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World Salsa Championships: Day 3
PART II--THIS VOLCANO IS READY TO BLOW: A FIELD REPORT ON FRIDAY, DAY 3 OF
THE WORLD SALSA CHAMPIONSHIPS 2007 (ORLANDO, FLORIDA)
By Dakin Ferris, (Stark) Raving (Mad) Independent
Correspondent for SalsaCrazy
The pace has picked up, the intensity, drama and emotions incomparable to
any other salsa event. With only a couple hours sleep, my primary camera blown
from plugging in the wrong charger and losing my front row seats (sigh), the
video I am sending is unfortunately lower quality….but hopefully at least
watchable. Here is what happened:
RANDOM NOTES (AND ANYWAY, WHAT IS AN
EVENT WITHOUT CONTROVERSY -- FOLLOWED BY INCREDIBLE MUSIC THAT FEEDS YOUR
-I am told that the sound system for Thursday night only had one channel
which they fixed for Friday night, but to my mind created an incredible
imbalance in the conditions the performers faced. The performers on Thursday
literally couldn't hear whatever was on the missing channel and so the
frustration that this happened seemed huge and for some, tragic, since this
problem got fixed for Fridays competitors.
-There were major issues all day for more than half the groups with the new
trick rule as they did their best to change their routines at the last minute.
If the number of people caught up in this issue was a lot smaller, one could
write the problem off to the dancers, but sheer numbers tell me that this was a
definition problem and a management problem that had repercussions across the
board. For people who have trained for over a year for this single event, it
just shouldn't have happened….especially once the extent of the confusion was
known. Just for example, a set of multi-spins -- something a follower could not
do on their own -- is completely legal if the follower is standing up, but by
doing the exact same move but bending their legs down into the tornado…a
reasonably common move in many routines, including Abel and Zumara's -- this was
classified as a trick and one of three allowed before deductions. I simply don't
understand that and this needs to be corrected immediately to avoid this problem
next year. To my mind, ts simply not fair to the competitors.
-I am fast coming to a few conclusions here. I love Colombian salsa, but lets
be honest, this is not the salsa I see anywhere else in the world. I would like
to see that style in a completely separate category. Comparing samba-type
foot-work to modern mambo or on1 seems wrong. Honestly, the Colombian style is
exciting. Its insane. But if the logic holds for dividing on1 and on2….how does
that logic not hold 10 times more for Colombian Style, something much more
different than on1 is to on2? I am not advocating having a million categories,
but the excitement of that style I think will likely get the nod from the judges
more often than not….so where does that leave the rest of the world?
-I have a similar observation about the Team Competitions. If there is a
basis for dividing salsa for couples into on1 and on2 and Cabaret…..shouldn't
there be the same categories for teams….not to mention Colombian style? How can
any judge compare four couples doing on2 footwork and no major tricks like the
deliciously smooth DanceSport All-Stars that showed up tonight with 10 couples
of Colombians doing completely different footwork and tossing bodies in the air
all over the place. Honestly, I find both completely entertaining, but should
they be compared when the fundamental basics of one style bring a more powerful
audience (and presumably judging) reaction.
-After the competition, the entertainment featured Palladium Nights, a
tribute to Tito Puente, Machito and Tito Rodriguez. I've included a picture and
uploaded a video to give you a peak .at them, but all I can say is that this is
my favorite era of salsa music and it was performed brilliantly tonight. The
social dancing really picked up tonight as well…maybe as everyone loomed waiting
for the results, but also a lot of the famous-types like D.C.s Shaka Brown and
Toronto/New Yorks Magna Gopal have been starting to show up and round out the
upper end of the spectrum
-I put the crowd slightly less than Thursday night but not by much.
TOP LINE EVENTS:
-On1 had 18 competitors in three rounds. Crowd favorites included the
same-gender couple from Puerto Rico and Taiwan, New Jersey's Darwin and Melissa
(who had a fairly big mistake in an otherwise beautiful routine)….and then right
at the end, two stunners that brought the house down. First was one of my two
favorite couples from Japan, Tetsu and Emi, who had a near flawless routine and
completely won the hearts of the crowd with their smooth mambo. I immediately
put them in my "cream" category of couples I thought sure to make the top ten.
And then it happened. I have been watching the Bay Area's Isidro and Sheila
for three if not four years. And as they have pushed the boundary of what they
could relentlessly, I cannot remember a performance of theirs without something
happening. Tonight that all changed. If there were ever a week to peak, they
picked their timing perfect, because half the people in the house were jumping
in the air and screaming with delight after their stunning routine. If they
don't end up in first at the end of the semi's I'll be shocked. Kayono and I
held each other in delight, because of anyone from the Bay I have thought
deserved more success, it is this soft-spoken humble couple who do what they
love without drama or fanfare.
-On2 was up next with 16 couples in two heats. Oliver and Luda seemed to have
almost a new style in their routine, but almost flawless as well. See you in the
finals guys….if not for Junior and Emily, I would be cheering for you first, but
my loyalties stay with the home front and….as if lightning had struck twice in
the same place on the same night, Junior and Emily came and and blew me away.
Emily looked trim and thin…and Junior has completely bulked up. The couple we
fell in love with as kids are no longer that, but their new routine had me on
the edge of my seat and then screaming with delight. Last years top three are
back and they will almost assuredly all be in the finals.
-Team Division had 14 teams. The local Orlando team that only qualified on
Wednesday night stunned me with an incredibly strong showing. Chuckee's and a
team from Peru as well….and then came Modus Vivendi from Sydney. Ouch. Ok, I see
them in the finals. Louis Antonio later led New York's "DanceSport All-Stars" to
an equally strong showing. Without virtually any tricks, I don't know how the
judges can compare this to the samba-ish cheerleading theatrical type shows that
the Colombians are displaying, but this was the modern mambo I think the judges
really want to see.
-Cabaret Division had 10 couples. I won't get their names right, but
Colombia's Johnny and June were right on their game, as well as two other
Colombian couples. The last couple to compete was the Bay Area's Alex Lee and
Kim Zamora. After near disaster only a month ago at Cafe Cocomo, well, shall I
just say this was a couple transformed and on-fire. Backstage just moments
before going on, Alex shared with Kim that the feeling he had in that moment was
what it was all about for him. He felt more alive and grateful for that life
than almost any other moment….and he was going to go share that with the world.
I have posted the video….I can't go on raving about peak performance after peak
performance….ok, yes, I will….Alex and Kim's performance was the best I have
seen from them since they paired up (maybe 18 months ago?). Kim, who used to
seem on the shyer side on stage walked on beaming like she owned a light-store.
Alex proceed to then do tricks that simply no one else is doing with a ferocious
intensity that brought the house down for the last time tonight. Whatever
happens, this couple came and made their mark. I have them in the hunt, but it
will probably be close.
I now see more clearly how this event fundamentally differs from a regular
Congress. Watching three nights of routines at a Congress means watching a lot
of beginners and intermediates, which at a certain point, just gets boring (at
least if you go to more than one or two Congresses a year). Here, there is no
boring. Here, you do not want to take a bio break at the wrong time. Here…..you
sit back and watch couple after couple and group after group bring the WOW's
out. In that regard, this event has it over your typical Congress in spades. I
have not been disappointed….to the contrary, in virtual awe at the level of
salsa going on around the entire world. Stay tuned for a second report from
tonight come shortly -- THE RESULTS OF THE WORLD SALSA CHAMPIONSHIPS!!!
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