Learn to Salsa dance with Edie, The Salsa FREAK!!

My Most Memorable Competition
– By Edie, The Salsa FREAK!!

From downstairs in the basement of the Mayan Nightclub in Los Angeles, you can faintly hear the music upstairs, muffled, but still loud and electrifying. You feel the distant pulse of the music run through your body and magically into your heart. You’re with all the other competitors now. You look at the number you’ve drawn from that jar. It’s the number you were destined to have – the order in which you’re about to dance. Whether first, second, or last, everybody is at first surprised, maybe disappointed, maybe happy. For those of us who are disappointed in the numbers we drew, we try to rationalize it in our minds so we don’t dwell on it…. “Oh, we’re first – I don’t know….” Or, “Oh no, we’re last!!” Or, “Ugh, we’re number four!”

You notice their fancy outfits, their glitter and diamonds. You see some of them rehearsing their routines, some of them sitting on a couch in the corner with their eyes closed. Some of them are stretching their leg muscles, others are just chatting with each other, trying to talk their nervousness away…

They signal, it’s time.

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Your partner grabs your hand, and gently squeezes it. He looks at you softly, gives you that little wink, then smiles, as if saying, “It’s going to be OK.”. You feel better as you start walking up those stairs, hand-in-hand with your partner – your friend, at your side. The stairs seem so long. The stale, cement, dimly blue-lit, stairs of the Mayan basement, are like climbing from hell to heaven. Once you get to stage-level, you see the thousands waiting to watch you dance. The little butterflies flutter in your stomach and you feel – special. You’ve made it to the top of those stairs and you feel as if FINALLY, you get to show them what you’ve worked so hard PRACTICING these past few weeks!!!

They line you up, call your names, one by one. The whitest, brightest spotlights are suddenly on YOU. You cannot see the crowd. You can just hear their roaring, thunderous cheers! You feel as if you’re in the middle of a boxing ring about ready to compete in the match of your life!!!

They call all the couples, one by one for the two-minute warm up dance. Your partner whispers, “OK, let’s just take it easy on this…” but you still give it your all. You can’t help it. Thousands are watching you warm up – and you’ve got to look good WARMING UP!! When the warm up is over, the crowd cheers and cheers, and goes absolutely ballistic. You’re glad you didn’t screw up in the warm up!!

They announce the first couple to the floor. They announce… “Angel Galvan and Edie, The Salsa FREAK!!” When it’s your turn, the music starts before you know it – sometimes before you’re ready! You remember doing… something… You remember screwing up a couple of times – only something you and your partner would know about.

And it’s over – in a blink of an eye. All those hours and hours, and weeks, and weeks of practice, practice, practice. Bruises, falls, yelling, hurt feelings, changing and juggling schedules, compromising, rewinding, winding the tape, rewinding to start, playing it again, memorizing moves, forgetting moves, trying it again, and again, staying up late, downing coffee, going over it, and over it, and over it again…..

Over, in just two minutes…

Edie's Salsa Crisis

Edie’s “Salsa Crisis”…

This was my partner’s and my first competition at the Professional level. Because we took first place last year at the Amateur level, we were not allowed to compete again at that level. We had to compete at the Professional level, even though we’re not Pros! Oh well. It’s kind of discouraging, but I guess they make the rules, and we’ve all got to play the game. I was wasn’t as terrified as I thought I would be. I felt comfortable dancing with all my friends, and I really had a good time.

I guess we did OK. We messed up. We went too fast for the rhythm. I hit a judge (on accident) with my hand in the middle of my routine (hard). I almost fell. Angel missed his cue. I missed mine. We came in seventh overall. The top six went to the finals….

All I know is that we worked hard, tried, and did it. We competed against the best of the best. Francisco and Monica, Rogelio and Josie, Alex and Miriam, Tony and his partner, Rick and Maya, Solomon and his partner, and two other couples, (I don’t know their names) that were phenomenal…. Oh well. I have no idea what score we got. I left early I was so bummed. I was told that we were totally out-classed, and that we should have never competed at the professional level (some people don’t hold anything back…).

Great. Just great. Well, at least we tried. We don’t do this for a living. This is starting not to be fun. It’s starting to be work. Something’s up here. I may have to re-think why I’m doing this Salsa-thing – why I started it to begin with…… It was SUPPOSED to relieve my STRESS LEVELS from work…. Now they have since ELEVATED to the point of SHEER FRUSTRATION….

