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WORLD SALSA CHAMPIONSHIPS 2007: FINALS
and Day by Day. DYNASTIES AND DISASTER.
FINALS OF THE WORLD SALSA CHAMPIONSHIPS 2007.
DAY 4 IN
By Dakin Ferris, Bleary-Eyed Correspondent
Arriving on Saturday night for the Finals of the 2007 World Salsa
Championships, Kayono and I are delighted to find ourselves sitting right behind
Jai Catalano, Billy Fajardo, Maya Torres (five months pregnant and beaming), the
ever-dapper Eddie Torres, Japan's scion of salsa George Watabe, and Korea's
ambassador, Spin. We chat with Maria Torres sensing the tense excitement that
has already filled every corner of the room. Flags flying everywhere --
especially Colombian and Puerto Rican flags -- and most folks wearing their
Sunday best, the scene was set.
And then, in the blink of an eye, it was over. It wasn't pretty for the SF
Bay Area compared to year's past, but there was a lot to be proud of. The most
significant structural difference from the last two years tonight was that
instead of combining scores from the finals with the semi-finals, each of the
contestants tonight would be judged solely on that nights performance….winner
Here is what happened:
9. JAPAN'S TETSU AND EMI -- Japan's Tetsu and Emi, possibly the funniest
couple in salsa (Tetsu being the brother of Ryu, who, with his wife Ryoko was in
the top 10 just two years earlier) opened the evening with an elegant and smooth
performance. I love their relaxed style and creative flow. In the end, they were
able to jump up a spot from 10th to 9th, and were clearly delighted with their
results. If they decide to come back next year, look for them to place and maybe
take it all.
7. SF'S RICARDO AND TIANNE -- Ricardo and Tianne's performance was
technically right in line with their semi-final performance, but, as many of the
performers in the finals, I sensed a little tentativeness which I attributed to
the pressure of the finals. It was only afterwards that I found out that they
were distracted by the potential for an imminent wardrobe failure (which never
happened but was quite understandably distracting). Despite this, they still
pulled off a very clean and elegant performance. I thought their seventh place
finish was the biggest stunner on the upside for the Bay Area as I don't think
anyone expected them to crack the top 10 (not due to the skill levels, to be
clear, but merely because of a perception that ESPN is not looking for elegance
and artistry, and would favor faster action and more spins).
6. SF'S ISIDRO AND SHEILA -- On the edge of our seats, Kayono and I gripped
each other praying for Isidro and Sheila to get something so many of us have
thought was long over due. In the beginning, perfection. We held our breath
afraid to move…..and then it happened. First, what seemed like an almost
imperceptible bobble, and then tragedy, as they completely lost connection, and
then it was over. Kayono and I choked back our tears and then they we just
couldn't hold them in. The final results placed them 6th. Kayono and I sat
speechless, knowing they were likely inconsolable at that point, unable to see
beyond their own disappointment and likely needing some healing time with their
friends before returning to their bodies and appreciating their incredible
skills and all they have accomplished. Yes, I am biased, but their semi-finals
routine and Jr. and Emilie's finals routines were, in my humble opinion, the two
most spectacular On1 and On2 routines of the week.
1. L.A.'S ABEL AND ZUMARA -- Swapping places with Isidro and Sheila, L.A.'s
pride and joy Abel and Zumara had a nearly-flawless performance. Their trademark
"Tornado" spin sequence just makes you gasp at the speed of their spins and
Zumara's tremendous grace. Indeed, Zumara seemed calm and poised through-out as
Abel demonstrated ferocious mastery in his lead. These two-time champions
absolutely deserved their three-peat…..and with that victory, cemented their
history as the first of two dynasties to be established this night.
5. SYDNEY'S MODUS VIVENDI -- One of two performances I missed in the four
days here, Kayono reported that they were clean and very well synced. But for
the Colombian's, they would be an easy lock for a top-three spot.
4. NEW YORK'S DANCESPORT ALL-STARS -- In the same way Louis Antonio and Anya
represent the embodiment of what I like about modern mambo, so too did their
team. While I won't go into it in detail here, but for the Colombian teams doing
something that is COMPLETELY different than anyone else (with the sole
similarity being the music), this team would have placed first.
