Friday, June 20, 2008

Rueda in the Park in the Paper

Those of you who have read my older posts know that I already did a little bit of coverage on the casino rueda salsa group called Rueda in the Park. I did a slide show of the Santa Clarita/Newhall chapter, which meets the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the months and teaches the fun Cuban style of salsa, rueda.

Well, I took it step further. Here is an ARTICLE I wrote profiling the Newhall chapter and telling the story of how it sprouted out of the original Griffith Park group. It came out in The Signal, the Santa Clarita newspaper I where I am interning/freelancing.

Stay tuned. More insight into the world of casino rueda is coming very soon...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

2008 L.A. Salsa Congress

This weekend marked the 10th annual Los Angeles Salsa Congress. For those of you who don't know what that means, let me translate--4 days of nonstop salsa.

The event is held at the Radisson Hotel near LAX and consists of classes by professionals during the day, salsa music and dancing by the pool in the afternoon, performances at night and live music and dancing until 4 in the morning.

It's an entire weekend of being surrounded by people with the same crazed salsa obsession. You're sure to find people randomly dancing in the lobby, the parking lot, maybe even the bathroom.

Besides the great shared salsa vibe, a large part of the appeal is that you get to dance with people form all over the world. According to the L.A. Congress coordinator and a well-known L.A. salsa promoter, Albert Torres, teams from 47 different countries participated in this year's Congress.

I went to Congress Friday night and heard Cheo Feliciano and the New Swing Sextet perform live. I danced with people from Montreal, Mexico City and probably a lot of other countries I would have known about had I asked each person I encountered.

It's a great way to step out of your usual salsa circle, but you have to make sure you do just that. Since the event is held in L.A., it's still easy to get trapped in your usual routine, dancing with people you recognize from Steven's Steakhouse, the Granada, the Mayan or wherever you dance. If you dance a lot in L.A., you'll probably see a lot of familiar faces.

But for those of you going tonight and next year, here's my advice--take advantage of the diversity and dance with someone you don't know. Salsa with someone from Japan or Argentina or Puerto Rico. I'm sure it's not something you get to do every time you throw on your dance shoes.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Salsa Invasion of the So Cal College Campus

Well, the time has come... I finally finished my final project on college salsa clubs for my online journalism class. There's a lot of info on campus salsa, along with photos, videos and even a map with a bunch of campuses that have clubs.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A look at campus salsa

Most of what I know about salsa, I learned in college--at UC Riverside. I remember how, as a freshman, I was captivated by a group of 8 or 9 people dancing for a crowd of new students. The dancers were trading off partners, smiling and shaking their hips to a lively Latin beat.

In that moment, I was sold. I joined the Salsa Club of UCR, where I learned to social dance, perform and compete. I became plugged into a community of salsa-lovers, students and non-students alike.

But my little Riverside salsa enclave was not the only one. We were one of many college groups building their own salsa community and even extending beyond the campus scene.

Right now, they are college groups all over Southern California, in L.A., Riverside, Irvine, Long Beach, Pasadena, and so on. While some started earlier, such as in the mid-90s, many began just within the past 5 to 8 years.

For my final class project for this blog and for my online journalism class, I would like to do closer look into the emergence of So Cal salsa college groups. I want to look at what got these groups rolling and how they're helping build the L.A. and So Cal salsa scene.

My plan is to interview as many salsa college groups as possible, as well as some professional instructors and and club-owners who have worked with them. I will most-likely include some video clips and/or slide shows of some of the groups. I would also like to implement a google map showing locations of campuses that have salsa clubs.

So, that is what's coming. Keep an eye open for it. It should be up in three weeks!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Wikipedia's Fania Records Entry

In an attempt to experiment with the Wikipedia editing world, I have added a tidbit of information to an entry on Fania Records.

For those of you who don't know, Fania is sort of the Motown of salsa music. Over past four decades, it has recorded some of salsa's most legendary artists, such as Celia Cruz, Hector Lavoe, Willie Colon, Ray Barretto, etc.

What I did was add a sentence in the second paragraph about what got the label going. I wrote the following: "The label started out a small venture, but it gained popularity after the success of its first official record, Pacheco's 'CaƱonazo,' which led to the expansion of its talent base."

("Pacheco" is a reference to salsa artist and Fania co-founder Johnny Pacheco mentioned in the previous paragraph.)

I got the information from the Fania's official website in the "About" section. I made sure to footnote the line I added and include a link to the source in the Reference section.

I wrote that it started out as a "small venture" because the website talks about how Fania used to sell merchandise out of the trunks of cars in New York City in its early years. I would have added that into my edit because it's interesting since Fania has so much clout now, but it would have taken away from the overall flow of the entry. It would have taken too long to get to the most important information in the next paragraph, which is about the emergence of the big salsa stars.

I also broke up the first paragraph so it wouldn't be so long.

This is what it looked like after I made my edits. And this is what it looked like before.

Monday, March 10, 2008

West Coast + East Coast = Salsa Rivalry?

What's better, salsa or mambo? West Coast salsa or East Coast salsa? Salsa On 1 or Salsa On 2?

These questions use different terminology, but they all boil down to the same thing--a toss-up between the two major forms of salsa in the U.S.

