by Sean Hillen
Reflecting the rising recognition of Vama Veche as Romania’s emerging ‘hip, stylish, trend-setting’ beach resort, leading dancers worldwide flocked to the picturesque, music-filled Black Sea town this week for its annual vibrant ‘Salsa Week.’
Now in its 13th year, hosted by the Romania Dance Association and the Wilmark Events Agency and summed up simply as ‘Friends. Love. Party,’ the lively, week-long fiesta at Club d’Or Hotel featured some of the greatest performers of this dynamic and spirited Latin America dance genre.
Echoing the fun-filled nature of the festival, one of the evening hosts, Marvin Ramos, together with Wilmar, both from Colombia, and some champion dancers, performed a humorous, impromptu group routine, taking friendly stage-cleaner, Bianca, by surprise and using a washing cloth and a broomstick as props to gyrate around her in a sizzling, somewhat sensual demonstration filled with vigor, verve and vim. Their delightful efforts were met by rousing laughter and applause from a delighted audience
Packed with activities of all kinds, ’Salsa Week’ offered ‘bootcamp’ classes in water zumba, tango, even yoga, as well as kizomba, an Angolan word meaning ‘party’ in the Kimbundu language, a slower, more romantic rhythm originating in that country in the 1980s and based on Semba music. Freeing parents to practice flinging their bodies together in infinite shapes and patterns, there were also activities organized to keep children busy, including swimming in the hotel’s open-air pool.
“We are very excited to be hosting this festival, which is unique to Romania,” said happy couple, Wilmark and Ioana. “The response from people has been outstanding, very enthusiastic. We could never have succeeded without the support of everyone, participants, our hard-working team, the dancers and trainers and our sponsors.”
Following the day-long classes, both for beginners and experienced performers wishing to improve, people of all ages flocked to the dance floor in a blur of color every evening in a series of themed parties including ‘Be You,’ ‘Cartoon Stamp,’ ‘Denim Diamonds,’ ‘Rock Star’ and ‘All White,’ all lasting until sunrise.
Appearances during the enjoyable week included BNF Dubai Dancing Group led by Eider Rúa from Colombia, world champion of tango and salsa; Yovanny De Jesus Moreta (stage name Chiquito) with his group Chiquito & Dominican Power, which combines salsa, hip-hop, reggaeton, capoeira, Afro and rumba; US-born Edwin Rivera choreographer, trainer, musician, producer and DJ in Los Angeles; Ennuel Iverson and Hakima Kim, champions of kizomba; Emanuela Iafrate, from the UK, specializing in Afro/Cuban and Porto Rican salsa, as well as Mambo On2; Ibra Chavez from France and his Cuban-style dance group, Crazy Company; world-known kizomba instructor Kristofer Mencak from Sweden; Spanish Sara Lopez, kizomba dancer; champion kizomba couple, Morroccan Hicham Lokito and Oksana Sidorskaya, from the Ukraine; Marvin Ramos from Colombia, dancer and trainer in Salsa On1 and Reggaeton; Los Pambos from Bulgaria, led by Pambos Agapiou, an expert in ballet, jazz, flamenco, Latino salsa, as well as Greek and Cyprus dance; Simone Sanfilippo and Serena Maso, salsa world champions at this year’s international competition in Miami; Starlin Belén from the Dominican Republic; and Colombian Wilton Rizzo, who at 70 years-young is still an avid dancer and promoter of salsa as an expression of humor.
While salsa is not Cuban, that country must receive credit for the origin and ancestry of its creation. It is here contra-danze (country dance, later called danzón) from England and France was brought by the French who fled Haiti. Mixing with rhumba rhythms of African origin (Guaguanco, Colombia, Yambú) and Cuban són, a blend of Spanish troubadour (sonero), African drumbeats and flavora and a partner dance flowered to the beat of the clave.
This complex synthesis also occurred to a smaller degree, with local variations, in other countries such as the Dominican Republic, Colombia and Puerto Rico. Bands from these countries took their music to Mexico during the era of famous films in that country. With increased investment for commercial promotion, New York then became a hot-spot, where it is believed the word ‘salsa’ was coined for the first time. The term became popular as a nickname referring to a variety of music, from several Hispanic countries such as rhumba, són montuno, guaracha, mambo, cha cha cha, danzón, cubop, guajira, charanga, cumbia, plena, bomba, festejo and merengue.
In effect, salsa – and its close cousin, bachata – is seismic sea of spinning, whirling, pirouetting, prancing, wiggling, cavorting, jumping, hopping, swaying and skipping, In short, a whirl of intricate, hypnotic, fast-moving choreographed dance movements.
‘Salsa Week’ continues today (Saturday) and Sunday. If you’re in the mood for color and creativity – and, of course, sensual and exciting dance that’ll make your head (and body) spin – then Vama Veche’s Club d’Or Hotel across the national road from the town’s central pedestrian street is the place to be right now.
As salsa is highly infectious, be prepared to shake your bootie. The festival’s sponsors include OneLife, El Torito Mexican Grill, Pentagon, Directia Sport Tineret Bucuresti and Victor Print and Design.