3. 2. 1. ALL FROM COLOMBIA -- I don't have the team names, but last years
first place team repeated, and the other two were right there with them. I like
to watch the Colombian groups. I am not positive, but I think almost everyone in
all three of these groups is 18 or under, and for these kids, the experience
must have been like none other. When first place was announced the crowd erupted
for the biggest celebration of the night with audience members mobbing the
stage. I was happy truly for the kids. They had accomplished something quite
impressive and which hopefully creates a foundation for them to see what is
possible if you live life following your dreams. Colombia has a lot to be proud
To be honest, my heart was so heavy with the results from the semis and the
finals that I wasn't able to focus very intently on the cabaret or the team
competitions. In third from Puerto Rico and Venezuela were last year's champions
Kelvin and Lisa. The had a moderate mistake/hand disconnection that I think
probably knocked them out of the running for first. Houston and Daisy and John
and Judy from Colombia took second and first respectively. They were riveting
and completely-exciting, but my heart wasn't there anymore. I could only think
about how my friends were taking their results, as the reality of the evening
set in on them.
This wasn't the ending any of the Bay Area folks had scripted, but sometimes
it doesn't turn out the way it does in the song. I have many thoughts and
observations on this whole event and will write more from Ponce, Puerto Rico in
the next few days. Congratulations to all the Bay Area competitors for
representing us so strongly. Your final place at the worlds changes nothing
about your place with us. You are heroes and role models all. Congratulations
also to Giju John and the "SalsaMania Dancers" as well as PB&G for their
entertaining "demonstration" routines at the finals as well.
5. OAKLAND/SF'S JOHN AND LIZ -- There was nothing tentative about John and
Liz when they hit the stage. I could see the fire in John's eyes as the moved
into their starting position like a couple on a mission. As possibly the most
consistent of the Bay Area performers, they executed very cleanly and were
well-received by the audience. I thought they might edge up a place or two, but
in the end, they remained in fifth.
4. NEW YORK'S (AND FORMERLY SF'S) LOUIS ANTONIO AND ANYA -- Bursting onto the
competition scene this year, Louis Antonio and Anya, for me, embody exactly what
modern mambo should be. Formerly with SalsaMania and now teaching at DanceSport
in New York, Louis and his partner Anya made their mark tonight in two
categories (see Team results below), and finally gave New York representation in
a category they should own!
3. SF'S JUNIOR AND EMILY -- What can you say about this amazing
brother-sister due that hasn't already been said. Junior and Emily do things on
the stage that simply no-one else can do…..and tonight, when they hit their
final pose, Kayono and I screamed with delight. To my mind, there was nothing
anyone could do to beat their routine. Finally, after two years in second place,
they would get the victory they so richly deserved. When the judges announced
them in third place, the audience was stunned and immediately the booing started
that did not die down for two minutes (and then was followed by a large chorus
of people chanting "JUNIOR" "JUNIOR"). Rumor has it the judges had issue with
their timing…..and wanted at least one or two tempo changes/traditional mambo
type moves. I can't even speak to this, you will simply have to get the video
and judge for yourself. For the second time that night, Kayono and I fought back
the tears and then cried for a couple we love.
2. NEW YORK'S JHESUS APONTE AND MARIELYS MOLINA -- Speaking of New York,
maybe the biggest place change of the evening was Jhesus and Marielys coming
from 10th place in the semi-finals to second place in the finals. There were
times in the semi-finals I thought it almost looked like they were social
dancing, but I had no doubt about it that after their performance in the finals
they would be top 5. This was the Jhesus Aponte that I only knew from legend,
Marielys was stunning, and together they pulled out their best performance when
it was needed most.
1. SYDNEY'S OLIVER AND LUDA -- It seems like Oliver and Luda are favorites
everywhere in the world. Luda is currently on Australia's dancing with the stars
and their energy seems boundless. I love their style and everything they
do…..and tonight was no exception. But for the fact that I simply found Junior
and Emilie's routine this year more exciting, I would have surely thought Oliver
and Luda were a lock for first. If it wasn't going to be Junior and Emily, I was
delight to see these two-time prior champions have their three-peat as well….and
another dynasty is down for the record books.
I have to mention here something I will write about in my out-take reports.
When first place was announced, many in the crowd boo'd. Obviously they were
booing the results and not Oliver and Luda themselves, but I found this
unforgivable. I saw what I thought was shock on Luda's face when this happened
and felt horrible that they were not be received in the style they completely
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