It can get confusing since the two forms have so many different names. Here's the breakdown... Salsa On 1 is known as West Coast style salsa and is the main one danced in L.A.

On the other end of the spectrum, there's salsa On 2, or "mambo," which is the main one danced on the East Coast, particularly New York.

What's the Difference?

Mostly it has to do with where they break forward and backward in the music. On 1 dancers break on 1 and 5, while On 2 dancers break on 2 and 6. Here's how they look different...

On 1:

On 2:

Also, if you observe some On 1 and On 2 dancers, you'll see that the movement is different. From my observations, mambo dancers almost seem a little more subtle. They tend to glide and move more with the undertones of the rhythm.

Salsa On 1 seems to be more aggressive in its movements and more outright, which sort of goes along with the whole idea of L.A.-style salsa, which is all about the showy tricks and dips. (Check out my first blog entry for more info on L.A.-salsa style.)

The Roots of Division:

According to Enio Cordoba, owner of The Granada and Let’s Dance L.A. in Alhambra and a former international dance competitor, music has had a major influence on the differences of the styles.

While Cordoba said salsa came from Afro-Cuban roots mixed with European influence, it has evolved, leading to different styles after the incorporation of new elements over the years.

“The music that plays in New York is much more Latin jazz,” Cordoba said. “The music that plays in L.A. is a mix of the Cuban and the Columbian and the Puerto Rican because we get a little of everything. In the music that plays here won’t play in New York, and vice versa.”

That, Cordoba said, has led to the different styles. He said some other differences are that mambo dancers dance to a song's rhythm, while On 1 salsa dancers dance more to the tempo, or the audibly obvious beat of the music. He called this dancing to the "pulse" or "swing" of the music.

While some claim their salsa has the most sabor, Cordoba said it's all subjective. He said the best dancers are those who learn various styles, and those who learn to follow the music instead of salsa politics.

"If you’re a good dancer, you just go with the flow,” Cordoba said. “Everyone’s always trying to say, ‘My style’s better.’ People learn one way and they’re told that’s the right way to do it, and it is—in that part of town to that kind of music, dancing with that crowd… There isn’t one way.”

However, that still doesn’t stop some people from claiming salsa superiority. And that brings me to the question of: How much of that really resides in the L.A. salsa sphere? And what is that makes people choose one over the other? This led me to do some investigating out in the dance field…

What the Dancers Said...

First, I asked On 1 dancers why they like it better. Dancer Gio Galarza responded and dance instructor Rodrigo Guzman :

Okay, so they like the fast-paced, flashy feel of On 1. How about the On 2 dancers? A performer on the dance team Mambo Inc. Max Noxon, and a mambo instructor Katrina Jaffe responded:

But what about those On 2 dancers? It must be tough being in the minority.

And now for the final questions... How much of a rivalry is there between the dancers in L.A.? How brutal is it really? According to these dancers, there's some friction, but not enough to take the fun out of salsa dancing.

Even between the coasts, these dancers added that there's still respect between two groups. Katrina Jaffe said people on the West Coast can appreciate a good mambo dancer when they see one and vice versa.

Well, that's a relief! It looks like there's room after all for diversity on the L.A. salsa scene.

Mambo Inc. dancers Max Noxon and Rina Takahashi, dancing On 2:

Sunday, February 24, 2008

My Salsaless blog entry...

I tried to looking up the top ten political campaign contributors among dancers and dance instructors in Los Angeles, but there were just too many for the Congressional Quarterly Moneyline database to process.

So... instead, I'm just going to tell you about the top ten contributors for the area I live in, which is known as both Winnteka and Canoga Park. (I know, we're taking a momentary break from salsa... just bear with me.)

The database shows that there were only nine political contributors in this area. The top two contributors soared above the others in donations amounts: dialogic researcher Eric Tannenbaum gave $1,650, and Freestar Media and LLC movie producer Douglas L. Celements gave $1,500. The rest of the contributions $500 or less.

Here's a look at the list:

1. Eric Tannenbaum, dialogic researcher
Total: $1,600 ($1,100 to DNC, $500 to Hillary Clinton on )
2. Douglas L. Clements, Freestar Media, LLC movie producer
Total: $1,500 (Ron Paul)
3. Edna S. Sacks, retired
Total: $500 (Hillary Clinton)
4. Tracy Lynch Britton, CBS/Paramount director
Total: $250 (Hillary Clinton)
5. Aaron Lea, J Paul Getty Trust, security operati
Total: $250 (
6. Chris Daly, Window Shading Technologies Inc./SA
Total: $250 (Fred Thompson)
7. Jennifer R. Blaker, St. Vincent Medical Center, executive
Total: $250 (Rudy Giuliani)
8. Booker White, BTW Productions Inc., musician
Total: $200 (Democratic Senatorial Campaign)
9. Deven Nemer, KD Investment Management/real estate
Total: $200 (Ron Paul)

Overall, Ron Paul racked up the most money in this area with $1,750 and Hillary Clinton came in second with $1,250. The supporters were pretty split between the Democratic and Republican parties (5-4 respectively).

Well, that's a look at the Winnetkan/Conaga Parkan financial support in politics! Hope you learned something.