Last Sunday afternoon, Oct. 9, was the last time this year for Georgetowners, other Washington residents and visitors of all ages and stages to gather at Georgetown Waterfront Park to sway, undulate and stomp to the sensual pulsating dance beat of kizomba. That’s the dreamy and stirring mix of Angolan (Portuguese African), Caribbean, American hip hop, Latino folk and bachata dance music that has made the Key Bridge end of the park the place to be every Sunday since April.
“People dancing and connecting together, enjoying wonderful music at a beautiful outdoor site is what I missed so much after returning from Spain. It’s just what I wanted to create,” said Octavio Jan, the smiling and charismatic creator of Sunset4Dance. In between greetings and kisses from ever-increasing numbers of new arrivals on a recent Sunday, “Ocho” (the affectionate short form of Octavio) punched in a new rhythmic tune on his amplified music phone app.
“This actually began with a number of serious trained dancers who wanted a place to connect on the weekend and to share their love of this hybrid global music. Many dance in area clubs three to four times a week. But we wanted to dance outside on the weekend as we do in Europe. So three years ago, I started this event — the biggest waterfront dance party in the area.”
The music is derived from the beats and melodies of many cultures and regions of the Americas, Europe and Africa. The dancers move in a graceful flow, usually in couples led by a male partner who has learned the steps. Ocho, a former Smithsonian sound technician, gives private lessons during the week and also teaches at the dance sessions in the park.
But no one needs training to enjoy and improvise to the stirring music — or the entertainment that Ocho often arranges. One week it may be steel drums. Another week, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, it was a costumed folk dance group from El Salvador called “Del Mundo.”
“Everyone is welcomed next season when we begin in the spring,” Ocho said. “Check the website kizzmedc.com.”