Kizomba instructor Cinta Rodriguez Cabrera has done the unimaginable – mushroom a Kizomba scene at the heart of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
This is a land where cultures have met, mixed and mingled, but this melting pot doesn’t cease to surprise us. Today, it is Angolan kizomba that is the new kid on the block, mixing up with Arabic traditions such as camel-herding and date-picking, and Cinta is much to thank for.
The Spanish artist, also full-time architect, left family, friends and work during the economic crisis to start afresh on the other side of the world, in the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi. What started as a high-risk endeavour for the artist ended up being a very successful adventure indeed – next to her daily job, Cinta has pretty much architected what is today’s flourishing Abu Dhabi kizomba scene, overcoming many obstacles along the way…
She herself did not know anything of kizomba before travelling to Lisbon about 10 years ago, where learning the dance was simply ‘unavoidable’, as she explains. Kizomba stole her heart, and she soon started spreading it around her…
So who is Cinta Rodriguez Cabrera behind her profound kizomba passion? Let’s take a peek at the personality behind this great artist!
How did your interest in music and dance started?
I have been dancing since 2000. Everything started with salsa in the Canary Islands, where I am from. The Canary Islands have a very mixed Latino culture due to the large Latin American communities living there. At the time I was dating a guy and we both decided to go a little bit further with the dance, and we started learning in a Salsa Club in the capital of Gran Canaria. Our addiction for the dance made us follow those classes 7 days a week.
After one year of learning, I started teaching in the same Club, and for the following 4 years I started competing with different dance partners until I became the Salsa Champion of the Canary Islands in 2004, which gave me the opportunity to go to the National Finals in Valencia, where I reached 7th position between amazing professional dancers of the country. After that, I always kept salsa in my life, participating in congresses, performing with dance companies, teaching wherever I went and especially enjoying the social activities dancing with my friends.
In 2005/2006, I went on an Erasmus Programme in Lisbon, Portugal. I researched places to dance salsa there and everywhere I looked, it mentioned that word that I had never heard before … “kizomba”.
It happened that, due to the strong relation between Portugal and the old Portuguese colonies in Africa, the cultures of countries like Angola, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau and Sao Tome e Principe were blended with the Portuguese culture, and the Kizomba music and dance, originally from Angola and Cape Verde, were a must on the dance floor of African clubs and an addiction in Latin nights. It was unavoidable to learn the dance, since the kindness of the Portuguese dance community would always push and encourage everybody to learn it. In no time, I fell in love with the music, the dance, the language, the country and the people that live in it.
What made you switch from teaching Salsa to teaching Kizomba?
It was a need. After falling in love with that amazing dance, I came back to the Canary Islands, and just like me one year before, nobody knew about the dance or the music… nobody had even heard of that word, “kizomba”. I kept teaching salsa, since it was always my teaching background but finding myself in a place where there was no kizomba at all… I wasn’t able to believe that I would not dance kizomba anymore… so I said to myself, I have to learn on my own how the steps of this dance are from both sides of the couple (guy and girl steps) and start teaching this. It was a challenge and I spend hours and hours alone in my bedroom trying to figure out how the steps and the lead of the guy were, based on the feeling I used to have when I was led by the dancers back in Portugal.
After some time, I started teaching small groups but nobody believed in me, nobody wanted to explore the new dance and DJs did not want to play the music… but that didn’t stop me, I kept fighting and I managed to have a group of kizomberos and we did some performances.
Little by little, the community started growing, very slow… too slow… but we did it! It took me 4 years to create a decent community of kizomba in Gran Canaria… then a big change in my life was going to happen, I had to leave Gran Canaria for work reasons – I was moving to Abu Dhabi. And guess what? There was no kizomba there… again.
Was it harder to build a Kizomba scene in Abu Dhabi?
I have been in Abu Dhabi for 4 years, and I can describe the process as very similar to what I have lived in Canary – slow progress, people against, DJs not playing the music. But finally after 4 years (same time span as in Canary) we managed it again, and there is now a Kizomba community in Abu Dhabi.
Contrary to what most people might expect from an Arab Country like the UAE, kizomba had no issues to grow in this culture. When it comes to dance, there is an art side that everybody loves, it does not matter what your culture or religion is, dance is an art and people here in the UAE love to watch people dancing or even to participate. It is true that 95% of the dancers are expats, but still we do not feel any kind of frowning by the local citizens. Of course, the most conservative people might not find such a sensual dance as ‘adequate’, but in general, they are not involved in these kinds of activities, and as a matter of respect, we also do not do this kind of activity in open public spaces.
Some other instructors have started showing up in Dubai too, and the flow of the different instructors, plus some international artists brought by organizers of Dance festivals have given a push to the kizomba community in UAE. We still need to grow a lot, we are still small, but here we are, fighting to get more places to dance at and to travel all over the world to learn more and more.
Any special project in the near future?
Just to keep moving, teaching, performing, enjoying. Just to keep dancing. Whoever loves kizomba will find me. There is no better feeling for me than a student after some time learning telling me “thank you for teaching me how to dance, you changed my life”.
By Farah Hesdin.