No Contest
Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

We know that it’s becoming somewhat of a recurring theme, but, for the second year in a row, Irene Miguel -the coordinator of the UK Salsa Open Championships – has told us that the event has had to be further postponed. Actually, we feel sorry for Irene. The situation is truly beyond her control as she tries to meet all the stringent conditions set as part of the contract that she signed to run this event as the National Qualifiers for the San Juan World Open Salsa Championships in Puerto Rico.

Amongst other things in the list was a proviso for a given number of nationwide heats to be run as part of the build up to the national finals which were to be held as part of our own May Day Madness scalalatina Bank Holiday event and, whilst plans were finalised for the finals at SCALA featuring head judges Nelson Flores and Stracey Dias, pulling together the required number of heats in the time left was proving to be much more difficult.

Back in 2007 and 2008 when we were running the London LatinFest Salsa Championships (which came to be regarded as the National Championships) many promoters were only too happy to be involved. Similarly with the competitors. In 2007 over 250 couples took part in the 26 Amateur-level heats that we ended running all over the UK and from these 22 couples actually managed to make it to the finals at SCALA giving up Dean & Jess as worthy winners.

In a parallel Professional level competition, the 8 professional couples applied to take part with the result that Lee (RIP) and Shelley won through to take the title in a close fought competition.
These sorts of numbers used to be typical of competitions “back in the day” when many of “the great and the good” of the UK Salsa scene made their names. But nowadays it seems that competitions are less popular with competitors and promoters alike.

It is interesting that in a nation that gave us such competitive dance shows as Strictly Come Dancing and So You Think You Can Dance, that many promoters are doubtful if people would be interested in watching competitions let alone taking part in them.

So, just why is this? In other territories across the Salsa World competitions are routinely massive events attended by everyone who is anyone AND in some cases televised on national media channels. One of the World Championship events is even sponsored and televised by ESPN.

One thing is true, it is definitely nothing to do with the economic situation here and now in the UK, because this is not a new phenomenon. We [The Latin Collective] have been involved with many of the National Salsa Championships since 1997 and getting sponsors from outside the dance world has always proven to be difficult – if not impossible.Although drinks companies like Corona, Havana Club and Bacardi have all sponsored events in previous years, everyone knows about the notoriously low bar takes at Salsa events. And, these days, the airline industry is in no shape to offer up free flights.

There is also an unsual situation here in the UK where the Ballroom and Latin scene runs in parallel but is essentially separate. Every year in Blackpool at the famous Winter Gardens, as part of the most famous dance competitions in the World, a couple is crowned the Official UK Salsa Champions – before often being totally dismissed by the “authentic” club-going salsa scene. Elsewhere in the world, these two scenes work mostly in unison, but the situation here in the UK means that much more work has to be done by club-based promoters to put together something which is truly respected.

That is why we should count ourselves lucky that Irene Miguel has been awarded the contract to run this event in the next few years; because the winners of the UK SALSA OPEN do qualify for an event which is truly respected the World over and that is vindication indeed. Now all that we need to do is to get behind it and give it the support that it truly deserves, so we don’t lose it altogether.

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