as long as the music was going. A high energy class, the steps were intense but we had fun.

Extra time out was required before joining the Afro House class, which started with the instructor asking participants if they knew what Afro House was. Most assumed it was a combination of Afro music and House beats but he was quick to correct. Wrong! The music was a combination of the two genres but the dance itself originates from Angola and features a lot of tap. With influences of Pantsula, it is an energetic dance that originates in the black townships of South Africa, with a lot of footwork. Quick light steps the instructor was great keeping everyone enthused. Saturday ended with a masquerade ball lasting into the early hours of the morning.

Sunday was packed with a variety of classes, including an Afrobeat class  and a drums workshop. There was even an opportunity for people to warm up their vocal cords and learn a traditional song. Sunday ended with The Afro Beach Party and Pre-Carnival Jam saw people enjoying the last of the summer weather and donning their beach wear to move one last leg on the dance floor.

Make sure you don’t miss it next year! If you cannot wait till next year try the some of the classes around London at http://www.studioafrolatino.com/dance-classes.html

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