World Salsa Championships 2007, Salsa Dance Final Observations

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By Dakin Ferris, Salsa Rebel and Independent Correspondent for SalsaCrazy


After the completely exhilarating (if not thoroughly exhausting) World Salsa Championships 2007 in Orlando, Florida last week, Kayono and I took a short break in nearby Ponce, Puerto Rico (soothingly calm and beautiful with charmingly friendly people….not to mention a wide-open dance-floor at the hotel that we could use almost all day long).  Now we are heading up to NYC to take in some classes with Eddie Torres, Frankie Martinez and others–with the hope of finding the ultimate new year's salsa party. 

Even with the passage of a week since the competition, however, I simply can't stop thinking about it.  Yes, I am still a little in morning for my Bay Area friends who got to the mountain top, only to be denied access to the summit by equally ferocious competitors. But I also know that in the end, judging a dance competition is inherently subjective and you simply can't (or at least shouldn't) get too attached to the results.  The only option is to congratulate the winners with all your heart, take a moment to appreciate what you have accomplished (including taking in the possibility that if nothing else, you have been an inspiration to many more than you will likely ever know)….and then put your shoes on and get back into the studio. 

So before I put my own shoes back on, and with the caveat that I have absolutely no credentials, ballroom experience or any other technical qualifications to write the following comments other than temporary possession of a periodically lucid brain (and no guarantees this is one of those moments of lucidity!), I do have some proposed changes for the Wolrd Salsa Championships that I hope are received in the spirit they are intended.


As far as I can tell there is substantial consensus (a) that people find the Colombian style completely exciting and entertaining, and (b) that this is not salsa as practiced almost anywhere else in the world (at least in any substantial way), yet because of its fast nature (the footwork appears to be about twice as fast as the other styles it is being compared with) and cabaret-style (in fact even cheerleading-style) tricks, seems likely just by its nature to consistently garner higher scores than traditional salsa in a competition.  Throw in other variables like the fact that one of the top teams performed with two men for each woman (something I presume is not permitted in the couples On1 and On2 divisions), and I think the Team categories generally and Colombian-style salsa must be reconsidered.  If nothing else, a "Teams Cabaret" division should be created to separate what are otherwise fundamentally different styles for the same reasons that led to cabaret being separated out from the traditional On1 and On2 divisions.

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The rules seem to need clarification in a number of places.  To have what many people perceived as being at least 50% of the couples competing On1 and On2 having to make moderate to substantial changes to their routines (and music) in the last three days of the competition because of rule interpretations that could have been much more clearly articulated well in advance is unfortunate to say the least.  For example, how a multi-spin is not a trick when the followers legs are almost straight vs. being considered a trick when they do a multi-spin with a deep knee bend (i.e., a "tornado") is completely beyond me.  I think the general concepts of what is and isn't permitted should be set forth in greater detail with a specific thumbs up or down for the more commonly used tricks.


This topic could be a completely separate article, but the WSC seems to have no formal P.R. program at all.  Starting with press releases to the media (generally), press release packages provided to participants to get the word out locally both before the event, and after with the results; having a website doing near real-time updates on the action as it happens, even things like providing spectators information about the participants, my point here is simply that some basic P.R. along with a modicum of multi-media support from the video and photo teams might be enough (at least on slow news nights) to get the participants and the WSC a lot of free publicity around the world.  According to there wasn't one press release put out and a quick google search shows this blog as the number one commentary site for the WSC….and I just covered it on a whim to help my friends at home get a sense of what was going on!

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Using the model of professional baseball or many other sports, if the goal is to increase competition for the highly coveted invitations to this event, I would start a farm-league or feader system to help people ease their way into the world of competition.  Specifically, why not have amatuer events at all the qualifyers for people who aren't yet at a world class level?  The structure is already in place, so the additional cost of the logistics to do that seems marginal.  Heck, why not even a world amatuer competition at the finals?


I think the judges seriously did a great job at this event, so my only comment here is not that anything improper happened (or was even hinted at) but simply that appearances for an event of this stature are almost equally as important as reality.  To that end, I don't think its appropriate to have judges that separately represent competitors as their agents.  One could even argue that promoters generally should be excluded, as well as anyone who competes for salsa performance opportunities against competitors as well.  While I know this would make finding qualified judges a lot harder, I think its an important goal.


In the "missed revenue opportunities" department (again, a separate article in and of itself), I would suggest that having as much content as possible on the DVDs for sale seems like a no brainer, especially making sure to include ALL the semi-final routines, and maybe even things like "EDDIES TORRES TWO FAVORITE PARTNER COMBINATIONS OF 2007" for example, or maybe some sage pointers on how to get going on a competition routine — basically anything where the puchaser gets substantial content not shown on ESPN.  Give Eddie and the other content providers some free marketing in return, and I think they would increase the attractiveness of this product substantially.  Anyway, I have been a little disappointed at the relatively anemic content of the production DVDs the last two years DVDs, especially knowing how easy it would be to add a lot more relevant content with very little effort.


Well, that's it for this year.  I think the World Salsa Championships 2007 were completely exciting and I think this event has a real future.  While my spontaneous (i.e., unplanned) coverage for SalsaCrazy was intentionally San Francisco Bay Area-centric, this really was an international spectacle and I wish I had had the resources to have taken more video and gotten more information on all the other amazing competitors who showed up from all over the world.  Who would ever have predicted that salsa was big enough in Bulgaria that they would have two top ten couples competing in the finals?  Indeed, having representation from over 34 different countries at the 2007 World Salsa Championships speaks for itself….and I for one am (for the first time in my life) considering visiting Bulgaria as a result!  Of course, many things could be improved….but this is a young event and I know they will be over time.  The fire in Albert Torrre's eyes to make this event a huge success is clear.  I am already looking forward to new year…

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