In Video below, Eric Jones Santana (Judge) & Josmarly Cordero (Contestant) Putting in Work While Final Scores Were Being Tabulated.
Saturday February 20, 2016 on the night of DC’S Jack & Jill Salsa & Bachata Competition and Social, the air was fraught with anticipation and maybe a touch of nervousness from the brave competitors. From everyone else, there was the thrill of witnessing something different, the desire to dance, and a whole lot of acute CURIOSITY to see just exactly what would happen! All in All, the event was JUDGED a pure success with over 130 people in attendance, A Great Venue in Sensazao Dance Fitness, the entertaining spectacle of the Contest itself, the organization of the contest to ensure transparency and a large degree of fairness, the danceable groovy music from DJ MamboSoul satisfying BOTH Salseros and Bachateros social dancers! CONGRATULATIONS to Kha Dang Tran and Veronica Yeh, partners in Dance and in Love, for putting this together as an introduction to a brand new social they intend to continue once a month with exciting new events and workshops for the Latin Dance Community. Fresh New Events like this one help to spark new interest in Latin Dance and the need to take classes or invest in training to improve one’s dance- MY HIGH HOPES! Major Props to Jose Antonio Barreto and Lizette Barreto from DLP Realty for Sponsoring the Event and more importantly providing the Lucrative $1700 in CASH PRIZES! If I wasn’t first asked to promote the event, Trust that I would have entered trying my darndest to WIN THAT MOOLA, BABY! Ultimately, the universe knew best where I FIT IN the Dance Scene (HAHAHAHA) and I was extremely pleased to be asked to be a part of this event first as a promoter and 2nd as a judge. However, I do confess……
INITIALLY, I HAD MY DOUBTS
When Kha first approached me about helping him promote a Jack & Jill Salsa Bachata Competition, while I was very intrigued and interested, I also told him that it would be a tough sale based on my experience being involved in such contests from behind the scenes and witnessing them from the sidelines. The reasons why are specific to the DC area and the culture of Latin Dance HERE. The culture here NOWADAYS is a majority social dancing stronghold. That seems to translate loosely into Casual dancers who aren’t as focused or interested in furthering their dance, improving their technique, or practicing their craft OUTSIDE of the dance floor. Nothing wrong with that. This is a workhorse government run town and the latin dance scene in DC is very conducive for attracting many diverse people to blow off steam and socialize with others quickly on the dance floor without the high hurdles of considering the level of the dancer and this makes for a wonderfully enjoyable friendly dance scene.
However, what this also means is that it is difficult to maintain, nurture or get support for committed Performance Dance Companies or Committed Dance Schools– you can count them on one hand. Committed means that these Dance Companies or Schools actually invest in their dancers with intensive weekly training all year long- not just on choreography but on technique, showmanship, timing of course, body movement, dance theory, etc. The dancers who come out of such programs are usually fearless, technique strong, performance battle ready, and are used to being in front of an audience showing off their what dance charisma/talent/skill they have FREELY and without HESITATION.
In a vacuum of such trained dancers, performers, and/or danceteam/social dancer hybrids, who are gungho to do a contest without the need for alcohol around to fuel fearlessness or inebriated bravery, a promoter has to try to entice social dancers who are just trying to have a good time and not show off or compete or prove their talent in front of an audience of cynical social dancers who, once again, JUST WANT TO SOCIAL DANCE. Thankfully for this event, there were enough brave and charismatic social dancers who entered the competition along with a tiny minority of Professional or battle scarred Performance Team dancers to make this an exciting contest to behold and experience!
2nd Place Luis Artieda and Jenny La Gatita
Judging and Scoring was based on Relative Placement Scoring, an accepted model of scoring by Major Swing Dance Competitions to maintain integrity and equal influence of the judges. Audience Applause was used only for the 2 wild card dancers each heat EXCEPT the final heat. The end of each heat, each judges scores were added together in each category to ensure that a fair total and ranking was achieved to award the top 3 dancers who emerged from the heats.
