Janet Jackson Made For Now Zouk and Salsa Dance!

A couple of days ago, the following clip appeared on my YouTube feed. Two of my favourite music artists of all time – Janet Jackson and Daddy Yankee –  performed together live at The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Their newest hit: ‘Made For Now’!

My first reaction after seeing this clip was: ‘No way this is happening! This is just TOO AWESOME to be true!’ But it IS true! As an eclectic afro latin dance instructor and entertainer from Dutch Caribbean descent, I myself was – and still am – in awe with the jaw dropping performance. My second thought: ‘Wakanda Forever! Not only the intro of the African percussionists, but the whole stage performance in that clip has a Black Panther movie feel to it. If you want to ‘get’ where I’m coming from, just read the (political) thoughts I had after seeing this now iconic Marvel superhero movie.

https://www.supersalsa.nl/2018/02/15/black-panther-movie-slavery-and-salsa/

I started dancing as a teenager in the 80’s on the island of Curacao, which is a Dutch colony nearby the island of Aruba. At that time, Janet Jackson’s music and dancing were not only very inspirational to us all, but especially the lyrics of her songs gave us the drive and the will to dance and live by Jackson’s standards. The following article in Dutch describes my first experience with dance competitions on the island, featuring Janet Jackson!

https://www.supersalsa.nl/2018/03/29/mijn-eerste-wedstrijd-danservaring/

The Official Clip and Sensual Zouk Dance

Having the song on repeat, I noticed some very familiar sounds. There was just something about the song that made me go like: ‘I recognise elements from some other songs and musical genres, but I can’t put my finger on them… yet’. It took me 3 days to figure it all out. First, the feel of the song reminds me a lot of Lionel Richie’s hit ‘All Night Long’. That goes for the 3 word soft sung chorus. The guitar play is from Senegalese music, well known from Paul Simon’s repertoire. The latin superstar from the Dominican Republic Juan Luis Guerra y su 440’s merengue song ‘A Pedir Su Mano’, which – coincidentally – starts and ends with African chanting, brought merengue from rural to classical and back to it’s African origins. And – like ‘Made for Now’ –  it also promotes racial and cultural diversity.

The poly-rhythm of ‘Made For Now’ has a distinctive Haitian/French Antillean zouk music at it’s very core. That’s why the best partnering dance which is perfect to include in this clip is the Brazilian zouk dance. It’s direct predecessor – the Brazilian lambada, is a combination of the ancient carimbo and the more modern forro dance, which was introduced in the 80’s as a new dance craze for the yearly carnival festivities in Bahia (Brazil). Lambada music was made internationally known when a group of clever businessmen from France went to Brazil, bought the rights of hundreds of songs and started the band Kaoma, which had a mega-hit with the song ‘Dansandu Lambada’ (1993).

The French-Antillean zouk music, which Brazilian dancers and instructors had chosen to replace the dying lambada with, started to gain worldwide popularity when artists such as Kevin Lyttle started to mix the sensual and slow zouk with R&B music, thus creating what we now call ‘Zouk Love’ music. Dance wise, the Brazilian born Claudio Gomes started to teach lambada dancing in Amsterdam (The Netherlands) in the early 90’s. After the lambada dance craze subsided, Claudio then proceeded to create a hybrid dance form by mixing the popular salsa dancing with lambada dance moves. I call this unique salsa dance style ‘zouk salsa’. Watch the following salsa dance instructional video of Claudio Gomes which was produced in the mid 90’s. From the 26.18 mark onward, he and his dance partner also demo the Brazilian zouk dance.

The Brazilians then chose the sweet French Caribbean zouk music to continue their dancing because they had lost their right to dance to their own music. It was forbidden for DJ’s to play it at the clubs. Nowadays, the partnering dance we call Brazilian zouk is one of the most versatile, adaptive and eclectic partnering dance styles there is. Zouk dancers dance on all kinds of music. From kizomba music, electronic beats, to reggaetón: if the dancers can dance to it, they will! Subsequently, there exists many sub genres of the zouk dance with contemporary zouk being one of the most popular dance styles in 2018.

Brazilian zouk is danced in Brazil (of course), The Netherlands, Australia, The U.K., Spain, U.S.A., Israel, Belgium, Zwitserland, Japan, Thailand, Germany, Poland, France, Portugal, and in Denmark. Claudio left to his beloved Brazil. Luckily for the Dutch, other great zouk teachers emerged such as Gert Faber and Remy Vermunt. One of Holland’s most prominent international zouk dance teachers is Pasty from Curacao. Check him out in this clip of a contemporary zouk dance together with Hilde from Norway! 🙂

The sensual Brazilian zouk dance is truly the hallmark of eclectic partnering dancing!

