An Interview With A Dance Teacher Who Moves You Like No Other
Sometimes when you dance, your heart skips a beat or two…
You get lost in the music, carried away by your partner, and your movement together becomes like ice to water and water to gas. Fluid, transforming, and as breathtaking as watching the sun rise over the ocean while dolphins are riding the waves of infinity.
All conscious effort to move your body dissolves. You’re now “being danced” as you’re floating over the dance floor with your partner. It’s like your soul surges, your whole being expands, and you just got wings to fly.
But there are even times when you just so much as see someone dance and all of the above happens.
It’s like time stops and you’re right there dancing with them. Even though you’re not physically moving, you are moved to the core.
All of that is what I felt when I first saw Kwenda Lima dance.
To those who haven’t met him yet, this may sound aggrandizing. But even as someone who writes for a living, I find myself at a loss for words to fully capture my experience of Kwenda Lima’s classes. Words seem too limited.
It was exactly like my friend told me before I attended: “I can’t tell you what he does. You just have to experience it yourself. But I am sure of one thing: he is going to make you cry.”
And she was right.
Kwenda Lima doesn’t just make you move your body, he stirs your soul.
A few months after attending two of his workshops during ALFA (Afro-Latin Fest Asia) in Malaysia, I had the incredible honor and privilege to have a conversation with him in his awe inspiring school, Art Kaizen, in Lisbon, Portugal.
We spoke about the art of conscious dancing, what connection really means, human potential, and the ability to transform anything through dance.
“Dance is a powerful tool for transformation.”Kwenda Lima
Kwenda Lima and Art Kaizen: Dancing to Manifest our Potential
Kwenda Lima is a spiritual teacher, an accomplished dancer and kizomba instructor, founder of the Art Kaizen school, and an undeniably charismatic human being who knows how to move (people) in every sense of the word.
Just watching him dance – with or without music – will make you dance too. Even if it’s only on the inside. And ultimately, that might just be the whole point…
Dancing in the way Kwenda Lima teaches it, can help us experience oneness and transform experiences, emotions, and memories that might otherwise keep us stagnant, stuck or frustrated. You could describe his school as a temple for transformation or as he calls it “a place where you can cultivate your own inner world in order to manifest your potential harmoniously and realize that you are enough.”
With his methodology, Inner Kaizen Humanology, he reminds us who we really are and what we came here to do.
Because beyond everything we may have learned to be as we grew up and beyond every character trait we may identify ourselves with today, there is something we came into this world with. Something that Kwenda refers to as our “seed of potential.”
Just like plants and trees need the right environment and conditions to grow and blossom most beautifully and abundantly, we need the proper environment to do that too. With Art Kaizen, Kwenda creates the environment for our own seed of potential to come to fruition. And dance is the tool he uses most to water the soil. But not just with music, in stillness too.
Why Silence is Just as Important as Music
“Silence is like a good friend that is telling you, let’s have a coffee and let’s talk about you.”Kwenda Lima
Dance has been a part of Kwenda’s whole journey, which started in 1977 in Cape Verde, where he was born into a family that lived and breathed music and dance. His mother choreographed dances and his father was a musician. But his family also knew about the importance of silence, rituals, and spirituality.
Kwenda: “My grandmother and us, we had this at home. A spiritual practice. You’d go there, and you’d keep in silence. As grandchildren at that time, we didn’t understand but at the same time, we understood.”
When you dance, it’s not only important to connect with the music and your body, it’s important to connect with your whole self. And this connection, Kwenda knows, is best found in silence.
“Because music can take you somewhere. But silence can take you somewhere too. But the difference: the music can take you for example out there, or some of it can take you in. But silence takes you exactly in. It’s very rare for silence to take you out there. It takes you in, to really, really understand who you are.”
“It’s like a good friend that is telling you, let’s have a coffee and let’s talk about you.” For that reason, Kwenda refers to silence as one of the most powerful forms of music and one of the biggest masters in the world.
