Tato, this is the first Kizomba Festival in Ecuador, and you (BK Baila Kizomba) and William Matos (Estilo Latino) initiated it. How did it all start?

William and I met one day at Mambo Cafe, a well known Salsateca here in Quito, and Kizomba came up as a topic. Both William and I teach Kizomba to students. We decided to form a joint group to perform shows. For us artists the economic aspect of things is always relevant, so when the idea of a Kizomba festival arose we had doubts if it had a chance to at least even out at zero cost. We risked it and gave ourselves four months to set everything up – organize the locations and get enough good teachers to fill a schedule of three days with classes, workshops and parties. The pool party was a late item on our list. We really wanted to offer a relaxing last day in a somewhat European style in a special, chilled location.

When all that was settled the last task was to find a meaningful name for the festival. We agreed on Kiz’Me because it’s about Kizomba and about us, the dancers. We want the dance and the feeling it provides to evolve in our country. In Ecuador and its neighboring countries there aren’t many teachers yet to push it. In our efforts we also reached out to neighboring countries like Colombia and Venezuela.

How did you learn about Kizomba, and what’s your motivation to help it become more popular in South America?

I met Albir Rojas in Panama, and I got very interested in his style. I also admire his way to help students to acquire skills and become confident in themselves. When Albir had gone to live in Spain and teach Kizomba I decided to learn this exciting, still little known dance from him there, so I went to Spain for two and a half years.

I enjoyed Kizomba and fell in love with this dance. In Kizomba I feel a deeper connection to my partner than in any other dance I know. My goal is to bring the dance here so people understand that there’s more than Salsa and Bachata, that we can do more than hit 1-2-3  5-6-7, that we can do our own figures at our own speed and rhythm, obviously respecting the basics of Kizomba.

Apart from sharing your passion with others – do you also have the opportunity in mind that emerges from being among the first to teach Kizomba around here?

Economical success is actually possible. 100% of my work life is dedicated to dancing. So obviously I’m not seeing it as a mere hobby. What moves me the most, though, is when I think about the people who will follow. I’d like to leave a legacy and know that the people I influence will carry the dance forward in the future.

How is Kizomba perceived by dancers in Latin America?

It is mainly perceived as something very sensual. Some people also say it’s sexual, but those are completely different things. There’s sexual and there’s sensual. People, especially people from the coast, enjoy the sensuality. Also, there’s some confusion, e.g. when some people describe Kizomba as a mixture between Bachata and Tango. I tell them that that’s not the case. It has its own base, its own rhythm, percussion, and pace. It’s not a mixture. It has its own origin in Africa.

Latinos see Kizomba as something very refreshing for the body, something lightening. People say “Wow, I feel so connected to my partner, so understood.” I think that in one or two years Kizomba will be heard a lot in Latin America. There are already great projects to promote it in Colombia and Argentina, and right now it’s being taken to Peru and Venezuela. We’re in contact, and I received really good feedback for supporting the genre here.

I experienced the festival as very personal, owing to your organization and the direct and friendly contact beforehand. Can you maybe give us some facts and numbers?

Including myself we were four teachers.

Tato Mendez (BK Baila Kizomba), Sol Perez (Kizomba y Barra), Johnny Uday (Salserios, Quenca) and William Mato (Venezuela). The “Allan Dee Dance Squad” will join us for the next festival.

33 participants signed up for the workshops. At the evening parties we counted 70-80 participants and around 20 people from staff and show dancers. The 100 persons filled the Mambo Cafe quite nicely.

Our main goal was to make Kizomba more known, not to make money. So the full pass for three days was priced $24, which just so covered our costs.

And everybody seemed to really enjoy themselves…

 

Absolutely! People where happy, touched. We received requests to please continue with the festival next year. The positive energy the teachers and staff radiated, the great experiences people were making, making new friendships, all of this was great and it gave the people a taste of the Kizomba culture.

I noted a difference between some Kizomba festivals in Europe and this. European Kizomba festivals are very focussed on Kizomba, often exclusive. You decided to mix Kizomba, Salsa and Bachata at the evening parties. What was the reason for your decision?

A while ago Quito was all about Salsa. Bachata didn’t find much resonance. All of a sudden it became a hype, and Bachata and Salsa ended up on a par. There’s a good chance that Kizomba will make it there, maybe even surpass Bachata’s popularity, but we can’t know.

For the festival we didn’t want to be exclusive, because we have a lot of Salseros and Bachata dancers who are still beginners at Kizomba. We’re all open towards each other.

Do you have plans for a next festival? Are there things you’d do differently?

Yes, there’ll be a next time, and it’s gonna happen beginning of August. What we will do differently? I’m thinking of spicing it up with a trip to the beach.

Until then we’ll have a Kizomba party here in November – themed “ángeles y demonios”.

Tato, it was a pleasure meeting you. Thank you for the interview.

Thank you and the people at kizzmag.com!

An interview by Klaus

More infos about Tato Mendez

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