NEW YORK SALSA CONGRESS 2006 BOMBS!
City Salsa Dance Congress Rocks the House
Ferris, independent field correspondent
On assignment for
(Sept. 8, 2006)
David Melendez had a running joke at this year's
New York Salsa Congress that all of his events were “Da Bomb”--even if
they hadn’t happened yet! It was a pretty funny routine actually, but
unfortunately David was wrong. NYC 2006 wasn't Da Bomb at all.
It was Da Atom Bomb. It was Da Mother Of All Bombs.
It was, well…simply awesome. It exceeded my expectations in almost every
respect, and for the first time since my first Congress four years ago, I
had no complaints and left with a huge smile on my face. Seriously.
Zero, zip, nada. You even had to forgive David’s joyful gloating over the
demise of the Red Sox. (Next year, David, next year!)
It wasn’t just that he had all the critical basics
down….like that the registration lines moved quickly…. that everything
started and ended on time…. that there was always free water (not the
case, for example, at the Puerto Rico Congress)…. and that despite a huge
turn-out (3000-4000 dancers on Saturday night?) that there was always
plenty of dance floor space.
It wasn’t just that the event featured some of the
best musicians and dancers in the world. Or that I was allowed to video
tape moves and shines at the end of each workshop (an old pet peeve of
mine). Or even that this Congress featured the first ever Salsa Congress
Dominos Championship. (It’s ok, I said “huh?” too, but it turns out David
is a fan of the dominos!)
No, the thing that David Melendez did better than
anyone else was the performances. Let me start by saying, I love watching
salsa performances at all levels. I love going to Congresses and seeing
people from all over the world bring the best of what they got, because in
the end it’s usually more about their spirit than their talent, and there
are always delightful surprises. But when the trade-off is between
watching performances and having dance time with the best dancers in the
world, well, it’s not too long before my legs start twitching.
Most Congresses, in fact, seem to have three shows a
night….something like 5, 8 and 11. And in most cases, they seem to start
late, end even later, and the social dance time gets shredded in the
twain. At some of these 3-show events, you even see some of the same
performers over and over (and over), making it all the more frustrating.
The most common complaint of Congress goers I hear is that there are too
many performances with way too much talking in between (not to mention, an
endless array of awards).
David Melendez is the first promoter I know with the
vision to put the dancers first by limiting the shows and emphasizing
quality over quantity. He had a 5pm show and a 9pm show, the later of
which ended promptly at 11. The social dancing was then on by 11:20 and
Friday and Saturday went until 5am. David gave out only one award all
weekend (making it much more special I think), and otherwise kept us
entertained between performances with his endearing and often
self-deprecating humor. Beautiful David, simply awesome. This was a
dancer’s event from start to finish, and it happened because of you.
In fact, I would argue there is no better Congress
for on2 dancers in this hemisphere than the New York Salsa Congress. Ok,
so that’s not such a big surprise given that NYC is ground zero for mambo,
but biased or not, SF has been my favorite Congress for the last three
years simply because it was the best run Congress around—bar none. But
where the SF Congress actually gets a fairly ideal split between on1 and
on2 dancers, if you are looking for an “on2 only” event, NYC is probably
as close as it gets! (Speaking of SF, that Congress is coming again
SF Salsa Congress and sign up asap if you haven’t already!)
The bands in NYC this year – El Canario on Friday,
Chino Nunez and Friends Satuday and 8+ y Mas Sunday -- were all in top
form, especially Chino Nunez. I loved his interaction with the audience.
On Friday and Saturday, the bands wore their Sunday-Goin-To-Church suits
and ties, giving it that classic old-school mambo feel which I love as
well. Classy, classy, classy, I say. Nelson Torres and guest DJs spun
the house in grand fashion when the bands weren’t on, and the hallway
dancers (merengue/ reggaeton/ bachata) were a blast to watch and hang out
with when I needed a break from the main dance floors.
Junior & Emily rocked the house twice with a stunning performance
Saturday and then a slamming hip-hop/reggaeton routine performed with the
Edwin Rivera Project on Sunday.... then there was a kids salsa group of
15-girls and one-boy from Long Island performing Saturday night that may
have been the weekend’s favorite show and largest standing ovation....
San Francisco’s “RicaDiva-Ana” performed (and taught) with Miami Reuedero
Henry Herrera --another stunning routine…. Ashley from the TV show So You
Think You Can Dance performed with Duplessey Walker's group.... there were
also breath-taking routines by Santo Rico, and Sekou McMiller’s and
Shaka’s groups, as well a great new Popeye routine by Al “Liquid Silver”
Espinoza! Workshop standouts included Amaryllis’ spin class, Sekou’s body
motion class, and watching April Genovese six-months pregnant and having a
blast teaching ladies styling. Wow!
The NYC Congress happens every year over Labor Day
weekend on Manhattan at a huge Hilton perfectly situated about six blocks
from Central Park, Times Square/Theatre District and the Hudson River.
This year, for the 2006 New York Salsa Congress, David Melendez hit one
out of the park. The (damned) Yankees would be proud of him.
Dakin Ferris is a
freelance writer, promoter, and dancer
If you’ve read this far, I hope you don’t mind me
putting in a few off-topic plugs:
Commit now to voting November 7th. Set the intention
and it will happen. Before voting, go see An Inconvenient Truth and
decide for yourself if this isn’t the most important issue facing our
And….while we still have a planet to celebrate, think
about the HAWAII SALSA FESTIVAL
February 2-4, 2006 (www.HawaiiSalsaFestival.com)
with World Famous Junior and Emily,
SalsaPuente.com (providing salsa dance and travel services for
The Hawaii Salsa Festival is the week after the Sydney Congress, and the
week before the Pro Bowl and/or the Hong Kong Congress—you decide...
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