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Review: "On 2" Social @ Metronome Ballroom

(w/performance by Felipe Polanco)


Sunday Jan 13, 2002 - by Julian.


Special guests: Felipe Polanco and Albert Torres (the great promoter himself)!

This article is in appreciation of Ava Apple and Latin Symbolics, Felipe Polanco and Albert Torres.  Ava and her team as well as Albert worked hard to bring over a great performer and mambo dancer. This also goes out to the whole staff at the "Met" who work really hard for us at all the socials and events!


At this event we celebrated Ava Apple's birthday and were treated to a performance by the suave-est mambo dancer, Felipe Polanco from Puerto Rico!  The usual "on 2" suspects were there that night and I believe I even saw some of them practicing dancing "on clave" the way Felipe taught.  It was almost like having the dancers' corner at Cocomo under a different roof!  As for me, I was more or less doing double duty that night: taking pictures for SalsaCrazy and recording some of the social dancing on Ava's camera (I was more or less in spectator mode).  Mr. Polanco made all his followers look great, no matter the variations in level of skill.  Albert also had a great time with the followers in attendance and displayed his trademark Albert Torres dance styling and feeling. Well, we don't always get guests from out of town, so I didn't mind at all recording all of this for posterity.  Apparently, quite a few of us were thinking the same thing, since I saw a lot of video cameras set up and ready to record at a moment's notice.  Not to mention all those who wanted their photo op with Mr. Polanco!


As a matter of fact, we had not one but several birthdays (more or less falling around the same time): Phil, Leka, John Freddy, Mary Ann and Elissa.  Ava called them all up to the front (that area near the DJ booth) and some of us proceeded to do steals with them to the salsafied tune of "Happy Birthday".


Before Felipe Polanco went on with his performance, Albert made some announcements for upcoming dates related to the Congresses he promotes and gave us a little background on his friendship with Felipe.  They first became acquainted in 1997 and remained great friends ever since.  Sadly, he also mentioned that we're losing Mr. Polanco to Paris, France where he will be moving in April (he has been teaching in Los Angeles since the end of last year). However, their close friendship pretty much guarantees that we will consistently be seeing Felipe Polanco and his Dancers on stage at the L.A. Congress (counting down!) and at their workshops.  Finally, he gave San Francisco its due by saying how far we've come in the salsa scene and that we "kick ass" or words to that effect! 


The performance was a solo footwork routine danced to the music of Tito Puente's jazzy instrumental "Cuban Fantasy".  He played with the music masterfully, doing syncopations to the vibraphone and accenting in all the right parts. His style can be described in a few words: smooth and understated but with a certain attitude of coolness and "suavedad".  He sometimes does partnerwork but didn't come with any "pareja" during this trip.  Footwork, however, is his specialty.  This much was in evidence during the workshop that same day.  If you're used to indulging your salsa senses with the usual tricks and neckdrops and what not from dance performers, no doubt you will realize this is in a whole different category!  This is about displaying talent and virtuosity by keeping it simple and purely in sync with the clave and the music.


I now understand now why I keep rewinding to his performances on the L.A. Salsa Congress videos.  Has anyone seen the choreography with Young Ambition and Heartbreak Boys from the 2001?  Worth it (and a welcome break from that streetfight/gang theme that was so prevalent in the performances last year)!  As a matter of fact, I was hooked on Felipe Polanco since I saw the 1999 L.A. Congress tape, long before I knew much about him or breaking "on 2" or dancing "on clave".  Remember him and the two other guys performing to Tito's "Machito Forever"?


I believe that watching Felipe Polanco dance socially is already a great performance to begin with, which you should catch when you can, and be prepared to sit out a few dances if you want to watch. We also got to see him at Cafe Cocomo on Saturday the 12th, to which Albert Torres came as well.  If you've ever seen Felipe Polanco and Albert Torres dancing, what a contrast!  Mr. Polanco is more suave and understated, whereas Albert cranks up his energy level as high as he can and tends to be playful with his partner.  However both are just great to watch (and both dance "on clave")!  Thanks both for entertaining us with your dancing skills both on Saturday and at the "Met".  Too bad I forgot my video camera that night!


When you watch Felipe Polanco dance with a partner, you realize he holds true to what he says about female dancers.  Don't throw in all the styling you can muster; just be yourself and let your own natural beauty shine through!  Great dance philosophy by which to abide.


Stay tuned for the Felipe Polanco workshop review! 


In the meantime, please feel free to email me with your comments, suggestions (or just to chat)!




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