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2002 West Coast Salsa Congress - SalsaCrazy.Com

The 2002 West Coast Salsa Congress

See Photos of the West Coast Salsa Congress!

Well, you actually can work at the pool with a laptop during the West Coast Salsa congress – another burning Congress question answered.

Well, the Congress started yesterday evening, but as in the past, my first stop was in Santa Monica, for Wednesday’s at Monsoon Café on the promenade. This night, which has become a typical haunt for me on the night before the Congress starts, as usual, did not disappoint.  While not a die-hard salsero hang out, I did run into a few people I knew there, including Mike Bello (www.mambofello.com). There were plenty of dancers to dance with, a friendly atmosphere, and overall – a very enjoyable time.  The night was slightly marred by my leather jacket being stolen from the club (with Cel Phone inside), but the friendly and attentive management were very helpful in looking for it (including watching the video surveillance tapes). Anyway, Salsa takes place upstairs, every Wednesday, but by all means, try out the restaurant – it’s very good.  It has live bands every Wednesday, and has recently started DJ music every Sunday.

This year the Congress changed locations from the Crowne Plaza, to the Hilton.  Now, I was on a high “Hilton Honors” floor, so I’m not sure this applies to everyone, but the rooms were huge – and the hotel was definitely a notch up from the Crowne Plaza.  24hr room service, and multiple restaraunts, including a very good (price reduced) breakfast buffet, was appreciated.  The prices reflected this change in location, costing $120 through Albert Torres Productions (veruss a $60 advertised rate at the Crowne Plaza for the same weekend). Many friends chose the Crown Plaza or a neighboring hotel for a better rate.  Check the tips section, at the end of this article, for invaluable tips in booking rooms and saving money. After checking in, I went to look around.  The hotel was indeed nice,

The evening show opened at 8:20, and did not suffer from the crowds of the rest of the Congress.  This evening was not included in our Congress package, but only cost $15 for two bands. This was my favorite night – I loved not having to travel to a different location to dance. Just take the elevator downstairs and hop into the ballroom – very nice.  While the ballroom would be nowhere near large enough to accommodate the congress itself, it made me wishful for a day where the congress would be held at the same location, for all events. From the moment you stepped in, the music was playing – plenty of people to dance with, and adequate room (at least until about 12 midnight).   Free, ice cold water was placed around the room (a very nice touch for the dancers).  The sound was good, and the dance floor (all the parkay-type, laid-down flooring) was adequate.  These nights before the Congress are always my favorite evenings – both to dance and to listen to the music.  The added bonus of having the nights actually happen in the hotels we were staying at, was great. 

I feel like I’ve become jaded, which is why SalsaCrazy.Com will be posting multiple Salsa Congress Reports (reviews, editorial and commentary).  Everyone is welcome to write in to publish@salsacrazy.com. I’ve been to years of Salsa Congresses, all over the world now – so in order to present a more complete picture, we’ll be having several reports and opinions posted on SalsaCrazy, from people who are coming to the Congress for the first time, to long time visitors, like myself.

San Francisco was well represented at the Congress, with a large number of dance troupes (whom all deserve a heart congratulations for their excellent performances), and a fair number of social dancers out to enjoy the multitudes of dancers and variety of music the Congress offers.

Dancing, once again, took a back seat to the many amazing dance shows at the Congress.  While there was a dance floor, and music, that continued during the shows, it was totally packed, very hot, and strangely dark back there. The bands were a great mix with Sonora Carruseles opening the show (from Columbia), Jose Alberto on the next night, and Oscar De Leon (who played the longest set, and was great, from Venezuela).  Also, Son Mayor and Johny Polanco were there and playing some great music.

