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World Salsa Championships (Orlando Florida)
Dance Championships - Field
of Dreams - Day 1:
By Dakin Ferris
Its 3:30am in
Orlando. Kayono worked the red-eye last night from San Fran
to JFK while I slept in the next to last row, and then we both slept on the
sunrise flight to Orlando. Temp was about 75 degress on
arrival, sunny, a few clouds….and unlike your typical congress, I had no idea
what to expect here in mouse-land. In fact, I skipped the
first two years of this event (held in Las Vegas) as I was not sure if it had
any staying power, but with Kayono and I having just finished our second amatuer
competition, I wanted to come see what this was all about and decide whether it
was a dream worth chasing. So now, after Day 1 here, she
sleeps, and I write. Here's my report.
announced Orlando is the likely home of the WSC for the next few years.
(Personally, I would like to see this event move around the world so it
wasn't so U.S. focused, but given the logistics of doing that, can appreciate
how hard that would be for the moment. More on the venue
later as its too early to form any real impressions. I know
I like the temperature and the energy in the air!)
-A deal is pending
with ESPN2 for broadcasting this event in the U.S. (finally!).
Possible updates on this deal by the end of the weekend.
agreed to be a judge this year and he and Maria celebrated their 29th wedding
anniversary before the evenings competition. Other new
judges include George Watabe (Japan), Spin (Korea) sitting with some of the
beloved regulars like Tito and Tamara, and head judge Billy Fajardo and Katie
Marlow, with others to be mentioned later.
Qualifying Round Competition Info:
-On1: 8 couples
competed, 5 were accepted into the semi-finals. I'm bummed
that the one bay area couple didn't get in. Albert announces
after that the results were maybe not as one would have guessed because of their
new rule that allows only three tricks per couple (and that many were doing 5-8
-On2 and Teams: 3
couples and 3 teams competed and all were accepted into the semi-finals
-Cabaret: 5 of the
6 competing couples were accepted
Highlights: Hanging Out with SalsaMania and Oliver and Luda!
The SF Bay Area
people started to arrive en masse today. We met Ricardo and
Tianne in line for registration, then John and Liz, DJ Boriqua (Orlando), Louis
Anotonio, Jr. and Emily, Isidro and Sheila and others…with the coolest part of
the day being right at the end, hanging outside after the competition with
SalsaMania (John, Liz, Gigu, Chris, Eric and Miyuko) as well as Louis Antonio
(former member) and Oliver and Luda, my personal heros. It
was clear that all of these champions were simultaneously tremendously excited
and also quite appropriately nervous at the same time. The
part I liked the most was how human all of them were in this space.
Champions, all, for sure, but simply and delightfully human.
This is their field of dreams. They are here to
compete, driven by conviction and desire, with every intention of leaving all
they have on the dance floor. There wasn't even a hint that
prior success had gone to their heads. That moved me.
collective energy brought me back to the comments George Watabe (Japan) made
after lunch today. He told Kayono and I that as a judge, he
felt a tremendous responsibility to be the best judge he could be, because his
actions–along with those of his fellow judges–are now destined to have a major
impact on many people lives in the place that is closest to their heart; their
personal field of dreams. For this, George wants to show his
deepest respect by being the best he can be. How awesome
that its not just the competitors feeling the pressure here.
Overall for this
last qualifier event, I think the San Francisco Bay Area Salsa Congress
competition was at a much higher level than the what I saw tonight with the
exception of the Cabaret division….the Colombians are here in full force in that
category, so right off the bat it was easy to see that category heading for an
exciting semi-finals and finals. The teams here tonight were
also very solid, but I don't think a major concern for Bay Area teams as long as
they can stay focused…still, I was impressed by how solid even a local Florida
team was, making clear, no category is going to be easy. On2
had too few competitors to make any general statements about, and On1 had a few
stand-outs including one same-sex couple (Taiwan and Hong Kong I think) who
rocked the house.
Good luck tomorrow
to all the competitors and judges alike!!
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