Down the Docks

February 9, 2006

BritSalsaFest part II: It’s All Over

Filed under: Salsa — ealing @ 4:08 pm

In short, teh roXorz (pretty darned good). In depth –
Getting There

I travelled up to Birmingham on Thursday night, and went dancing at Ipanema. The music was better than I had expected, even with the half-hour of solid Gran Combo. Found one excellent dancer, Clare from Carpe Diem, and a couple of good ones, most of who were seen again in Blackpool a couple of days later.

Our departure from Birmingham on Friday was cleverly timed to coincide with rush hour. We didn’t manage the Blackpool one-way system as well as might have been hoped, but we arrived before eight. The Metropole’s parking arrangements were not as generous as I was led to believe on the phone, and our female driver naturally surrendered the job of parking to a man.

Friday Night

Checked in to the Metropole. I didn’t hate my room as much as some other people, but I didn’t plan on spending much time there awake either. I missed the first few shows that night, but caught the end of Marchant and Miriam’s Take Five, which is just as good as ever. The dancing was a lot of fun, I caught up with people from Newcastle and York, and the whole thing was very relaxed.

It was odd being back in the Winter Gardens. I’ve been there once before, for the NUS Conference in 1998. The atmospheres of NUS Conference and a salsa congress are just a little different.

Saturday Classes

On Saturday I tried a Cha Cha Cha class which was probably at too low a level to be interesting, then Tropical Gem‘s spinning class. Well, the timetable said it was a spinning class, so I thought it would focus solely on spinning technique. To me though, it looked like a shine routine followed by an intermediate turn pattern. Nice, but I would have preferred what was advertised. Still, I got to look at Alyra for a while. In the afternoon, I did Juan Matos’ shines and Mushi’s styling. I would have gone for Tropical Gem’s Rumba, but it was packed, I was knackered, and I saw a chance to sit down and chat for a while instead.

Saturday Night

The Empress Ballroom was packed on Saturday and I had a great time. I particularly liked Ian Finch’s gentle wind down set. Again I missed the start of the shows, but I caught Yamulee, who I thought looked a bit scrappy, Swing Guys, and Tropical Gem.

Early Sunday

I hadn’t intended to get up early on Sunday, but I slept even later than I had planned. I just turned up on time for Super Mario‘s threesome turn patterns class, but it was full and people were being turned away. I consoled myself at Mr Bongo’s stall, picking up an old Wayne Gorbea album and the new Bailatino. Later I went to Marchant and Miriam’s advanced turn patterns class. I didn’t think at the time that it was all that advanced, but now I’m puzzled as to how anyone could follow the penultimate move. Next up was Irene Miguel’s music and timing class. I didn’t see anything really amazing in it, but it was fun, and a lot of others said they thought it was great.

Juan Matos’ Masterclass

This was the last class of the weekend. It was a nice turn pattern routine, stressing presentation of turns, and quite demanding. For me it was instructive to go back to being probably the worst in the room. I found myself doing the worst thing that I see people doing in other classes – being quiet even when they haven’t understood what’s being taught. It took me a few minutes to get out of this and properly engage in the class. One thing I like about JM’s teaching is that he keeps his students repeating the material, even after they’ve got it right a few times.

The first part of the routine was actually about the worst for me. It was a cross body with a clockwise turn for the guy, then one for the lady, then straight into a rotation. I think I had the turn timing wrong, and this was putting my partner in the wrong place for the rotation, which was therefore a bit of a mess. Reviewing the video, it looks as though I was waiting too long to start leading my partner’s turn. In the end, although I could manage almost all the elements of the routine, I was too tired to remember them all in order, which was a pity.

Sunday Night

After watching Pizza Hut treat a potential customer rather shabbily, I didn’t have time to sleep before changing and going out again to watch the shows. Yamulee were much better on this night, and Sacuye‘s show was interesting too. Lee and Shelley continued their pattern of getting better with each show.

As for the dancing, the fatigue was beginning to show by this point. I did get to dance with Edie and Erelle. I rather liked Edie’s lead stealing – it probably helps that I can follow a bit – but she didn’t think much of my use of checks to stop cross body leads! Erelle is just fantastic to dance with.

Later on, I couldn’t produce any interesting new turn patterns, and my already tedious shine routines were hit by a lack of energy. It was probably a good job that the thing was drawing to a close. I sat down at one point to play with sweavo’s cowbell, and my inept playing magically drew Gary Thomas into conversation. It turns out that he’s recently taken up the congas for the same reason that I’m planning too in a few months: to get a greater feeling for rhythm, and hopefully to bring that feeling into our dancing.

It was rather cruel of Chris to drop Merecumbe as the last track, but I got out on the floor one last time, and finished the weekend dancing.

Random Bits

I loved the idea of putting up the names of the tracks which were on. It’s a pity that some DJs didn’t use this facility.

My following skills were put to good use over the weekend, as I followed several people from up North. Gareth thought my hand grips needed work, which is something I have heard from others. I also struggled with his broken lefts and checks; as a general rule, if I don’t lead a technique often, I can’t follow it. Tony thought I was much improved as a follower, but pointed out that I led him as though he was a truck. I know that I have a habit of being rather forceful when leading him, it’s probably a reaction to the facts that he’s bigger than me, and he does take a lot of work to spin. Annoyingly, he was right, and he followed much better when I eased off. Will, who must be about 6’4″, was a lot of fun to follow, as he’s got some nice partner work.

The speaker trouble on some nights was unfortunate, and the DJ box effect (that makes people cluster around the spot on the floor nearest to the DJ box) meant that the floow was crowded in one half and empty in the other.


A definite winner. I’ll be back next year, and everyone else I spoke to will be as well. The venue in particular is great.


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