Daddy Yankee and Janet Jackson connected by Eclecticism and Reggaetón

Raymond Ayala, aka Daddy Yankee, “El Cangri” or “The Big Boss” has sold millions and received a staggering 105 (!) awards. The pioneering latin music artist created eclectic sounds which became extremely popular. Who doesn’t remember his reggaetón mega hit ‘Gasolina’ ? This song is credited with making reggaetón a worldwide phenomenon.

And Daddy Yankee’s 2018 hit ‘Dura’ is still dominating the (latin) music charts at this very moment. How eclectic is Daddy Yankee, you ask? Now, let’s see. For his album ‘Mundial’ (2010) he blended bachata, soca, vallenato, cumbia, dancehall, merengue with reggaetón, electronic music and hip hop! And Daddy Yankee never stopped searching for new musical horizons.  So, I think it’s not a question of ‘if’, but rather ‘when’ these two megastars would join forces. And the answer is..

NOW

Janet Jackson said in a recent interview that she grew up listening to many musical genres, including latin music. The grammy award winning artist told the example of her listening to reaggaetón music together with her bodyguard, which she has had for 22 years. Now, these two icons came together to deliver one of the most catchy songs of 2018.

You haven’t bought ‘Made For Now’ yet? Well, that’s the first thing you’ll have to do after reading this article. Put it on repeat. Ask every afro latin dance teacher you know to play this song at their salsa, kizomba or zouk dance classes. Ask every DJ to play ‘Made For Now’ at the parties. And keep it’s message of positivity & love deep within your heart.

I know I’ll be playing ‘Made For Now’ A LOT (!) at my salsa dance workshops. Will YOU?

If so, let me know how it went! 🙂

Peace and love.

 

 

Bruce Lee and Merengue Dance

What does Bruce Lee have to do with the boring merengue dance? Why has merengue caused a salsa recession in the 80’s? What kind of influence did merengue have on the evolution of bachata and salsa? And  what is this ‘merengue show dance’?

Let’s delve into the virtual rabbit hole and follow the merengue breadcrumbs, shall we?

Kung Fu Merengue Dancing

At the beginning of the 80’s, a merengue band called Los Kenton did something very unique at the time. The Kenton brothers mixed merengue dancing with Shaolin Kung Fu (martial arts) to create a new way to dance merengue on stage. Singing whilst dancing short merengue dance choreographies became a new dance rage called the ‘Kentomania’. As the Kentomania spread along the whole of Latin America, many bands felt compelled to follow their act.

There was another element which precipitated this success: the popularisation of the video recorder. Because of that, people could practice the dance steps they saw the bands display on television and practice them at home. This way they could dance together with their favourite artists when performing live. These small choreographs were consequently copied, put on sequences and then performed by teenagers in merengue show teams. And that’s how I started my Afro Latin dance career dancing in 1983/1984: With merengue show dancing on the beautiful island of Curacao!

Merengue caused the Salsa Recession!

Bands such as the pioneering Johnny Ventura, Fernandito Villalona, Wilfrido Vargaz, the New York Band and Juan Luis Guerra y su 440 were dominating the international Latin music charts. From Santo Domingo to New York city: merengue set the pace. This ‘merengue overflow’ had a bad side effect for Fania Records and other smaller salsa music labels: their sales dropped dramatically! Bachata musicians started to speed up their ‘musica del amargue’ and put merengue on their bachata albums in order for them to sell more records. At the end of the 80’s and at the beginning of the 90’s, salsa music got a new boost because from artists such as Marc Anthony, Issac Delgado and Eddie Santiago who took the main theme of the popular ‘telenovelas’ ( = televised soap opera’s) & popular ballads and remixed them into salsa versions. Thus, Salsa Romantica was born.

Example: Ilan Chester’s original version of ‘Palabras del Alma’ ( = Words from the Soul).

And now Marc Anthony’s salsa version:

So, what happened to Merengue Show dancing?

The music was first converted to Merengue Hip Hop by bands such as Proyecto Uno and Sandy y Papo. The popular reggaeton swallowed up merengue, and merengue continues to be a trans-formative force in (Dominican) bachata music. Elvis Crespo made house versions of popular merengue songs. Merengue has also been integrated in other mainstream Latin house music.

As for the dance: The merengue show dance died because of the following facts:

  1. The dance was never intended to be danced in show teams. This has mainly to do with the repetitive nature of the small choreographies.
  2. The merengue partnering has never been fully developed in the way salsa partnering has.
  3. The original salsa dance teachers were folkloric dancers. Modern merengue dancing was not a part of their folklore.
  4. Many of us – merengue show dancers – only use(d) merengue as a means to teach the budding salsero students basic partnering dance techniques and body movements.
  5. Merengue dancing has never been a part of the international (salsa) dance congresses or festivals. It’s only used sometimes as a warming up by international bachata dance artists such as Jorjet Alcocer.