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I was so pissed off at my partner I could just scream. I blamed him for some stuff that I shouldn’t have blamed him for. I never told him though. When something goes wrong, you look at the other person – not yourself. I should have blamed myself. I wanted to quit. I wanted any other partner. I wanted to just dump him and hang him out to dry, I was so mad. Just be glad you weren’t in the car with me on my way home…. I was an absolute wreck. I was taking this WAY TOO SERIOUSLY. …

Then, I woke up the next morning, and I looked at myself in the mirror, and thought, “You know Edie, you @&^$%&*’d up too you know. So just stop it. Stop blaming him, stop making yourself sick. Even if we would have had an absolutely PERFECT, flawless routine, we were still outclassed. Come on, stop kidding yourself! You are just as much to blame. This is a partnership. Everything is 50, 50. Be smart, and keep quiet. Tell the entire World on the INTERNET EXACTLY HOW YOU FEEL, but never, never, never tell him. It would crush him, and make him dig his heels and start jabbing remarks back at you!!!! What a way to start a wonderful evening….”

I mean, look at me. This is very upsetting ….

Maybe I need to go have a drink and just….. relax.

The remaining competitors will compete next week. The top 6 scores from this week and next will go to the finals. Good luck to everyone! We’ll be rootin’ fer ya! One thing good has come from all this. THE PRESSURE IS OFF NOW. I can relax, and have some fun!! I’m off to Rudolpho’s tomorrow night, St. Mark’s Tuesday night, a brand new club on Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood (forgot the name) on Wednesday, maybe I’ll try out the new El Coco’s Thursday, OBVIOUSLY Sportsman’s Lodge on Friday, and OF COURSE, the Mayan on Saturday!!! I’ll be at Ash Grove Sunday afternoon, and Steven’s Steakhouse Sunday night!!!!! COME JOIN ME FOR MY WEEK-LONG, STRESS-RELIEF, SALSA MARATHON!!!!!

(5 days later…)
Salsa Marathon update:
My week-long Salsa marathon never happened. I came down with a cold, combined with the Hershey Squirts, I have no energy, and can’t function. Some say it’s caffeine poisoning and my body is toxic. Great. Come to think of it, I did spend the majority of my time at Starbucks these last few weeks, and my job just got Starbuck’s service, and I was drinking Starbucks in the morning, at noon, and late at night for practice, working out, and work. Honestly, I think I’m coming “down” off the high from the stress of preparing to compete at the Mayan, the stress from my job, the stress from my partner, everything. Well, anyway, I’ll be doing my Salsa dance marathon next week when I recover…Thanks to the Internet, if I can’t dance Salsa, at least I can read and write about it (with a box of Kleenex at my side)!

I hope this information is useful to everyone out there who competes in Salsa competitions!!! Let me know your comments or any other suggestions you have we can all share! If you’d like to get a hold of me, I can be reached at www.SalsaFreak.com/contact.

Below are a few letters from friends I thought were WORTHY enough to receive WORLD-WIDE attention:

READER COMMENTS (Register above to add comments):

From Yanni:
Agapiti Edie mou,

Obviously I wasn’t there, but reading what went on I think you are a really hip young woman. You’re honest and sincere with your feelings. Don’t EVER lose that.

For any personal advice, stick with it. Face it, girl, you LOVE salsa and SHOULD love it! You’ve done a TON of work. It’s in your blood now, and being an artistic person myself, I know the battles your fighting. But I also accept the fact that once an art form enters my soul, I cannot eradicate it. Thus, accept the downs – the highs will be more enjoyable.

Remember, you probably got into salsa because you were attracted to the fusion of Afro-Cuban rhythms and American jazz. It’s addictive. You probably got into the dancing because you’ve loved the movements and feelings your soul received.

The beauty of salsa is it’s traditional… The Latin community worldwide will forever embrace it… And you have a social tool to meet people anywhere you go that has THAT SOUND!!!!

Keep being a salsera and keep having fun at it!
Pantote, Yanni

My Response:
Yanni, thank you for the compliments. You’re right. dancing, writing on the Internet, all that, brings out the “artistic” side of me. I love being creative, and losing myself in my work. I’m an aspiring writer wanna-be, thanks to this web stuff… I’ve now decided on a career change, but it’s just a question now, of “how”. When you’re locked in one career, studied it your whole life, then realize you should have been doing something else! I just know it won’t come easy. Nothing does. THIS STUPID CONTEST DIDN’T.

Enough of that. It’s over. I’m fine…. I’m fine…. relax… calm down…

Anyway, thanks again for writing to me about this whole thing. Street Salsa is very difficult to judge. I now realize that, after analyzing the results of the Professional Division.