Albert Torres said on stage – introduce yourself to someone new and dance with them, and for me, that’s what Congressos have always been about. It’s the sharing of the music and the dance with people from all over the world.  Unfortunately, this didn’t happen for me this time around – in that I didn’t actually dance with that many people.  My fault? Partially – and it was great that Albert made that announcement on stage, as I think that helped many people considerably (breaking the ice).  At these Congressos, many dancers choose to stick with their partners, or stay within their troupes and perform on the dance floor.  I would much rather find a couple of dancers from exotic places and have a great time dancing to the music. Maybe even more social activities for those that want to participate in it – a round robin dance event? 

The shows were amazing, but it’s strange to come to a Congress where everyone is sitting around on the floor, rather than constantly dancing. I think the desire for people to dance was there, but sometimes there was just no music!  I noticed, at times, lots of couples dancing to NO music.  Just packing the floor, and dancing with one another, with no music playing.  No, these weren’t couples practicing; this was people dancing while there was space.  I thought that was an interesting phenomenon. 

The DJ room – at the hotel, was a great success!  I even think this idea should be expanded.  From the first hour of the Congress to the last hour of the Congress, their should be a place where you can go dance to music, non-stop – with whomever you’d like.  This was a welcome addition to the Congress this year, and I hope to see it expand further next year!

The Congress was a huge experience, that’s important as a way to increase the visibility of the dance. At it’s best, it provides a chance for thousands of dancers to meet one another and share in their love of the dance and music – at it’s worst it’s a meeting of thousands of people without the ability to meet everyone’s needs.

Salsa Congresses are popping up all over the world, and we (San Francisco) are hosting our own Salsa Congress in November (Join our WorldWide Update Mailing List), and the next six months has a congress almost every week, in just about every place in the world you can imagine.

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See Photos of the West Coast Salsa Congress!

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EDITORIAL RANTS – The following are a few tips, and couple of Editorial Rants! Care to comment on them?  Email: salsacrazy@salsacrazy.com !

An editorial topic – and that’s long songs!  A topic that has been covered in depth in the salsa scene in San Francisco, it was strange to have big name acts, with huge repertoires of songs, only do four songs in an hour long period.  That made for some very long songs – and some etiquette social dance issues which I will cover now. Generally speaking, it is ok to bend over and tell your partner you are getting tired, during an abnormally long song.  It’s fine for 3-5 minutes to grin and bear it, but after 10, you needn’t push yourself to dehydration or collapse from exhaustion.  Generally, it’s best if the LEADER realizes this, and makes it easier on the follower by suggesting a break.  However, if the leader doesn’t, it’s fine for the follower to do so (but remember, the male ego is fragile, so you’d best explain the reason if you ever want to be asked to dance again).

What’s the deal with dancing on the edges of the dance floor?  Let me tell you! It’s not all about being seen – having people stare at you.  It’s about personal safety.  It’s far more enjoyable to dance on the edge of the floor, where you only have to worry about dancers from one direction.  Of  course, this is also prime location for those who “Want to be seen”, so it can create difficulty.  As usual, from my perspective, the best dancing was on the carpet, in some corner or another, as the floors were very crowded.

A salsa congress should have music playing everywhere – in the hotel, in the lobby, in the restaraunts, in all the ballrooms, you should be surrounded by the music.  It should erupt into spontaneous dancing – by the pool, in the hallways, in your hotel rooms.  Likewise, the dancing to the music – should take center stage!   

HOTEL TIP: My friends whom booked the Hilton in the last second, were treated to rates far below what I had paid through the Congress registration, months earlier.  Some friends got huge rooms (suites) for $70 a night, online, just prior to the Congress starting.  In addition, some people got rooms at the Crown Plaza for $60 a night, and the hotel is mere minutes walk away.  However, since the daytime workshops are actually inside the Hilton hotel, you have to weigh price, against the inconvenience of not being in the hotel with the actual festivities taking place. 

BOOKING TIP: Book early! There’s no reason to pay more than other people, for the same event.  If you’re going to go, plan ahead.

Chairs - enough said . . . there should be some.

 

 

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