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Salsa takes the spotlight: a photo essay

June 11, 2010 |  1:30 pm


Congress was in session for four days at the LAX Radisson, only there was no bickering or filibustering. Instead, hundreds of people of all ages, colors, sizes and nationalities came together to dance at the 12th Annual Los Angeles Salsa Congress, a congress where true democracy thrives and the boundaries that separate people melt away when the music starts.

“You have people from Israel dancing with people from Lebanon,” said Albert Torres, the promoter behind this event. Torres, who fell in love with salsa music as a teen in Puerto Rico, has a hand in almost 40 congresses worldwide.

SalsagalleryjpgFrom May 27 to 30, salseros honed their swivels and footwork in more than 70 daytime workshops taught by renowned international salsa dancers. Vendors hawked salsa shoes and sparkly, sassy outfits outside the main ballroom, where competitions and performances packed the house. Each night bodies spun and skirts twirled into the wee hours as both pros and recreational hoofers shared the floor and danced to live salsa bands.

One of the groups performing was Alma Latina Pro Kids from Tijuana.

“We dance for TJ, and we’re gonna give it all we can!” said Karen Burgos, 12, backstage in her iridescent costume before show time. The waify salsera said what made the L.A. Congress so “cool” was seeing the different salsa styles of the roughly 800 performers who came from about 30 countries to participate.

Eli Torres and Yen Dorado, the 2009 Mayan World Salsa champions, came from Philadelphia to teach and perform. They are the first same-gender pair to win an international salsa competition, and the two believe the Congress helps promote acceptance and understanding.

“We want people to see not two guys dancing. We want them to see two dancers showing their art,” said Dorado, catching his breath after performing, and glistening with both sweat and silvery glitter. “Why not show that salsa can be for everybody?”

Just think if Congress on the Hill worked like this. Democrats and Republicans would harmoniously twirl and dip each other, understanding that a dance is only successful when both parties work together — no matter what their differences.

-- Amy Tenowich

Photo: Praying before their performance are, clockwise from lower left, Maria Alejandra, 14, Juan David, 18, Diorman Casta-eda, 25, and Daniela Leon, 18. The four, who make up the salsa group Saoco, traveled from Medellin, Colombia, for the Congress. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times