From Tom S:
I’m sorry that you are (were?)feeling down after the competition. I would like to give you a big, warmmm hug to make you feel better. That is my first emotional reaction to your what you wrote. (Poor Edie, I don’t want her to feel bad.)

My second reaction was curiosity about what went through your mind when you learned that you would have to compete at the professional level and decided to go ahead. Was it still for fun? How did Angel feel about it? You strike me as a person who goes ahead with something if your head and your heart are in agreement. Was that the case here? (In nooo way am I criticizing you. These are just my reactions.)

There was something that stayed with me when I spoke with Josie the next night at the Roxy. I asked her how long she and Rogelio had practiced and she said “we finished the routine during the day of the competition. I like to try to keep it fresh and new.”

Well, I thought to myself, that’s it isn’t it? The challenge to practice the routine over and over and yet pull it off as if it is fresh, new, inspired, and spontaneous.

I do NOT agree that you were out-classed! Perhaps you may not have the emotional wisdom that comes from the life experience of someone that makes their living solely as a dancer but, I recall two times that I watched you dance last year when I was first starting out. One night was salsa at Rudolfo’s and the other night was merengue at the Sportsmen’s. What I saw was a passionate being dancing because she has to. It was not just a night out. I was inspired and emotionally affected. It stayed with me. I projected the idea onto you that she must be someone with an attitude because she’s so good. What a wonderful surprise to find that you were not like that at all. In retrospect, your performance at the Mayan did not affect me in the same way but I am not capable of saying why in a way that would be helpful or insightful for you. I can say that when you dance what is uniquely in your heart, you can out-dance (or out-class) whomever is also dancing. That is my intuitive take on who you are as a person even though I do not know you well.

I came back from dancing tonight at the Ash Grove and experienced something that I had not planned on. I asked a friend to dance what was only the second song of the evening, a cha-cha, and when I had already committed to dancing out on the floor, I realized that we were alone except for another couple. “Ohhhh nooooo….” I looked up, and not only were all the seated people watching, but even the people upstairs celebrating a birthday party were looking. “Wow, this must be what it’s like performing at the Mayan.” I told my friend that we should get a badge for courage. Other couples came onto the floor later

My Response:
Tom, I just wanted to say “thank you” for your beautiful words of encouragement. I learned a great deal from your letter, and you bet I will apply it! I need to learn that when I compete I need to dance from my heart, not from trying to remember “what’s next” in a stupid routine. Angel insisted that we needed a routine, even though in the past, people have consistently told us that we do better without one. He still insisted on it. Of course, being me, (and also the woman, the follower, the submissive one), I argued at first, but when I saw he wasn’t budging, I quickly gave up.

You’re right. In a competition you’ve got to keep it fresh. Josie and Rogelio are pros. They know how to keep the rhythm, and feel the music to the SAME BEAT…. TOGETHER (insider inf., and highly personal problem on our part – you don’t need to know about this….)

Well, in a partnership, we’ve got to take the good with the bad. I look at how he is off beat, I look at how much I weigh, and how much he has to lift me. I look at his dancing solo, and then I look at mine (ugh!),I look at how old he is, then I realize I’m not getting any younger either.

When we found out from the Mayan that we had to compete professionally this year, because of our Amateur win last year, I was actually quite relieved. Believe it or not, so many people told us they would NOT compete if we were competing in the Amateur division this year. This made me feel terrible inside. Here you work so hard – work like hell, get bruised up, fight, compromise, work, work, work, and then you get put down for looking too “professional” to be dancing with amateurs… We were actually disqualified one time because they thought we were professionals!

There are a lot of people who don’t think they can win, but it’s only in their minds. We’ve been in competitions where there would barely be any competitors because we were out there competing. We were starting to wonder if it was our dancing style, or if they refused to dance because the judges favored a less “authentic street style” Salsa, or, people just couldn’t stand us, or they were too shy, or they wanted to boycott the contest because we were there, or… what???? I have no idea. You can only imagine what went through our minds. I compete for fun, Angel does it for the fun and money. Why not? It’s one of the fastest ways to make a few hundred bucks two minutes that I know of!

The most important thing is that I have fun (I have to keep telling myself that sometimes, especially while we’re practicing…) I’m glad the competition is over. we won’t be competing for a while. It’s getting to be a bit too much. We’re going to take a break from each other for a while. We agreed on four months. Maybe we’ll both find” our rhythms” on our own.

From Bill W:
If you love the competition, If you love the hard work it takes to get to the point where you feel you can compete, If knowing you did your best can make you happy; continue to compete. This was just one of those things that you learn from. It will make you stronger and more prepared the next time.