“It’s the source. It’s not only music. It’s the source of everything. People in their own silence they become creative, but they need to reach that silence. Any person that came with something big, they somehow reach their silence. The silence guides them.”
Experiencing the Musicality You Can Not Explain with Counts
Coming into stillness helps you increase your musicality too, Kwenda explains: “But I am not talking about this musicality that you can explain mathematically with counts. I am talking about the musicality that can transform someone’s self.”
“Because in any music, and in any dance there is a silence. But it is up to you to reach it or not. Or to be able to reach it or not. Because before that music, there was a silence. They make that music through the silence. So of course, in any music, there’s a moment of silence.”
“But when I say music, I really mean music, I am not saying noise. It is different, there is music and there is noise. And in music, really, there is a silence. And when you find that silence, your body will find their own silence.” The magic then comes from that silence and the music mixing together, Kwenda says: “In terms of musicality you are not hearing only the frequency that human beings can hear, you are hearing the frequency that human beings can feel. “
And that makes you listen to the music in a completely different way: “Suddenly it makes you go traveling. Because you do not hear it, you feel it. Your musicality becomes something you cannot explain mathematically.”
“Dance is Life. Life is Dance.”
If dance would have a synonym, it would be “life,” according to Kwenda. But not just our life. The whole of life: “It could be a very harsh dance. It could be a very smooth dance. It could be a very silent dance. It could be like a hurricane dance. It could be a windy dance. But everything is dance around.”
We usually only tend to see something as a dance because there is music there, but as Kwenda explains, any move you do with a certain frequency, speed, gentleness, or firmness, is a dance.
As we live, we can not not move; we can not not dance: “Our body is a material machine. It’s a physical machine. And the spirit is using this machine to manifest something. We can not just be.” We have to move to eat, to drink, or to manifest something through our hands or through our computers.
“Any move you do that you associate with some rhythm, through your process in life, through your maturity, your move becomes a dance. Any move.”
It can be like a ritual, he adds: “Your body starts doing it’s own ritual through movement. And this is how the body is healing itself. To become ready to manifest what the spirit is.”
“All of this is for you to manifest things, is to prepare you to receive something, is to prepare you to give something. Of course, it’s a healing.”
But although any move could be a dance, Kwenda also understands that physical movement isn’t necessary to be dancing. “Sometimes people are not moving – but they are dancing. Like when we go see a movie like Dirty Dancing. Because you are not just the physical body you can have an experience through others too. By watching people dance your spirit is traveling.”
“Sometimes the physical is not ready to receive something. Your spirit is traveling to come back to teach you. To prepare you to go there too. Maybe…”
As We Can Educate our Physical Body, We Can Educate the Spiritual One
“Once we realize that we all function like a channel, things change.”Kwenda Lima
What I personally experienced during Kwenda Lima’s Art Kaizen workshop that struck me the most was the profound energy shift he enabled. Not just within myself but in the entire group. It felt like a deep awakening that removed emotional and energetic blockages and created a sense of unity.
And I wasn’t the only one to experience this: by the end of the workshop almost every attendee shed a tear or two. Both men and women alike.
The way Kwenda explains he creates this energy shift and feeling of oneness, is by being a servant to the inner silence: “This is something that is exactly about silence. When you allow your silence to express, when you allow something that you are to serve, you really connect with life in a way of just being humble to accept that we are not the one, but we are part of that one.”
“It’s incredible. Something, the energies come to help you. They come to express through you.
So you’re just listening to them. You’re just serving. I was a servant, I was serving, I was just serving. By educating my whole self to accept and to receive it, it will express, it will through you express.”
And Kwenda believes everyone can connect with this energy: “I think everybody has this spiritual presence but not everybody feeds this or educates this. They can use exactly the body, the spiritual body, and the physical body together. As we educate this physical body, we can educate the spiritual one.”
“The spirit uses the body to manifest something, to transform something. Once we realize that we all function like a channel, things change.”
