Regarded as one of the largest salsa dance events in Asia, the 6th International Salsa Congress kicks off today over a three-day weekend in Bangalore.
Sizzling. Exuberant. Sensous. Intricate. Inspiring. And breathtaking. That, in a nutshell, is salsa – the music and the dance. From Bollywood movies like Kal Ho Na Ho to TV dance shows like Nach Baliye, salsa has made its appearance in India as well (following mambo-influenced cabaret sizzlers in 1970s Bollywood).
The festival has a simple but catchy slogan this year: “Got Body. Will Move.” The Salsa Congress started off with about 500 participants six years ago — and now expects 6,000 attendees for the 45 workshops, 15 parties and 3 competitions from over a dozen countries around the world.
Though there are no live salsa bands, there will be recorded music and Latin DJs. All selected champions will get an opportunity to represent India at the World Salsa Championship 2012 in Hong Kong. Workshops, performances and competitions will be held for a number of dance styles: salsa, mambo, zouk, bachata, tango, flamenco, bollywood, and belly dancing.
The event is sponsored by United Breweries (Kingfisher Beer), whose sponsorship portfolio also includes Force India Formula 1 Team, India Premier League cricket, Kingfisher Rocktoberfest, Kingfisher Voice of Goa, Kingfisher Kerala Rocks, and Sunburn Festival.
Festival founder and artistic director Lourd Vijay from Bangalore is an innovative choreographer, instructor and ambassador of salsa dance in Asia. His dance studio is also behind the Chennai Salsa Festival and Goa Salsa Festival.
Other participating schools in the festival series include BNF (Colombia), Melbourne Aerial Dance Company, Latinissimo Dance Company (New Zealand), Dance Studio Casino (Japan), Salsalianza (Paris) and De Abrew School of Dancing (Sri Lanka).
Judging criteria for the dance competitions are divided into technical (execution, synchronisation, complexity), artistic impression (choreography, music interpretation, melody, presentation) and audience reaction.
The workshops this year are conducted by dance practitioners from Cuba, Japan, USA, Colombia, Italy, Australia, Singapore, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Abu Dhabi.
Workshop leaders this year include Dave Paris (producer of the videos “Salsa Lift and Aerials” and “Salsa For Gringos”), Zoe Klein (from Obie Award-winning women’s circus company LAVA), Marvin Ramos (who has danced for singers such as Joe Arroyo, Grupo Niche, Gilberto Santa Rosa, La India, and Oscar de Leon), Güpson Pierre (artistic director of Attitude Dance Studio, Singapore), Mercy St Just (Australian Burlesque), Alex Diaz (“made in America with Cuban parts”), Pooja and Reema (India’s “mambo sisters”), Sameer and Shenny (who helped bring the salsa band “La 33” to India), Danza De La Liga (dance troupe from Pune), Santosh and Suman (who have attended the Berlin Salsa Congress and Turkish International Salsa Congress) and JJ Shaban (choreographer and producer of the Annual Abu Dhabi Salsa Festival).
There seems to be a rather strong “organic” connection between salsa and India, festival director Lourd Vijay says. “India was and is the meting pot of all cultures, music and dance genres. You can even say that salsa was actually born in India,” Vijay explains. Flamenco plays a very strong part in the evolution of salsa, and flamenco itself can directly trace its roots to kathak, which reached Spain through the migration of gypsies from India!
The dance instructors in the past have included heavyweights such as award-winner Albert Torres, who is one of the moving forces behind the salsa congress. Torres also played a pioneering role in promoting Cuban salsa bands in the US, regarded as highly controversial in a country that has economically blockaded Cuba for decades; the blockade has been roundly criticised in international forums around the world. Torres believes in “creating unity through salsa.” He has received Grammy and Latin Grammy nominations, and also starred in Hollywood movies such as Mambo Kings, Out to Sea, and Dance with Me.
For an Indian touch to salsa, check out the albums Muchacha Latina (by Remo Fernandes) and the soundtrack of the Bollywood movie Mumbai Salsa!
Viva la Salsa!
Author: Madanmohan Rao
Madanmohan Rao is an author and media consultant from Bangalore, and global correspondent for world music and jazz for World Music Central and Jazzuality. He has written over 15 books on media, management and culture, and is research director for YourStory Media. Madan was formerly World Music Editor at Rave magazine and RJ at WorldSpace, and can be followed on Twitter at @MadanRao.