By Rick Greenfield

It’s a wrap!!!!! The 1st Annual Charlotte Salsa Congress is history. In order to provide a complete synopsis of the Congress, I have to be candid, and direct. We’ll discuss what didn’t work and move on to what did. As a Congress, this one may go down as a disaster..but it was a great party.

There was a very powerful buzz about the Charlotte Salsa Congress. The thought of so many of the “Best of The Best” performers, instructors, musicians, and social dancers bringing their talents to Charlotte was exciting. Unfortunately, the majority of the “Best of The Best” were nowhere to be found. No Johnny Polanco, no Jimmy Bosch, no Spanish Harlem Orchestra, no Salsa Freak, no Clavekazi, no Victor, Burju, Ana or Joel, no Jayson Molina, no Olivia Dasso, no Liz Lira and the list goes on. The workshop scheduling wasn’t well organized and changed constantly. The legendary singer, Jose “El Canario” Alberto was there, until the sound repeatedly malfunctioned and he lead his band off stage. The overall turnout for the Congress was very low. I don’t know if there will be a 2nd Annual Charlotte Salsa Congress, but if there is, I hope the first item on the planning committee agenda is learn from the many mistakes. Few of us understand what an incredible undertaking it is to organize a Congress. I’m sure even the premier promoters and builders of World Congresses, like David Melendez and Albert Torres, have had their challenges along the way. Okay..that’s it..good bye to the negative. (From L to R: Juan, Rick, and Ismael at the Juan Matos Workshops; Atlanta, GA 2004)

Though most of the “confirmed” instructors and performers were not in attendance, those that were there were definitely some of the most elite. Ismael Otero, Juan Matos, Diana Nunez, Kimberli Flores, Sekou Miller, The Cobo Brothers, Orville Small, Cecilia Villalobos, Juan Calderon, Troy Anthony and Georgette Alcocer, Eric Freeman, and Gordon Neil and Laura, worked overtime to keep the energy level high. Earl Rush and Maribel Soto taught several workshops on Friday, and even woke up early enough on Saturday and Sunday to teach 9am salsa aerobics classes! Betto and Joy from Mambo Dinamico and Willie “Fuego” Pagan made worthwhile contributions to the workshop schedule as well. The performances were top quality, and set up in a way that made it easy for the audience to see the stage. Jose “El Canario” Alberto did return to put on an excellent show once the sound issues were resolved. DJs Elvira, Roberto Montas, and Henry Knowles made sure that the music made you never want to sit down.

The Atlanta Salsa Scene should be proud of our performers and instructors that worked so hard preparing for Charlotte. We were well represented by Piel Canela, Salsambo, PasoFino( Jose and Belle), and Revolu (Gordon Neil and Laura). In addition, workshops were taught throughout the weekend by the Directors of each of these companies. There were so many Atlanta Social Dancers it often felt like the Congress was in Atlanta. I really hope the organizers of the Charlotte Congress noticed and appreciated the support that they received from our city. I also hope the Atlanta crew that was in attendance will harness some of the energy and experience gained in Charlotte and bring it back to help improve and develop our local scene.

So overall..was the event all that it was promised to be? No, clearly not. It was not, however, a wasted weekend, thanks to the positive attitudes of the instructors and guests. It’s hard to stay mad when that sweet clave is beckoning you onto the floor. Please enjoy the photographs and notice that everyone is smiling!

We said “watch out for The Atlanta Salsa/Mambo Scene in 2004”. SO MANY OPTIONS, SO LITTLE TIME. Make sure you check out the Upcoming Events. Again, if you’re visiting Atlanta and want a piece of the “Dirty South” scene, contact me at