World Salsa Championships: Day 3, This Volcano is Ready to Blow!

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SEMI-FINALS PART II–THIS VOLCANO IS READY TO BLOW: A FIELD REPORT ON FRIDAY, DAY 3 OF THE WORLD SALSA CHAMPIONSHIPS 2007 (ORLANDO, FLORIDA)

World Salsa Chapionships: Dakin and Kayono Salsa ReportersBy 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 pluging 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:

 

 

 

 

 

  

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.

 day3_competitors.jpg

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.

World Salsa Championships 2007: Junior and Emily

-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 Jhonny 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.

 
RANDOM NOTES (AND ANYWAY, WHAT IS AN EVENT WITHOUT CONTRAVERSY — FOLLOWED BY INCREDIBLE MUSIC THAT FEEDS YOUR SOUL!):

 -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 shere numbers tell me that this was a definition problem and a management problem that had repurcussions 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 wolrd.  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 brillianly 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.

 World Salsa Championships: Tribute to Tito Puente

-I put the crowd slightly less than Thursday night but not by much.

PARTING THOUGHTS:

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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