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This anniversary event will share a historic African dance with Virginians

Posted at 8:20 PM, Dec 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-16 20:22:26-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- This group of local dancers are sharing their love of a popular dance with the community and now they're celebrating their one-year anniversary with workshops and a party.

"We start off with a hug and then we release but we don't go all the way. That's the first thing you'll learn before a Kizomba class. My instructors are three members of the RVA Kizomba Road Warriors. LeAnna Stith, of course, myself, Valorie Watkins, Lisa Cooper and we actually have an international member in Japan. She started with us and she's still with us. And her name is Nikkia Carbonell," Stith said.

The group, who started dancing Kizomba together a few years back, is preparing to celebrate their anniversary.

"We just started dancing together in class and then we started traveling to go to different dance festivals. We'd leave here, maybe 6:30 or so, drive up, dance, until one or two or three in the morning and then drive back to Richmond. We did that, the people up there thought we were a little crazy, but we loved the dance that much. I liked the word enthusiastic," Stith said.

Their enthusiasm found a name - the RVA Kizomba Road Warriors.

"Kizomba is an Angolan partner dance. It's viewed as a walking dance where you have two partners who are moving together around the floor," Stith said.

Kizomba means party and stems from another traditional dance called Semba which was popular in Angola, Africa in the 1950s. Semba was seen as the dance of revolution by the Portugese who had colonized Angola during that early period.

A coup, removal of the Portuguese power and a civil war would bring uncertainty. In the midst of all this, a beautiful tradition was born.

"It is known as a dance of connection and it grew from the sentiment that we don't know how long we have so let's connect," Stith said.

Typically known as a couple's dance, Kizomba was a pathway for families and the community to stay connected during the civil war in Angola.

"So you had mom and son dancing, you had dads and daughters, aunts and uncles, grandma, you know, grandson. There are videos online, you can see little kids dancing Kizomba, it's beautiful," Stith said.

It was also a gateway for the dancers to learn more about the culture and history behind the Kizomba.

"This dance emerged during a civil war and that to us was a testament to the resilience of the Angolan people. And we wanted to make sure that reflected the way we danced it, the way we learned it and ultimately, the way we teach it," Stith said.

Richmonders can have their chance to learn the dance at the anniversary celebration this weekend. A workshop will be held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and then a party will be held with a brief program between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Happening at the Dance Space on West Broad Street, the event features salsa dance pioneer DJ Steven Greene, instructors and dancers.

"We hope that people will come away from our event with a sense of the warmth and the love of the dance. It's a dance that really, I feel very connected to the music, the people, the community. It's just been very welcoming," Stith said.