This past summer I was invited to travel to Cali, Colombia to film the salsa company, Constelacion Latina as they prepared for the Colombian Salsa Championships. When I started 30secondsofdance I had it in mind that I wanted to travel the world and offer the vast diversity and culture that exists in the world of dance to the 30SOD viewers. I wanted to find the greatest locations and dancers in this world. So far, I have filmed extensively in Chicago, as well as in Detroit, Toronto, LA, San Francisco, Paris, and now Cali, Colombia. If you enjoy salsa, Constelacion Latina will show you salsa dancing like you have never ever seen before...
My trip to Colombia was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had. I was told that Colombia had the most exciting, enthralling, unbelievable, and amazing salsa dancers that I will ever see, so I knew I had to go and bring their talent back to the states. And to make it even more energizing, Constelacion Latina is a company of all kids. The average age of the dancers is 16, and let me tell you, they are some of the most athletic and fearless dancers out there.
I flew to Colombia just days after a trip to Paris to film poppers DeyDey, Cedric, and Nelson. It was my first time in Colombia and plenty of people had warned me that it was a dangerous country. That impression is far from the truth. The country was beautiful and not at all what people's descriptions had entailed. Cali is a very poor city, yet everyone was incredibly warm and welcoming. As for the roads, throw the rules right out the window. Everything and anything is allowed...go on red, race down the street the wrong way before another car comes...I mean anything. I was never nervous driving in a car before Cali, but here I discovered just how much I love my seat beat!
Anyway, when I finally arrived that first day to meet the dancers of Constelacion Latina (in one piece) it wasn't without a bit of culture shock. I took a cab (actually probably a racing car) to a really poor neighborhood close to a canal that smelled like sewage. Kids were walking barefoot in the street, the locals were sitting on boxes smoking cigarettes, the streets themselves were smaller than Paris, just wide enough for a car to fit through. The taxi stopped in front of a 2 floor house that I guess was completely owner built based on the concrete, different kinds of stones, and various sheet of metal that formed the frame of the house.
There was a concrete outdoor staircase that led me to the second floor. This is where I finally met Constelacion. They had been waiting for me, and while none of them spoke English, my friend Jhoanna made all the translations. The rehearsal space was surreal. They were rehearsing on the second floor of this house, in a room about the size of a living room, with a roof (semi-complete) made out of sheet metal. They practiced in their socks, many of which had been sewn a million times over to keep them intact. They asked me to clean up their routine and help them prepare for the world championship. They said that my dancing experience is what they needed in order to take their work to the next level. I was more than honored to help in any way I could, help coach them, help lead them.
Telling you I was blown away by each and every one of them is an understatement. Their desire to learn was without limit. We worked over 12 hours a day without stopping for food or water (there is no current water system over there where you can drink out of the tap...the water is really expensive, not sold in bottle, but rather sold out of a bag that looks like a giant water pillow). After weeks of hard work refining their pieces, Constelacion Latina won the Cali Salsa Championship and are now going to travel to Florida in December to compete in the World Salsa Championship. I could not have been more proud or excited for them. I have no doubt in my mind of their upcoming victory. They have been improving so much since this summer, which is hard to believe considering how blown away I was with them when I was with them in July.
When all was said and done, I could not have been more impressed with Constelacion Latina. They taught me so much about myself, about dancing, about work, about character, about determination. There is something we must learn from this experience and from these dancers. I was reminded that you really understand the value of things when you are in need. These kids are the best because they have nothing, but want so much out of their lives. Everything they do conveys this desire. I learned the true significance of hard work. Real, hard, determined, work.
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