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Team Salsa Dance Competition at Roccapulco, 2008

By Maya/SalsaLoca

 

GROUP COMPETITION 2008 

First of all, a warning - one of the competition organizers announced a sad news: if the group participation remains at such a dismal level as we've seen last year and does not increase to the level of a true competition – 5,6 groups or more – this event that has been a staple for Bay Area salseros will not survive beyond its 10th year. 

The turnout is consistently good, dancers like this type of gatherings where they can strut their stuff and watch their peers, where their efforts can be showcased and appreciated.  It's not like we lack salsa groups – their proliferation has been highjacking  social dance scene for years. So what's the explanation for such a poor participation?  Fear of competition? Insecurity? 

Well, whatever the reason, it's up to us if we want to keep this yearly event.  Most dancers are reluctant to get down to the nitty-gritty of business and organize something so if someone is willing to do it for us, the least we could do is show up.  Here's something group leaders need to chew on: your group members crave strutting their stuff so if you don't want to lose them, you must give them that chance. Besides, you get exposure and attract students. We've got 2 more years to drum up the participation or this competition is history. 

There were more 4 groups in professional division this year. 2 were from the same Salsamania "family", but all the competitors were so close it made for an interesting spectacle.  If you followed the Bay Area salsa scene and this competition in particular, you would notice how the dancers' skills improved over the years.

The amateur division, in particular, is breathing on the backs of their pro competitors.  Last year's winners, Son de Mania, already transferred to the pro division and eventually their junior team, Proecto Mania, might follow in their elders' footsteps.  Out of 3 participating amateur groups they placed second, but mistakes were made and it was a close call between them and Con Afinke, third place winners, who were much better than last year.

The first place winners, Ricasensacion, "inherited" and capitalized on their pro team's winning routine that catapulted Ricasalsa to the top a few years ago.  The secret? Choice of playful and original music that allowed for creative interpretation and acting.  Ricasensacion's performance was not as strong and technique wasn't perfect, but this is a perfect example how the right music, originality and choreography can set you apart from the crowd.

That point became even more obvious in pro team competition.  Bay area salseros have (had?) a tendency to value technique over everything else.  Ricasalsa's interesting routines were underappreciated due to poor styling and presentation.  These opinions were successfully challenged and raised a few eyebrows this year when Salsamania's tight routine with strong accents did not bring them the first place in spite of nearly perfect technique.  Instead, Ricasalsa's interpretation of an old Jewish song Bei mir bist du schön written in the 30s and then recorded by Don Swan & His Orchestra & Jack Costanzo, took the prize.  It was reminiscent of old mambo dance routines of that era.  If only they added puffy sleeves…J

Moreover, creative thinking allows to showcase the groups' abilities and hide deficiencies.  Too hard to synchronize perfectly?  Create a non-synchronized routine.  Don't give your dancers something they can't handle, a simple creative dance without mistakes is better than terror on the performers' faces running through the song and afraid to stumble.

Son de Mania's performance was case in point and Afinkao, who improved their performance skills, beat them to the third place. 

So, for the first time, both amateur and pro division trophies belong to the Ricasalsa family – at least, until next year.

 
Maya SalsaLoca 
San Francisco
 

 

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