Today, many merengue dance steps (or variations thereof) can be seen in Dominican bachata, in Zumba and in animation dance routines.

El Nergito Del Batey

I’m very glad I had the honour to start my dance career with merengue dancing. I also danced merengue in the first Dutch semi professional Afro Latin dance team Euro Latinos. 20 years ago (on October 30, 1997) I started teaching salsa. All of that was only possible because of merengue 🙂

On June 1st 2018, the ‘King of Merengue’ José Tamárez Mateo – better known as Joseito Mateo – passed away. I wrote this article to honour him and the music with which he gave a lot of joy to millions of ‘merengue afficionados’ just like yours truly.

Fun fact: Bruce Lee was also the 1958 Cha Cha Cha Dance Champion of Hong Kong. Maybe the Kenton brothers got their inspiration from this fact about their hero?

Que Viva El Merengue!

#sbbf 2018 A Life Changing Dance Experience

The visionary Eric Lalta and Liduina Aruma Handi Lovert of Fantasia Entertainment took the Salsa Bachata Beach Festival over from Mordechay Krispijn. There were doubts. There was fear. There was a lot of stress. But, because of pure will, determination and a lot of creativity they and their fabulous team put on a dance festival like no other here in the Netherlands!

Friday, May 18th: Highlights

Eric en Liduina’s production: Man! That was mind-blowing.!Where do I start? No. Or yes. The animation team. They created a great atmosphere dressed up in crazy beach wear and making all the guests feel very welcome. The music, the props, the lighting… Everything was done in a way that you as an audience felt like you were part of a colossal theatrical production. And, in a way, we were.

Farid as MC: Fabulous, and a little bit #metoo proof. Just a hint of it though, LOL. Being a budding MC myself I have a lot of respect for him and his multi-talent-hood. I already saw Farid in action at the Haarlem Salsa Festival in 2012. But here he was better. Doing your work while getting instructions from someone else can be daunting. But nothing seems to disturb him. A true professional! Our local hero of the Mayari podcast Tim Alberto was his fellow MC on stage. It was great to have someone of ‘our own team’ hosting the evening.

The first BachatArt Dutch Bachata Dance Competition was a complete success. The winners  were all well deserved. I have only one complaint regarding the competition: it was mainly a ‘ Bachata Passion Family affair’ because of the lack of competitors. In this interview held in Dutch the winning couple Joy and Remy asks all bachata dancers in the Netherlands to join them next year and compete for the highest honour! Congratz to all the winners, finalists and especially to BP’s own Geno & Steffie for doing such an amazing job of promoting bachata dancing in the Netherlands and abroad.

The showcase: Awesometacular! I especially was very impressed with the dexterity displayed by the world bachata champion Belen during her warming up 😉 

World Bachata Champion Belen warming up nbefore her performance at the Holland Salsa Bachata Beach Festival 2018

 

Downer: People started to buy tickets on the same day as the party was planned. So the production team didn’t have a clue in advance on how the turnout would be. It was better than any of them had  expected, though! But I would like to urge all dancers attending a festival (or a party of the festival) to please buy your tickets well in advance. That way you’ll help the organizers to keep their stress levels on the low side 😉 I only enjoyed the last 15 minutes of the party. But it was a very well spent 15 minutes! And I also had Saturday to look forward too.

After the party the team had a meeting which I also attended. I went to sleep around 04.45 AM.

Saturday, May 19th: The Best EVER!!!!

I stood at 9.00 AM sharp at the office door to prepare myself for the business seminar. The weekend before that I had the honour of being the co MC at the Dutch Salsa Dance Championships. Eric and Liduina did the whole production of the dance competition, so I thought I had a pretty good idea of what they would be doing this Saturday. In retrospect it’s safe to say I didn’t have a clue of what was coming!