Promoting Unity and Transcending Cultural Differences Through Dance
“The way we start and where we finish and the way we are going to finish, is together as one.”Kwenda Lima
When I asked Kwenda how he managed to create this incredible sense of unity during his Kaizen workshop, despite the fact that there were people present from a multitude of countries with different cultural and religious upbringings, he responded: “It’s very important to understand that we’re a part of countries, a part of this separation, a part of these different cultures, different skins, different languages, different everything.”
“And fortunately, we have these differences,” he added.
“Sometimes we don’t know how to use those differences. Sometimes we use it in a bad way, sometimes we use it in a good way. It’s OK. Sometimes, it’s not OK. But actually that difference it’s all just because of exactly to keep the balance. Because we could not be everybody in the same country with one culture. Everybody. We are not prepared for that. Unfortunately, we are not prepared for that.”
“It’s OK, we have these differences. But the way we start and where we finish and the way we are going to finish is together as one. As one.”
“It’s OK to respect different religions, different cultures. And fortunately or unfortunately we have it. We have it. And all of them are important. But if we look at them closely, if we look at them not with our ego, not with our mind, not with our needy part, we will understand that they are supposed to look into the same direction.”
Some are not looking in the same direction today, Kwenda explains, because we are competing with each other: “This is what our education is. To become better than the others. And not to realize that we are amazing as a human being. And this should be the education: to make people realize that we are amazing.”
“And of course,” he continues, “when people are getting into the work and when you take this religion beside, you take the culture beside, you take the families beside, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, everything besides. And you put it there in some room, and you say: just be you, naked from these things, they will realize that we are the same. Different, but the same.”
“This is beautiful. This is my intention. It is not to take people to become something else.
No. It’s to take everything you have that you choose to have – but have it consciously. Connect with life itself.”
Connecting with Life Itself
“People connect more with what they are creating than with what creates them.”Kwenda Lima
To be able to connect with life itself and experience this feeling of oneness, Kwenda Lima stresses it’s important to know that everything that you choose to follow or to have is not you.
“It’s something that helps you to go somewhere – but it’s not you. The problem is we make those things us. We identify with them. We make it to become: this is you, this is you. And that’s the big problem.”
“Once you use it, because it’s there for use, it’s there to guide you somewhere. Once you realize that it’s just a tool, then when you get in the same room and everybody comes from a different direction, we realize that we are the same. And that is more important for me in my classes.”
To understand that oneness, Kwenda furthers, you need to prepare your physical body. And this is what his classes help you do. “And to live it without separation. Because even if you are focused in that oneness you can separate yourself from others.”
“This is very important for us to understand, that we are doing something, each one in a different way, a different direction, but we are doing something, because we are like this together. To realize, to feel it, to connect with life itself.”
“Not to connect with what we brought to life. To connect with life.
Not with what we brought to life. What brought men to life.”
This is the difference, Kwenda explains. Because people connect more with what they are creating than with what creates them.
“It’s totally different. The direction is totally different. When you keep going, creating things, manifesting things… It’s very, very important, we need this, to keep creating and to manifest for our comfort. But if we connect and we identify ourselves and we focus only on what we are creating and we let them become the most important thing, sometimes more than you, more than the creator, which is us, it is complicated. Because we are not connected with what is creating us.”
What Connection Really Means
“Many talk about connection but few live it.”Kwenda Lima
It’s very easy to talk about connection but not everybody is manifesting connection in their actions, says Kwenda, nor in their way of living: “Because connection means a big process. It needs a huge maturity for you to manifest what means connection. It’s not just saying “connection.” You need to go through something to understand or to receive it.”
That’s one of the reasons why Kwenda Lima recently decided to stop going to kizomba or dance festivals to teach: “I don’t feel the festivals anymore. It doesn’t make sense to me. It would make sense to me if the people are cooperating, it makes sense to me if the teachers are together to deliver something with a purpose.”
He elaborates: “Because when I started giving my class with a hug, and bring this, let’s say, this spiritual ways into my teaching, I was so criticized. People leave the class. But this is OK.
