Australian Salsa Open 2011
This weekend there was a brilliant event that’s particularly close to my heart since we won it last year and they sent Jasmin and me to Puerto Rico to represent Australia at the World Championships. I am of course talking about the Australian Salsa Open.
The competition this year was fierce, with the best teams, professional and amateur dancers coming from all over Australia and New Zealand to duke it out for the title, and no one was going down without a fight! The interesting thing about this competition is that 40% of your score is based on your freestyle. In my opinion this is a great development, since what has sometimes happened in the past was a couple who were great at learning and executing a routine, but not necessarily great lead and follow freestyle dancers, would take the title and, if they went to Puerto Rico, would be completely unprepared for a comp in which the final is a 100% freestyle to a random song.
The Amateur division was unusually tense for me, as I had 5 great friends competing in it , with and against each other, and I had been coaching one of the couples for the comp and sharing training times, so I was rather emotionally invested. In the end, all of them surpassed my expectations, and all for different reasons.
- 3rd place – Steve and Erica: After a nasty fumble that could have dropped their confidence in their routine, they came out for the freestyle on fire! They were energetic, musical, and hit everything hard. Their ability to bounce back humbled me!
- 2nd place – Chris and Marianne: First time competitors and, in my opinion, one of the most original and well thought out routines of the amateur comp. Their level of polish, after only having been working together for a few months, was awe-inspiring. After a slightly shaky start in the freestyle while they tried to find the beat, they continued on to radiate confidence and professionalism. They got a great song and they did it proud, and in the end only missed out on 1st place by less than half a percent!
- 1st place – Andrew and Sidonie: A very well seasoned partnership that has seen them win and place in comps all over Australia and Asia. These 2 were the defending champions from last year and really stepped up their game this year with some smooth musicality, sharp and clean shines, and very fast music.
The Teams division was also tense for me as the Modus Vivendi Project (MVP) is Nestor’s team at LDA that Jasmin and I are team leaders of. Having seen them train for so hard for so long, we were really gunning for them, and there were only 2 teams brave enough to step up this year.
- 2nd place – MVP: I have never been prouder of my co-dancers in MVP than this day. Having danced this routine and watched it hundreds of times, I can say with absolute certainty that they did a flawless run! Their timing and synchronicity were perfect, and they stepped up their energy to a new high for them. They did LDA and MV proud that day!
- 1st place – Soy El Ritmo: A new team made up of most of the best professional dancers in Victoria, this team was sensational. Even though I’m obviously biased towards MVP, I agree that these guys deserved the title. Their song was electric and they hit it with the energy you’d expect from a team of professional dancers in their prime. The standout from this routine, however, was not the execution, but the choreography itself. They moved around, swapped partners, had interesting shapes, and really stepped away from what we traditionally think of as “another salsa routine”. Even though their delivery of the routine was not perfect, with more than one fairly major mistake here and there, the energy and originality of their routine made up for it.
Ah the Professional division… that sweet sweet battleground where Jasmin and I have been toe to toe with the best in the business so many times. What sweet sorrow and ecstatic highs you can bring! This year, only the best in the business were game to step up, and they each came at it with the fire that makes them all such inspirational leaders of the scene we live in. Unfortunately for Jasmin and me, we missed out on placing by 0.8%, but we could not have lost to any better dancers, and we were happy with our lot this time round. We loved the routine we’d put together, and I feel we did it justice, and I can’t ask for more than that 🙂
My favourite thing this year was actually that I’m starting to feel a real sence of camaraderie with my fellow professionals in the scene. Having worked alongside each of them before at events around Australia and South East Asia, it was almost like a reunion, where we were all in the same boat, on an equal footing, doing the best that we could to demonstrate our passions. I feel very grateful to have been a part of it, and I’m looking forward to the next one already.
- 3rd place – Daniel and Jackie: Both of these dancers are seasoned professionals and competitors with experience all over the world, and as soon as i head they’d partnered up, I knew they’d be strong competition.
- 2nd place – Alex and Ebony: This couple, often better known for their classical training and Zouk routines, really showed the world that they can Salsa just as well. Their energy was right up there and their show moves were very clean and impressive. As a personal note, I wasn’t too keen on the costumes, but that’s always subjective and their stage presence more than made up for it.
- 1st place – Giancarlo and Marcia: Predictably, the recent champions from the Swedish Open blew everyone away with their flawless technique and ballroom trained lines and posture. Often ballroom couples can miss an element of the groove and sabor (flavour) of the street latin styles, but I feel these guys have the perfect mix of everything needed to represent us all at the World Salsa Open in Puerto Rico this year. If you’re reading this… good luck guys. You’re an inspiration to us all!
Of course, there’s no substitute for being there in person 🙂