TAKEAWAYS FROM THE JACK & JILL COMPETITION
1) Probably due to lack of experience in a competitive dance environment, 98% of the people who entered this contest didn’t realize that this was NOT a social dancing contest but a contest to WIN AT ALL COSTS. That means you amp up your Dance CHARISMA OR STYLE, Project DRAMA & CONFIDENCE to EVERYONE IN THE ROOM, BIG MOVEMENTS- you get the idea. In essence, you are DANCING FOR YOUR LIFE so you have to BRING IT for the judges as well as giving the audience EVERYTHING FROM YOUR DANCE SELF plus %1000 MORE.
2) While the projection of a Super Self Confidant KANYE WEST LEVEL DANCE EGO (see #1) is necessary, it is complicated by the fact that you have to be LARGER THAN LIFE while still displaying TIMING, TECHNIQUE, BODY MOVEMENT, SABOR, CONTENT, CONNECTION with your partner. All of that entertaining dance personality or impromptu tricks pulled off with your random partner is for NAUGHT with the judges if your timing is off. The biggest thing that lowered scores was TIMING first, CONNECTION with Partner second in terms of Lead & Follow. Bottomline, you can’t get around Timing. In Salsa, it is acceptable to dance ON1, ON2, or even ON3 cuban style as long as you stay ON BEAT. In Bachata, my understanding is that you can dance on 4 different beats per Carlos Cinta and that is how I judged the Bachata heats. Therefore, I was a bit surprised that I saw some couples in the Bachata heats who were not in sync because I was thinking, you have 4 different timings to choose from and all the follow has to do is FOLLOW HER LEAD’s TIMING and all the lead has to do is to STAY ON ONE OF THOSE 4 BEATS consistently. But that just didn’t happen for some.
3) I expected more veteran dancers to enter the competition, WHY, Because I expected them to have the requisite balls, experience, technique, confidence in their individual sabor to believe they could GET THAT MONEY. But instead, there were a lot of new faces (at least to me) who entered although there were a about 4-5 Performance Hardened Dancers who entered the fray. It made for a interesting contest that actually was hard to judge because of the random pairings and because I had to discard any preconceived notions about a dancer’s ability- a good thing.
4) I really liked that the judging was based on the INDIVIDUAL dancer for the first Two Heats and then on the COUPLE for the Finals. This made for a better judging of the Individual Dancer that DIDN’T PENALIZE them if they were unlucky enough to be paired with an Inadequate Partner. They just had to show off THEIR stuff and be judged on THEIR OWN ABILITY for the elimination heats.
5) From the start, it was pretty CLEAR who was going to be at least a TOP 3 Winner to the judges and I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise anyone to know that she is performer who graced stages around the world and has competed at a top level. Anyone who got her as a partner was sure to shine not just by their own individual ability but also by default of being her partner. Her projection of Her OWN Dance Ego coupled with extraordinary technique and her Immediate CONNECTION with any partner was just on FLEEK. I am very excited that Josmarly Codero is now located in the Baltimore/DC area to tap into her vast experience, knowledge, technique, and training.
6) HUGE THANK YOU to the two EXPERIENCED and ADULT judges who paid attention to judging instructions, IRENE HOLTMAN & KAT ARIAS. They kept us Baby Judges, Eric Jones Santana and myself, in line. Eric and I were so caught up in the competitive dancing of each heat HAVING WAY TOO MUCH FUN engaged in side bar conversations AFTER each heat to see if we were seeing the same thing while scores were tabulated and winners were announced that we sometimes missed crucial cues when to write down competitors #s who advanced to the next round. Kat and Irene made sure to keep us in the loop so we didn’t make any DISASTROUS mistakes that could have muddied the transparency, integrity, or even ACCURACY of the contest. Thank Goodness for the Adults in The Room who could snap us out of our reverie and get us back to the business of impartiality and judging efficiency.
7) One of the competitors who entered the contest asked if she could have a word with me after the winners were announced. She asked me what I thought she could do to improve her technique and/or her dance. This warmed my heart because she reminded me of ME and other dancers who get hooked on this dance and want to GROW in the dance. When you lose, or when you have an experience that didn’t go well, you seek feedback so you can GO BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD and IMPROVE YOUR DANCE. I told her that from what I could recall, she had a nice style about her but her timing was a little off- faster than the beat. She took what I said with a gracious smile, thanked me profusely, and said she would work on that. I will ALWAYS love and SUPPORT a dancer with potential.