And now, I can see that a lot of teachers are using these techniques. Because they realize it helps the connection.”
“All of them talk about the connection, but actually they don’t understand consciously the connection. And they could not accept it, because they were competing. If we would cooperate then you would accept the others.”
Promoting Unity by Cooperation
“If the teachers can come together to develop something that can really affect the society through dance, through music, I’d be the first one to go there.”Kwenda Lima
Kwenda would rather learn from each other’s teaching techniques: “Because if we are together looking in the same direction, we sit down, we discuss, we talk, we learn from each other. We develop it even more. Then, the festival would become something amazing.”
“Because the teachers and the promoters are working together. To promote what? To promote unity. United people. To promote transformation.”
“To promote something that when people leave the festival, they go home with the sensation of something that elevated them and makes them a better person.”
But unfortunately, most people only go to the festival to have fun in a very superficial way. As Kwenda notices, they’re drinking too much and there’s a lot of sexual chasing. “It’s OK, it’s part of life. But it is not transforming them. It’s making them feel more in need, more needy, more this and that. I don’t want to contribute to that.”
“If the teachers can come together to develop something that we can really affect the society through dance, through music, that makes sense for me. I’d be the first one to go there.”
Why Dance is So Much More than “Just Fun”
“Dance is life. Because when you dance, you are alive.”Kwenda Lima
The way Kwenda Lima sees it, dance functions in a similar way as language does. And on the dance floor, many different conversations are taking place. “The only difference is, we don’t receive it consciously. Our mind is programmed to receive it in a limited way.”
Everyone who ever danced a partner dance like kizomba, salsa or bachata will have experienced all sorts of energy exchange – whether they understood exactly what it meant or not. Being conscious of your own energy and that of others can change the experience. Not just for yourself but for everyone there and beyond.
That’s why Kwenda believes that when people say: “I just want to have fun,” they completely limit themselves. He explains: “If someone is close to you and shouting or saying bad things about you to others, it affects you. You just leave. Or you go there and you say: please, can you speak in a different way. With dance it’s the same.”
“Some people are not conscious they are receiving a lot. And they are giving too, they are sending.”
“You are always getting things from the dance floor. You always affect your partner, the way you hold your partner, the way you embrace, the way you start the dance, the way you finish the dance, during the dance, how you are touching them, how you involve them in your dance or not.”
And even if only your body got it, you get it – but you don’t consciously understand. So sometimes, you get confused: “You see these people shouting, let’s say, but because you said you were just going to have this coffee, you say: I’m feeling weird. But that’s because you’re not open to receive this consciously and to transform it. Then you go home with an energy and you don’t feel well. In dance this is exactly the same.”
Learning to Balance our Inner and Outer World
“Life is a powerful tool for people to transform.”Kwenda Lima
Balance is a key component in the classes and workshops that are given in Kwenda Lima’s Art Kaizen school. “It’s very important, that balance, to cultivate your inner self. For you to find that balance with the outer world. And to create a balance with what you are creating and with what is creating you.”
“Because when you are connecting with what is creating you, what I mean: life itself, then your manifestation is conscious.”
And then it becomes very beautiful. Kwenda: “Then it’s a great opportunity for us to manifest and to keep manifesting in a right way. In a conscious way. And that will take us to find each other in the middle, or up there, or down there, or I don’t know where – but we will find each other. We will work, we will cooperate. We don’t compete, we cooperate.”
And with Art Kaizen, Kwenda Lima is creating the space for this transformation to happen.
“And to deliver to people their power. Make them believe in themselves. In that machine, and make them kind of engineering themselves; cultivate themselves; treat themselves. To create the environment around them for this plant, this tree, to give their own fruit. This is what I want with Inner Kaizen Humanology.”
“The potential is there. Something is there, it came to transform. It depends on the environment for that transformation to come. And for me, in my opinion, with the things that I collected in my life, it makes me tell you that dance is a powerful tool.”
Since dance is life, and life is a dance, Kwenda concludes you could also put it this way: “Life is a powerful tool for people to transform.”