Dancing With Eric From Norway
Borders dissolve, generations merge at Salsa Congress
The DJs instructed us: "Girls on the right, guys on the left". We were to leave enough space in between the two groups for the couples forming at one end of this human 'hallway' to dance through to the other side, to the sounds of 'Sonido Bestial', an awesome song by Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz.
Published on LatinoLA: May 30, 2002
That was the final touch, Sunday at 4 a.m., to the best West Coast Salsa Congress yet.
Every year, I look forward anxiously for the Salsa Congress to begin. It is my chance to visit with friends who I only get to see once a year. It is more than only four consecutive nights of dancing; it?s a major social event. My friends and I organize lunches, dinners, beach outings, etc, to socialize with our visitors during the day, and then be together each evening for hours full of dancing. Congress is also a time to make new friends, some locals that we will certainly see around the L.A. Salsa clubs in the near future, and others from far off lands, whom we will be happy to see again next year.
In a world that is so divided by borders, religions and skin colors, it is surely encouraging to be part of an event where none of those factors matter. This past weekend, blacks, whites and yellow mingled together dancing with one another, amazed to see that no matter where each of us was from, we could accommodate to the other's rhythm and dancing style, and enjoy at least five minutes of fun together.
To give you an example, a gentleman with an obvious accent asked me to dance with him Saturday night. I saw his pleased look when he realized that I was able to follow his lead. We danced a song and exchanged names and places of origin to satisfy my curiosity... I had just danced with Eric from Norway! And just the same I danced with partners that came from Mexico, the East Coast, San Francisco, San Diego, Las Vegas, etc.
The theme of this year?s Congress was "Creating unity through Salsa", and that it surely did!
Many teams came to perform from as far away as Argentina, Spain, and Japan. They were all very fun to watch but some were particularly outstanding. The team from Singapore for example, attending Congress for their first time, presented a fantastic show that highlighted the Congress' theme of unity through Salsa, and it was rewarded by the spectators with a standing ovation. Another favorite of mine was the great performance from the couple who came from Barcelona, Spain. It is amazing to see how many different places of the world our Latin music has reached and how many different cultures have warmed up to it.
Congress also created unity between generations. The event was open to people of all ages, and allowed young and old to be active participants. I realized how very special that was when I saw a 60+ year old couple dancing to the music of 'Manolito y la Revolucion Juvenil', a Puerto Rican band composed by teenagers, with Manolito, the band leader, being only 15 years old. There were also dance performances by groups of children as young as 8 years old. Undoubtedly, they are the musicians and dance stars of the future.
The artists who performed came from a variety of places, Sonora Carruseles from Colombia, Jose Alberto El Canario from Puerto Rico, and Oscar de Leon from Venezuela, as well as our best local talent, Johnny Polanco, and many others. I must pick Oscar de Leon as my favorite. He had incredible energy, and gave us an explosive two-hour show, with only a minute or two between each song. Our feet could hardly keep up with him!
After four days of fun, I came out of Congress with new dance sneakers, a little conga pendant, stronger old friendships, a bunch of new ones, and most definitely a happy heart. I was certainly not alone, and seeing so many happy people gave me hope. As long as we humans can play, and laugh, and dance, the world has the potential to be a joyful place.
I feel proud that our Latin music is doing its part in keeping the spirits high. Like Gilberto Santa Rosa's song says: "Represento a una raza de colores diferentes, que se funden hasta hacerse transparentes?". Our Salsa music created unity in Los Angeles this past weekend, and I am thankful I was there to see it!
Dena Burroughs is a LatinoLA correspondent.