First Midlands Salsa Fusion Event

The first tangible result of me running my Salsa web site (after about three years) was being sent two complimentary tickets for the first ever Midlands Salsa Fusion event by El Rey Leon. I love the Salsa clubs in Birmingham, so there was no need to make any decisions; I was going.

So that's how, a few weeks later, we were driving down the M6 towards Birmingham in truly attrocious weather. These were possibly the worst conditions since the last time I drove to Birmingham for a Salsa event! We'd already had to change a tyre before we even set out and the heating in our car only blew cold air. The DJ on the radio was warning us that there was torrential rain and gale force winds all across the North West, so people should only undertake essential journeys. What could be more essential than a trip to a new Salsa club?

Fortunately, by the time we reached Stafford, we'd outrun the rain and only had to contend with the winds blowing our car around the road. So, it was with some relief that we finally found Fozzies Night Club where the event was taking place. We parked up and hurried over to the entrance (our Salsa clothing being particularly inappropriate for the freezing conditions).

We'd arrived too late for the lessons (which one of my friends who had arrived earlier said was brilliant) so we looked around to see what was happening. One room was playing some merengue and there were a few people sitting around drinking. We weren't too impressed, but there was another door along the corridor so we went through that and found ourselves in a large room with a massive dance floor. However, it wasn't big enough for the number of salseros there and just about every inch of the room (around the bar, between the tables) was filled with dancing bodies. What's more, the standard of dancing was just brilliant.

Almost as soon as we arrived, a couple of friends from Liverpool came over and said hello and told us about the lesson. Looking around, I saw loads of other people I recognised from Liverpool and Manchester. So, we said hello to a couple of people before heading to the crowded dance floor. In actual fact, we headed for a piece of carpet next to a table that was still vacant. What was amazing was the way that as we did some move that opened up a space, someone else moved into that space, but by the time we needed that space again, they'd moved out of the way once more.

After a couple of dances, it was time for the displays. There were basically two lots of displays: Robert Charlemagne and his students and Homero Gonzalez and his dancers. First up was Robert Charlemagne with a partner whose name I didn't catch. They did one dance and it was incredible to watch. He moved really smoothly, did some really nice looking moves and all of it with a sense of humour. The crowd were really into it which, considering the standard of the crowd, was really an achievement. Whatever else you do, you must see this man dance!

This was followed by Homero Gonzalez and his dancers who put on a performance which was as far-removed from Robert Charlemagne's as possible. Where Robert Charlemagne was just dancing with a partner, both dressed in standard `Salsa black', Homero Gonzalez came on with a load of dancers dressed up in showgirl costumes performing a perfectly choreographed routine. Watching the performance, you could imagine that you were watching a show in a Havana club in the 1940's surrounded by American celebrities.

After this, two of Robert Charlemagne's students, Alison and Leon, took to the stage. They gave another great show of partner dancing. It was good to see that although they were Robert Charlemagne's students, they had their own style (unlike some dance teachers who produce clones of themselves). This made me even more keen to try to take lessons with Robert Charlemagne when I could fit it in.

For the final performance, Homero Gonzalez and his dancers took to the stage again for another dazzling dance spectacle. So, the displays had something for everyone whether you like the understated skill of Robert Charlemagne or the costumed spectacle of Homero Gonzalez.

After the shows, the dancing started again and we danced for ages, taking breaks from time to time to watch the other dancers (we saw a killer Salsa Rueda at one point). Eventually we had to say our goodbyes and head out into the storm again for our journey back to Manchester.

I don't know when the next one of these events is, but I'd strongly recommend it. In the mean time, El Rey Leon is running a weekly club, every Sunday from 6pm at After Dark, 142 Suffolk Street, Queensway, Birmingham (0121 643 6792).