Archive | July, 2013

Blame it on the Boogie

10 Jul

OrlandoSalsaCongressforblog

 

Salsa congress is probably the most fun thing ever. That is, if you like four days of Latin dance workshops, pool parties, performances, and open dancing to live bands and DJs with thousands of other people from every corner of the country. I’m not a total stranger to the salsa congress scene—I’ve attended a few in Atlanta and Greenville, South Carolina, but the 2013 Orlando Salsa Congress took my congress experience to a whole new level.

Salsa congress bears no resemblance to a governing body—it’s not like all the dancers are convening to pass bills about the allowable number of double turns within one song or the parliamentary procedure of asking a girl to dance. There are no Senate hearings regarding improper footwork or new regulations on dance shoe heel height.

No, there’s no filibustering or bipartisanship at a salsa congress. Everyone can agree: We love to dance.

The Latin root congressus means “to come together,” and that’s exactly what a salsa congress is—a coming together of salsa lovers (read: addicts), from barely beginner to lifelong professionals.

Me, jamming with this guy. He had a mean cha-cha

Me, jamming with this guy. He had a mean cha-cha

The experience can be a little bit overwhelming. Which workshops should I attend? Should I go ask somebody to dance? Will everyone think I’m lame for leaving the dance floor at only 5 a.m.?

As a dear friend, teacher, and fellow salsera always says, “It’s a marathon. You have to pace yourself.”

Though it’s tempting to attend all seven hours of workshops, and in the case of Orlando, the afternoon pool party, plus the three or four hours of showcases and subsequent five, six, or seven hours of social dancing, five-hour energy shots and muscle milk will only get you so far.

By my estimate, with pacing myself, I danced 20 hours over the three days that I was there. How could I have done any less surrounded by so many people who have a passion and excitement for the same thing as me—dance.

OrlandoSalsaCongressforblog2

Salsa music is infectious. It’s based mainly off of Cuban popular dance rhythms, but, like it’s name implies, it’s a “sauce” comprised of rhythms from all over the Americas and these days, the world.**

When salsa music plays, it’s hard to sit down, especially in a congress setting where you can dance with some of the most talented and dedicated salseros in the country. It’s like an improv jam session with musicians, except you are the musician, and you have to play off of whatever your partner throws you.

Dancing is like having a conversation with someone. Some people are easier to talk to, and the rhythm of the conversation flows a little easier. Some you have to work  harder to keep the “conversation” afloat, but at the end of the dance, you’ve made a connection with someone and shared a moment.

I was talking to someone once and we were discussing those moments that make you feel most alive. I couldn’t identify a specific moment—every time I get the chance to step out onto a dance floor, I get this electric energy, that kind of adrenaline rush that people jump out of planes or travel to the Grand Canyon for.

I strongly believe that everyone can dance and everyone should dance and the few thousand ladies and gentleman at the 2013 Orlando Salsa Congress certainly proved that a handful of people agree with me.

Oh, and I already bought my ticket to September’s Hotlanta International Salsa and Bachata Congress…

 

OrlandoSalsaCongressband

PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE VERY TALENTED MICHAEL CHEN, AN AMAZING PHOTOGRAPHER AND NEW SALSERO FRIEND

**Stay tuned for a more in-depth look at the history and politics of salsa music, it’s complicated and not really the point of this post.