Semba is the most classic one among the 4 modern Angolan dances presented here. For this reason, it is called “the dance of the kotas” (“kotas” in Angola defines older people – anybody who’s not “youth”), but it is important to note that semba also admits steps from other areas of dance (there are steps that come from waltzer, salsa, etc…), as long as the essence of the dance is not lost. A very important point to remember about semba is that it is not only the steps that make the dance, but it is necessary for the couple to show that they are actually living the music.
Semba has been evolving, with the younger generations, to the point that you can now see a distinction between: 1) the classic semba (the one of the kotas) and 2) the semba of the street (“o semba da rua”), which lets people add more acrobatics to the dance.
In general, semba requires the man (or the person who leads the dance) to be creative and to use more “entradas” (=”entrances”), “saidas” (=“exits”), falls, etc… Some of these steps did not exist in classic semba, and were introduced in time by the youth, drawing from other (sometimes foreign) dances. In addition, in semba, the stops are more often seen when doing the basics, and not during the other steps (unlike in kizomba and tarraxinha).
Tips for dancing semba:
In semba, movements are made quickly, so the person who leads has to find the right balance between holding the follower close and letting go of them, that gives us the effect called “umbigada” (which is the meaning of the word “semba” in Kimbundu).
The right arm is the steering wheel and is held at the waist of the partner (the person who follows). If the person conducting the dance squeezes too much , they are not allowing the follower to exit and enter. On the other hand, the leader can’t let go too much because if, they do, the follower will have difficulty in realizing what movements to do, which will cause the couple to loose balance. The trunks have to be kept straight and close at the height of the hips, (the “umbigada” of which we spoke before).
Also, is is important to train so that we know the right time for the “entradas” and “saidas” to the side.