Disneyland for Salsa Dancers

West Coast Salsa Congress in Los Angeles, May 23 - 29

By Laura Bleiberg
Published on LatinoLA: March 6, 2005

Disneyland for Salsa Dancers

Most of my attention is directed at concert dance - professional companies and solo artists who perform in a theater.

I do, however, occasionally head out to clubs, ballrooms and beyond to write about the latest social dance sensation. It was while researching a story on salsa dance that I spent one evening at the West Coast Salsa Congress in Los Angeles.

That was five years ago, Salsa was hot back then; that second annual congress attracted 3,000 attendees from around the world. But, whoa, look what's happening now. The organizers of this year's congress, scheduled for May 23-29, said they could get as many as 10,000 participants on a single day. It has become the largest salsa-dance event in the world, attracting dancers from such far-flung places as Mongolia and Antarctica.

Albert Torres, the event's founder and producer, said the congress has moved out of the upstairs ballrooms at the Hollywood Park Casino into the parking lot. That is where Torres will set up a 173,000-square-foot tent city. Torres will have four giant areas for dancing, including an outside dance floor into which music will be piped. (See Torres' Web site, www.alberttorresevents.com.)

There will be about 15,000 square feet of dancing space, plus areas for vendors selling food, clothing and other wares. For the first time, one floor will feature nonsalsa dancing for a portion of the day.

Five different salsa-dance workshops will go on simultaneously during the day, with classes targeted at beginners, intermediate and advanced dancers.

"It is the Disneyland for salsa dancers," said Cynthia Semon, the publicist for the event.

The first three days are devoted to workshops for aspiring and experienced musicians. Participants, who must register in advance, will have the opportunity to work with leading salsa musicians.

There's a welcome party May 25, but the dancing begins in earnest on May 26, with a salsa beach party in Santa Monica. Two 90-minute dance shows will take place each night in the dance-performance theater, which will seat 2,600. Dance workshops are scheduled for daylight hours May 27-29. Open dancing lasts until 4 a.m. The scheduled bands include recent Grammy Award winner Spanish Harlem as well as Johnny Polanco Y Su Conjunto Amistad, Jimmy Bosch & His Orchestra and others.

About 130 different dance teams will perform and compete over the long weekend. Competition winners will qualify for the annual World Salsa Championships in Las Vegas later in the year, Torres said. He has been in discussions with cable sports channel ESPN to broadcast the competition, which would bring even more publicity to this fast, sexy dance form.

The congress has a new sponsor, Tyson Foods Inc., and its chef, Pep?n, author of "En la Cocina con Pep?n," will be speaking about healthy eating. The complete schedule of workshops and events should be posted about May 1. The registration fee is $340 (before March 15) to attend all workshops and performances. Prices vary for single days or evening entrance only.

Again, check the Web site or call Torres' company at (310) 445-9705.

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