Let’s talk about what makes the 2008 NY Salsa Congress different from previous years. The director of the congress, John “Choco” Knight, has truly developed the 2008 NY Salsa Congress into a well-marketed all-week event. The schedule is so full of back-to-back attractions – workshops, afternoon socials, afternoon shows, and night shows, night socials – that it is difficult to find free time to rest, eat or sleep during the congress. Before the congress even started, there was plenty of dancing at pre-parties during the week all over New York City.
It has hard to estimate the number of people that participated in each evening social. I do not think that anyone kept track. Suffice it to say that it was crowded! I could have danced every song if I wanted to. Let’s assume that I danced about 100 songs during the whole congress (6 songs per hour x 4 hours x 4 nights = 96 songs). Out of those dance partners, I can only remember one girl saying that she didn’t want to dance. Those are good odds! The point is that everyone wanted to dance, and there was a lot of everyone.
Our favorite professional dancers/instructors were easy to spot also. They were usually found in the middle of a circle of observers.
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Saturday and Sunday night performances were amazingly spectacular, so many to list. Two acts that stood out from the rest were Jayson Molina’s kids group and Maykel Fonts solo performance.
Every year, Jayson Molina showcases a mega routine composed of very young Salsa dancers. The most charismatic kid (the one with spiky hair) in that performance looked no older than 6 years old!
The Cha Cha performance of Cuban-born dancer Maykel Fonts was introduced by the man himself, Eddie Torres, and it was worthy of long and unanimous standing ovation. Maykel Fonts is the type of performer that gives his whole heart and soul on stage for those couple of minutes. His raw and energetic body isolations painted a not-so-distant connection of our present-day style of salsa dancing with the afro-influenced Cuban dancing tradition.
Even though instructors from around the globe contribute their own flavor, it amazes me how Salsa dancing has matured into a well-defined and standardized dance genre. Again, Maykel Fonts gave a workshop on cuban guanguanco body movement. The workshop was a very uninhibited lesson of body isolations.
Eddie Torres taught a number of shines and partner work workshops during the congress and he demonstrated why he is the King of teaching. No need to say anything else.
The music at every night social was top notch. New York City has an abundance of top notch Salsa DJ’s and their selection of music always connects with the mood of the moment.
However, live Salsa bands during the night socials left much to be desired. On Friday night for example, the “battle of the bands” between “La Excelecia” y “Ocho y Mas” was a disaster for the dancers. Their songs were long, loud, and so percussive that they overpowered any desire to groove to the music. Frankly, I went to the hotel bar downstairs during the bands performances. Salsa orchestras need to understand that when playing for dedicated Salsa dancers, they must to do exactly that, play for dancers and not play for themselves.
In short, the New York Salsa Congress has turned into a truly international event. No matter the experience level, beginner or advanced, or the Salsa style, this event will inspire your dancing while filling your soul with raw Salsa emotion.