Consider the progress you’ve made. You competed on the professional level this year. Next year you can and will do better with this experience under your belt. I sense you are at a cross roads? I love Salsa just for what it brings to me on a very personal level? If that will not make you happy, you must continue to compete? I’m sure you’ll make the right decision for Edie.

I’m proud of you. I know a lot of people who don’t have the confidence and skills to even get up in front of the judges. If you choose to continue with the competition, you’ll do better next time.

Mr. Smooth!

My Response
Your message really hit home. You’re right. Why the heck did I start dancing to begin with? It’s the passion for the music, the feeling of another human being embracing my body, and feeling “accepted” into such a warm, giving, and wonderful culture. A culture that I had known in the past, but had since lost. SO WHAT THE HELL AM I COMPETING FOR???

I know, I know why…. I’m a natural competitor. When I was younger I was in lots of sports – however single person sports like swimming, gymnastics, track and field, cross country – you know, sports where you don’t have to DEPEND ON ANYONE ELSE TO WIN….

THIS…. this… my friend, I believe is my problem. I have a problem with depending on someone else to win. Life has made me LEARN, kicking and screaming the entire way, that this is something I am going to have to deal with. Life has its way of making us all learn our own little lessons, and believe me, this is a lesson in life that has been difficult, but I am DEFINITELY learning it, and telling the ENTIRE WORLD about my education!

I’m a born Taurus and actually love the work it takes. I love to win as a result of the very, very, hard work. I’m also VERY stubborn, and if something is a challenge, you bet I’ll do everything possible to conquer it. (this was especially true of my posture – try correcting your “computer-dented”, 33 year-old bent-over posture and see how easy it is….). My partner and I will be taking a four-month break from each other for a while. This is a good thing. I’ll get to actually enjoy myself again, go out, have fun, dance, and FEEL the music…. AAAAAaaaahhhh. Just he thought of it is like taking a warm bath. I can’t wait to get tot he Bay area again to dance again! The pressure is off and now I can let go!!! Whew!

From Angie:
You were great!!!
Hi Edie,
Just wanted to congratulate you on the wonderful job you did dancing in the competition. You guys were great!! I really mean it. Don’t let people tell you different. Who ever said that you guys were out-classed are probably just jealous that you guys did such a good job.

I loved your routine specially the mannequin. That was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen in a contest.

Don’t be hard on yourself Edie. What counts is that you guys went out there and gave it your best shot. If you guys messed up a little it doesn’t matter, accidents happen you know. Besides it wasn’t that noticeable. Well, I’ll send you an E-mail later to tell you what I thought in more detail. I’m so glad that we finally met. So, once again, congratulations!! You did your best and that’s what counts, besides, it as terrific! See you soon again. Take Care!! Keep on dancing!!!!!

My Response:
You would not believe what Angie sent me over the Internet. She sent me a beautiful little cyber-card with a cute little ballerina-bear on it with the message on the left under it. (see picture postcard below)

I was almost in tears reading it! Anyway, I responded from my computer at work, and can’t remember what I said, but all I know is that Angie is not only an absolutely beautiful woman, but her beauty runs deep into her heart.

Guys, you will go absolutely ballistic if you saw what she looks like. I met her in person at the Mayan last Saturday night for the first time (we have been cyber-pen-pal-friends for a long time …), and could not believe how pretty she is!!! SEND ME A PICTURE OF YOU, WOMAN!!! Anyway, thanks again Angie for your beautiful words.

From Chito:
I was visiting your site on the web today and I read about your experience with the competition at the Mayan and your subsequent “Salsa crisis”. Maybe reading about my night at El Coco will remind you of YOUR first taste of salsa and of the impact it had on you.

You wrote that about the stress you had experienced because of the contest and that you needed to rethink your whole reason for dancing. Just try and remember your first attempts (failures and successes) at your basic salsa steps and combinations and all the fun you had learning and fumbling through your salsa beginning.

Try and remember that first and foremost salsa should be about fun, about spending time with your friends, and about unwinding with the music and the dance that gives you such pleasure. I know this isn’t too profound and I don’t mean it to be. Keep it simple. Dance and have fun! I know you’ll be able to recapture the magic salsa had for you in no time at all(that is, if you haven’t already).

Edie’s Response:
Reading your story just brought back ALL KINDS of memories. Thanks Chito. I needed your kind words. I’M OVER IT NOW. (I think…). LET’S party!!!!

Love, Edie .

If you’d like to send me a letter telling me how GREAT we were, I’ll be sure and post it on my page… .