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World Salsa Championships (Orlando Florida)

 2007 Salsa 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.


Top Line News:

-Albert Torres 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.

-Eddie Torres 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.

Last Minute 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 tricks).

-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


Days 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.

Indeed, their 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.

Level of Competition:

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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