"I just had a class, and all 25 women asked, 'Where are the guys?' We need more men. My Gs, you need to come through," Michael O'Brian Kibe, a certified Kompa instructor, says in one of the many rallying call videos on TikTok.
Since returning home last year from Dubai, the 31-year-old has been trying to build a Kompa tribe in Nairobi.
Kompa, a relatively new sensual dancing style in Kenya, originated from Haiti in the mid-1950s. It is derived from the Spanish word "compás," which means rhythm, and is primarily characterised by the movement of the hips in tune with the music beat.
"I started teaching it in the United Arab Emirates as a part-time job. I had a 9-5 job as a security expert," Michael offers.
Despite being a skilled Kompa dancer, Michael chose to go to school and learn how to properly teach the dance aspects.
"I have been a dancer all my life, but those who taught me also went to school as much as they were already good dancers. It's important to understand how to give the proper instruction. When I teach, I'm not just teaching how I dance but also behavioural aspects, thought processes, the history of the dance, the musicality of the songs, and the handling of your partner by being able to anticipate the moves. You have to teach because, in many instances, it scares new people who tend to think it's about groping each other," Michael explains.
He believes any dance can be sexual, sensual, vulgar, or professional; it's all about whom you are dancing with.
"Actually, I wasn't looking into teaching Kompa. It started with somebody asking me to show her a few moves before we went to a party. Then, it slowly became regular, and that's when I thought of taking teaching seriously," he says.
Michael is unapologetically a party animal. So when he returned home during the Covid-19 pandemic, going out and having fun was difficult. This is how the idea to start teaching Kompa struck him.
"With the pandemic and the lockdown, people couldn't go out, so I partnered with a group of dancers in Nairobi, and we started hosting socials at Art Café, the Town Towers, and Radisson Blu. It became a routine, attracting new people every time. It's still evolving, but Nairobi has a massive Kompa scene potential," he says.
Of all the sensual dances, from Salsa, Bachata, Kizomba, Tango, and zouk, Michael says Kompa is the easiest to learn and most relatable to many Kenyans. He says Kompa dance is also one of the best ways to unwind, reconnect and relax.
"Because of its black cultural roots, black people easily pick it up. It's what our parents grew up on; it's very similar to Lingala, but it has evolved to its new modern version. It's also very similar to Angola's Kizomba dance, only that it's a couple dance," he explains.
Falling in love
Lots of Kompa dances revolve around sensuality and couple interaction. "It's why I fell in love with it, not that I hate the other dances, but Kompa has a way of allowing me to connect and communicate with my partner without necessarily using words. We exchange our masculinity and feminine energies. I think that's something exceptional."
Michael's main clientele remains women.
"Women are more curious, more open to try a new version of expression about themselves. They are open to being vulnerable. Men prefer to know everything before they even think about trying. When you ask a man to come dance, he wants to know who will be there, what we will learn, what kind of dance it is, and how he will learn to dance. That's why I find it easier to trick them that there will be free alcohol so that they can come and join. I dream of getting at least a 50/50 gender ratio," he says.
Currently, he offers three packages to his dancing with beginners, intermediate, and high intermediate classes.
"My beginners class has 15 people, and 11 of them are women. The four guys were dragged in by their girlfriends who wanted to try new experiences in their relationships," he notes.