Brean Sands Salsa Weekender 1999
This was to be my second Pontins Salsa weekend and a bit more of a trek from
Liverpool than the fifteen minutes it took me to get to Southport last time.
We ended up setting off after work, with three of us in the car. It took some
work to fit everything in the car, what with everyone's food for the weekend
and the numerous changes of clothes and shoes we'd all need. Perhaps next time
I'll eat at the on-site places and save some luggage space.
The other two in my car were sharing a chalet with three others who had set off
in the morning. That meant they had already been booked in and didn't need to
queue. I, however, had to queue for about 45 minutes before I got the key to
my apartment. Then I could go in to rest, before the evening's festivities
started. The thing I noticed immediately was that there wasn't the same
atmosphere as at the last event. This was due to the time of year and there
is nothing the organisers can do about it. At the Southport weekend, in June,
there were beach barbecues, impromptu games of cricket and rounders and people
were generally around a lot more, sitting outside their apartments, windows
open with music coming out. This time, everyone closed all their windows and
doors, turned the heating up full and you only saw them as they ran from their
rooms to the dance halls.
There were two halls in use for the whole of the weekend. Celebrations
was the larger and that was for Salsa all the time, whereas Shades was
meant to be more mixed. I headed straight for Celebrations. Each evening,
there was a disco, a live band playing two sets, a dance display and some sort
of competition. On Friday night, the band was Sexteto Cafe, the competition
was the Mario and Maria and the `show' was a fashion show by Xenon. On
Saturday, the band was Orquesta Cache, the competition was the Mixed
Doubles and the show was provided by Homero Gonzalez's Fantasia Cubana
(a Cuban-style cabaret show). Saturday also saw the Carnival 2000
Procession, led by the Bath School of Samba. Sunday had Salsasonica
providing the live music, Angel Ortiz giving a show of NY style salsa and the
Intermediate and Advanced Salsa competitions.
The competitions were all interesting (even for me, who isn't really interested
in competitions), providing entertainment, comedy and drama. The Mario and
Maria competition is the one which is, perhaps, closest to typical Salsa
dancing. You enter the competition as an individual and the men and women are
randomly paired off. You dance to the DJ's choice of track and the best couple
is selected by the judges (basically, the teachers who are at the festival).
It looks like a lot of fun, but you are subject to the luck of the draw.
Saturday's competition was the Mixed Doubles, which perhaps provided
the funniest moments. The rule for this competition was that any couple could
enter, as long as it didn't consist of a man leading a woman. Out of the
couples who entered the competition, three were selected for a `top three
dance off'. One couple consisted of Leon Rose being led by Mario from London,
another was two women dancing together (the leader was from Switzerland, I
think) and the third couple was another two blokes, both of whom are excellent
dancers from London. This last couple went on to win the competition, camping
it up to an incredible degree.
Sunday brought the standard Salsa competitions for Intermediates and Advanced.
Intermediate was for those who had been dancing for less than a year. It
seemed to me that this was quite an unfair ruling, since it meant that the
Advanced competition covered everyone from those who had only been dancing a
year to professional dancers. Perhaps more categories are needed. Anyway,
the heats were held in Shades at 9:30 (well, 9:30 Salsa time, which
worked out at 11:00 in real time). From these, six couples were to be
selected for the finals as midnight in Celebrations, in both the
Intermediate and Advanced categories. As it happened, there were only seven
couples entered in the Intermediate category and eight in Advanced. That made
it seem a bit harsh for those who didn't get through to the final.
The final brought drama to the competition. An excellent dancer from
Birmingham, Lydia, had entered the Intermediate competition and got through
to the final she had to be the favourite to win (she could even have held her
own in the Advanced competition), but when the final came around, her partner
was nowhere to be found. Lydia was really worried that she wouldn't be able
to compete and it would have been totally unfair if that had happened. It
was decided that she could be partnered by someone from the Advanced
competition. It all turned out okay in the end, because she won. A special
mention to Billy and Sharon who came second; keeping Liverpool alive on the
Salsa scene. The Advanced competition was won by a couple who had come all the
way from Holland. They amazed the crowd and judges by putting a flip in their
routine (perhaps we'll see more LA-style acrobatics in future competitions).
The workshops looked great (although I didn't manage to actually get to any).
Kerry Ribchester was teaching Cuban style (Casino style) Salsa, with plenty
of dile que no and other street stuff. Homero Gonzalez also gave Cuban
style lessons, but in the cabaret show style, with lots of dips. Angel Ortiz
demonstrated some Eddie Torres New York style Salsa, with loads of shines.
Robert Charlemagne gave lessons in his own, sexy style Salsa. Robert gets
better every time I see him, pushing the class on to things they didn't think
they'd be able to do.
To finish, I'll just say that I enjoyed the weekend. I danced until 5am
every night (until I could no longer make my legs do what I wanted them to).
I danced with a whole load of people I knew from Manchester, Birmingham and
London and I danced with people I'd never met before. I'm looking forward
to further innovations, like the choreography competition at the Southport
event and I've already booked my place for the next Pontins Salsa Festival.