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Dancing her way to the top

GOT THE MOVES: The Kiz Kollective team; Inset right, Angel Skeete

ANGEL SKEETE is sipping on a hot tea and enthusiastically eating some skinny spicy fries when we meet in London Bridge’s super suave Ruba Bar.

While we’ve known each other for all of 20 minutes, that doesn’t stop her from sharing her love for dancing in a candid and chatty manner. “I grew up with my mum sending me to ballet, jazz, tap, and I loved it,” said the 39-year- old dancer, promoter and pioneer of Urban Kiz.

Urban Kiz, a dance derived from the slow and romantic Angolan dance Kizomba, fuses different dance styles, from hip-hop, salsa, tango and more, into one.

INTRIGUED
Skeete’s enthusiasm for Urban Kiz began after learning Kizomba, which was introduced to her by a friend. “I met up with a friend of mine, and he invited me to a party where they were doing Kizomba,” she recalls." Once I saw it, I was intrigued by the dance, the people, and wanted to learn more.“

Kizomba, a popular dance in Angola that derives from Semba, caught the attention of Skeete, and she managed to master the dance within six months. “I attended Kizomba classes for that amount of time, and decided to just continue practising with different partners. The more you dance with different people, the more you learn,” says Skeete.

“Kizomba is a great dance, because it’s very intimate and close,” she continues. “However, there’s not much room to change things up, and you mostly just follow the man’s lead. With Urban Kiz, you can incorporate different moves and styles into it, and there’s just more freedom there.”


WOMAN OF THE MOMENT: Angel Skeete

As Skeete began to embrace Urban Kiz, she started to dance with a group called the Kiz Kollective. She explains: “They started out as people I taught, and since 2016 I’ve been training with them.” Alongside training, Skeete also organises regular workshops. “We get people from so many different backgrounds; Polish, Russian, Asian, black, white,” says Skeete. “And they all come for different reasons, whether that’s to improve their confidence or learn a new dance style. But regardless of the reason why they come, once they’re there it feels like family, because Urban Kiz is such a sociable group.”

While Urban Kiz might be a dance that brings people together, there is still a divide that has yet to be resolved. Skeete says that Urban Kiz has been a cause for conflict with Angolans, because of it being likened to Kizomba.

“The name Urban Kiz is still not supported by the Angolan community because it has connotations of Kizomba, and to them, Urban Kiz and Kizomba are totally different styles – which I agree with,” says Skeete. “But the foundations of Kizomba are within Urban Kiz, and whether they want to admit that or not, there are ties to it.”

Skeete emphasises the importance of teaching her students the difference between Urban Kiz and Kizomba in order to differentiate between the two and learn their individual histories. “In my classes, we have a section where we teach them about the musicality and history between the two, because they are different,” says Skeete.


DANCE DIVAS

VIBE
One of the key differences Skeete mentions is the style of music. “Kizomba is accompanied by a more slow-paced rhythm and the majority of songs are sung in Portuguese,” she says. “Urban Kiz incorporates hip-hop and popular English-speaking songs. The musical style evokes different movements and vibe, and is key to distinguishing between the two.”

“But I do feel like when you take something traditional and share it across the world, it’s going to get adapted and twisted to the western way of thinking. That’s why Urban Kiz exists.” While Skeete understands the cultural appropriation argument around Urban Kiz and Kizomba, she also believes dance should be free from political or cultural conflicts. “I feel dancing is a form of expression and people should be allowed to express themselves and not be confined to a box.”

Despite the issues between the two dance styles, Skeete has persevered in bringing Urban Kiz to the forefront, despite naysayers claiming it wouldn’t be a success. “I was the first person to bring Urban Kiz to the UK, and people were very surprised when I started promoting it in London because it wasn’t done before me,” says Skeete. “But once we started doing workshops, we realised that London was ready for Urban Kiz, and it’s been embraced by people who love Kizomba, too – from teachers to students.”

As we discuss the future of Urban Kiz and plans for the year, the talented dancer reels off a large list of ex- citing opportunities coming her way. “I’m planning to do more Ur- ban Kiz parties with guest DJs from overseas, as well as plan- ning to bring a Urban Kiz competition from France to the UK,” she says.

“But I also want to really focus on developing my weekly Urban Kiz classes. I don’t want to just throw parties – I want to help dancers grow and develop those dancers in the Ur- ban Kiz style.”

To attend an Urban Kiz class, contact urbankizuk@gmail.com or visit the class Facebook page for more information, at face- book.com/urbankizuk/

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