The First Salsaweb Convention

Before going to the Salsaweb convention, I had good intentions for this article. I was going to keep a diary of what I did every day, so I could write an accurate account. However, at any time, I was either too busy or too tired. So what you'll get here is my disorganised recollections of a hectic four days of salsa; a blur of bands, workshops and ubelievable dancing.

The British Contingent
Before going any further, I should mention the British contingent. Apart from myself, everyone else was from London. I shared a room with Ian Brown (the London Salsaweb correspondent and the organiser of Salsa nights at O'Neils in East London) and Gary Young (star of Channel 5's Salsa programmes and a London Salsa teacher). Special Tee and Diane were there to take a workshop, Louie St Clair was there to DJ, and Robert and Jean (London's advocates of NY-style mambo) were, like me, just there for the experience.

The organisation of the convention was definitely geared towards salseros. The days didn't start until noon, when there were workshops, after which there was a gap (so you could get something to eat and get changed) and then the evening's festivities started. A few people commented to me that everything always seemed to start late, but I kind of expect that with salsa events. The other issue which was discussed a few times was the number of workshops. Some people were saying that there were too many workshops (six one-hour workshops each day) and there should have been fewer, longer workshops. Personally, I feel that the workshops were about right. With the diversity of salsa, these workshops gave a taste of everything (for example, I got to find out about NY-style mambo). If there had been longer, more detailed workshops, fewer things could have been covered. Perhaps the next Salsaweb convention will be able to have parallel workshops, meaning the best of both worlds.

If I had to make criticisms of the event, I would say that the nights ended too early (everyone wanted to go on dancing) and there wasn't a lot of time between the workshops ending and the start of the evening events. I mean, some evenings there were half a dozen salseros in our room trying to get ready; have you any idea how long that can take?

A salsera
My abiding memory of the event is the incredible standard of the dancing there. I spent large chunks of each evening just standing watching other people dance. Even that wasn't easy, since at any time, I wanted to watch about five groups of dancers. The dancers who stick in my mind were mainly from LA (I think), most memorably Ismael and his family and friends. When they were just messing around, they were even more amazing than when they did their staged show. The Salsa Brava team and Los Rumberos were also great to watch, particularly when they were playing around switching partners, dancing two women with a man or two men together. The Salsalovers team from Miami were also fun, particularly when they were doing rueda, but also when they were just dancing in couples. There were individuals I enjoyed watching too, like Albert Torres and Edie (the Salsafreak herself).

Of course, there was plenty of opportunity to dance myself and it was great fun dancing with all these people from different places, with all the different regional styles. All in all, there was a really great atmosphere and a total lack of attitude. As the convention progressed, there were more and more impromptu sessions and workshops popping up in the bar and in corridors (I don't know what the people from all the other conventions in the hotel made of it).

As I said earlier, there were plenty of workshops to choose from and even if you didn't want to join in, you could still sit and watch. I did one with Los Rumberos (where I learned a nifty shine routine), Eddie Torres taught three NY-style shines (basic, intermediate and advanced), Luis and Joby from Salsa Brava taught some shines and a nice sequence for couples and I did the Salsalover's rueda workshop. In fact, the rueda workshop was so popular that they did a second workshop `by popular demand' the next day. Although I'd done some rueda before, it was interesting to see how it was danced in Miami. There were plenty of other workshops which I didn't take, but those I saw were really good, like the women's styling workshops, some NY mambo workshops and a great workshop on how to teach salsa (well, how to teach in general, really).

Mambo Dancer
I should also give a mention to the DJ's here (the unsung heroes of the convention). The music all weekend was great; just what people wanted. It was mainly uptempo stuff. No salsa romantica and no strange tracks which the DJ likes but nobody can dance to. A lesson to all DJ's in giving the crowd what it wants.

The next Salsaweb convention will be in New York; will I be going? Just try to stop me! I'd recommend to anyone from the UK that they should go, if nothing else, just to see the standard of dancing. It makes you realise how far we've got to go! If I wanted to suggest some improvements, how about things going on later (or maybe not cramming so much into each evening)? It would also be good to have space somewhere for impromptu sessions, maybe with a portable CD player. Perhaps some music workshops could also be arranged, although I don't know if there's much demand for that.

I'd just like to finish by thanking Edie, Ricardo and the rest of the team for their effort and for making me so welcome. The convention was not only great fun, but it's made me stop and think about my dancing. What more could I want?