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Arts & Entertainment

Sensual Congress

Salsa dancers congregate in Salt Lake City, and that’s no sin.

By Jacob Stringer
Posted // June 11,2007 -

To many, there’s nothing saintly about salsa. In fact, ask around the church pews in a small-town neighborhood and you’ll find that opinions of the sizzling dance style and toward those who dare practice it often piggyback attitudes generally reserved for sins and sinners alike.

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Not that salsa is actually a sin. It’s just that the ingredients that make up award-winning salsa happen to be very similar to the stepping-stones to sin. For example, salsa is built upon fiery passion that feeds feverish gyrations, driven mad by intoxicating conga beats. It’s all enough to get the saintly sweating. And our city will play host to one hell of a party that should provide a perfect platform to do just that.

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Enter the first annual Salt Lake City Salsa Congress. And what precise miscellany does a “congress” entail? According to organizer and producer Jago Ayllon, “A congress is pretty much the top representation of a city in regards to the salsa scene.?

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We’re talking about dozens of workshops delivered by some of the top names in dance instruction. Music will be generated by one of the giant names in salsa orchestration, Colombia’s Sonora Carruseles. On the hardwood will be more than 40 performances showcasing some of the world’s liveliest salsa practitioners. Leading salsa DJs will spin an assortment of your favorites late into the deep dark night. And there will be the showdown of all showdowns to crown the best salsa competitor in town. In short, all things salsa does a salsa Congress make'and the fact that Salt Lake City can now play host to its very first is the ultimate testament to a skyrocketing local salsa scene.

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“Not a lot of cities can hold a congress because they’re just not developed enough,” explains Ayllon. “When I started attending congresses outside of Utah, I thought, my gosh, Salt Lake is so far away from this, and that was just a few years ago. Now, we clearly have a large enough scene to support a congress, so other cities can send their ambassadors to Salt Lake to see all the great things happening here.?

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In many ways, Ayllon is a perfect example of how the salsa bug first bites the innocent. After attending his initiating event at a club just five years ago, he quickly shimmied full-bore into the world of salsa, eagerly dancing his way through many big-time city congresses. Eventually, he and his team fell just one point short of competing in last year’s world championships. Now, with the wholehearted support of the burgeoning local scene, Ayllon is bent on presenting a breathlessly good time right here in Salt Lake City, intent on proving to the world that saintly Utah’s got all the right sinful moves.

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And because the upcoming congress is doubling as a qualifier for the 2007 World Salsa Championships to be held in Las Vegas, the event is drawing names and numbers from literally all over the map. Sure, there will be quite a few local salsa favorites both entertaining the crowds and competing, such as Orisha Dancers, Callejeros, Obatala Dancers and Rumbavana. But a real treat will come when salsa sensations such as Venezuela’s Fusion Salsera, Italy’s Salsamba, Columbia’s Cali Rumba Allstars and Los Angeles’ LatinoXplosion take the floor to strut their stuff. Not to mention the pure challenge and sheer competition such practiced teams will offer up to local dancers.

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As Ayllon sees it, the rare chance for many of the local teams to dance and compete with such luminaries is an occasion to celebrate. “You just can’t imagine how big the scene is outside of Utah,” says Ayllon. “So much is happening that it will be fun to bring some of that here for the local dancers to experience, hopefully adding depth and expertise.?

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The origins of salsa itself provide a perfect example for what aficionados such as Ayllon like best about the scene. Not easily defined, salsa is a refined conglomeration of many Latin and Afro-Caribbean dances. Similar to mambo in that both emphasize patterns of six steps danced over eight counts of music, sharing many similar moves and flares, salsa noticeably differs in its affectation for turning and moving from side to side.

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But best of all, not one culture, country or scene can actually claim to be its originator. Salsa has advanced and evolved as it has moved throughout the Hispanic world, picking up idiosyncrasies with every dip and turn. And although various styles of salsa definitely differ from one another, no one type is better or purer than any other. Salsa is truly a dance of the community'of the people, for the people and by the people.

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In accordance, Salt Lake City’s very first Salsa Congress should generate enough energy to heat up Utah’s wintry landscape, repelling the biting chill and melting the blankets of snow. Not too bad for something so seemingly sinful.

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SALT LAKE SALSA CONGRESS
nRadisson Hotel
n215 S. West Temple
nJan. 12-14
nSaltLakeSalsaCongress.com

 
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