The workshops: I followed 2 workshops. The first was one was an excellent Dominican bachata footwork and partnering by the friendly couple Bhavin and Soonruta from India. They have very solid didactic skills. I learned some new tricks from them which I will implement in my salsa classes. After that I followed a workshop by Rodrigo and Bersy. THAT WAS AWESOME!!!! I made this video at the end of the workshop, when the two superstars just started to teach us a salsa musicality class like none that I have ever witnessed before! My apologies for my bad singing, though. Or better yet: I don’t apologise for it. Because everyone should be allowed to sing without fear of being (mis)judged. And the same goes for how we choose to dance as well 🙂

The first Afro Latin Business Seminar: Several Dutch and international afro latin dance teachers, dance school owners, performers, a DJ, photographers, festival organizers and musicians came together to meet and talk about themes having to do with the whole afro latin dance and music scene in the Netherlands. The goal is to learn from each other and to grow together. Eric explained that this was the first of many more seminars to come. His ultimate objective is to organise a ‘Latin Music & Dance Summit’  in the near future. The first one will be held in the Netherlands. After that there will be many more summits in other countries worldwide. During the Summit there will be:

  1. Seminars and Dance Teacher’’s Training,
  2. The afro latin EXPO which is a free market place, and
  3. The Afro Latin Music & Dance Awards. This will be based on the community and the awards will be given by the community. This means that someone who has had a great contribution in the development of his or her own area of expertise will be chosen by his or her peers to be rewarded with the award. You can compare it with the Oscars.

We discussed some themes which I can’t (and won’t) tell you about. The meetings are private and by personal invitation only.

A seed has been planted… 

My wife Linda: This Sunday my lovely wife Linda and I will celebrate our 2 years of marriage to each other. We decided to have an early celebration at the festival which started with having a nice dinner at the Kurhaus hotel. After that it was time for…  

The Gala Party! Here follows some general impressions: The animation team. Sound and light effects. The Dutch Salsa and Bachata Champions performing. The Bachata World Champions. Singing on stage. The combination of Bachata Passion’s own Meike on the piano and Orvill Small crumping the beejeezus out of it. My wife’s admiration for the raw power being displayed on stage by half naked men with their bodies chiseled in stone. Rodrigo and Bersy: OEF!!! DJ Andre Holland was killin’ it!  The flying shark!!! OMG! The Flying Shark!!! The animation from up stage with all the twerking and many more ‘nasty’ things… The Big Exploding Balloons!!! Did I already mention the crazy animation team?

Talking about ‘crazy’…

Crazy Pianos!: After the party ended  went to the Crazy Pianos bar. It is definitely NOT a Latin club! The regular folks there didn’t know what hit them when all of us dancers invaded ‘their’ turf on the beach. I understand from Eric that the management arranged with them for only 1 hour of Latin music. Gato Gabriel came on the piano and sang some songs. Farid also climbed on a piano. And then more people followed with crazy acts.    

Linda and I were standing in the middle of the room next to a small podium. People around us kept asking us to get on it, so we did just that. And danced like there was no tomorrow! The best part was when we were leaving. I just wanted to say goodbye to the crew, but I ended up dancing a ‘speed rueda de casino’ in front of the pianos! We left around 3.30 AM. But the rest continued to party ‘till 5 o’ clock..

.. with afro latin music!

Sunday, May 20th: Romance on the Beach

Linda and I hadn’t planned to attend the beach party, because we had planned to leave early in order for us to spend the Sunday together with our 2 little kids. After brunch on the beach we went to where the party was to say our goodbyes. We danced a little bit. Then I went to try out the Surf Simulator. It went quite well if I say so myself. The secret is in the hip movements. But then we heard Juan Luis Guerra’s bachata song ‘Bachata en Fukuoka’. It’s one of our favourite songs. We hadn’t heard or danced to it in quite a while, so we ran together on the sand towards that little improvised dance floor on the beach to finally do ‘our thing’. Look at the video clip, which stars the Golden Ratio as a time travelling object. I emulate the dance couple’s ‘dancing in the air’ by lifting Linda up and turning her around with her arms up in the air. It was nice to end this wonderful weekend on such a romantic note. And especially because Linda and I met each other for the first time almost 7 years ago at a salsa party which was also held on the beach 🙂

I would like to thank Desiree, all of the ambassadors, the crew, the event photographers, the DJ’s, the kind and professional staff of the Kurhaus hotel, the artists, the competitors, the afro latin experts who attended the business seminar, the dancers who followed the workshops and/or danced at the parties, and everyone else who was remotely involved in making the Holland Salsa Bachata Beach Festival 2018 a great success.

Finally: Eric and Liduina, thanks for inviting me to be a part of your amazing adventure. Hats off to both of you. Lots of respect and admiration. Love.

Did you like this review? Then feel free to share it to your family and friends. And I hope to see you in 2019 for the second edition of the new & improved Holland Salsa Bachata Beach Festival!

My next stop will be the Bonaire International Dance Festival!

Questions:

  1. Have you attended the festival? If so, did you like it? Why (not)?
  2. Do you have suggestions to make #hsbbf better for the future editions?
  3. Have you seen THE FLYING SHARK?!