Those who consort with wanton marsupials might say it was “the one-yeer anniversary” January 19, 2010 when “Springfield’s Ambassador of Salsa” engaged about 30 members of Springfield, Illinois Sangamon Club in a festive fast-moving (literally) Latin-American dance workshop that concluded with gusto and smiles on every face, even the blogger/photographer’s! The year before, to hour and the day, I had taken pictures at a packed Theater 3 at Hoogland Center for the Arts, site of Julio Barranzuela’s first big-time downtown salsafest.
Julio had asked me to attend because he knows — as so many do — Job Conger is “Springfield’s Photographer of Salsa.” There was a minor misunderstanding regarding the time so I missed the dinner but arrived in time to share Julio’s concluding introductory remarks in the second floor ballroom, replete with the rug typically occupying the center of the ballroom on occasions when there is a gathering sans dancing, rolled to the side like a giant infield tarpaulin at Wrigley Field when rain threatens. The elegant polished wood dance floor thus revealed was an elegant touch and absolutely perfect for the gradual crescendo of delight that would follow.
During the introductory remarks, Julio explained the theme of most of his presentations: “Salsa Is a Metaphor For Life,” and from his practiced delivery it made good sense. I’d say more about it, but to really appreciate his message, you should “jear it from Julio.”
Couples were instructed to line up facing their partners on opposite sides of the polished floor, and from the center, facing the men on his right and the ladies on his left, he began teaching the salsa, which is the most basic of the three he would present. Even taking his time to be sure everyone understood and could move the basic moves, time moved fast. It was a sharp group, most everyone had previous time on a dance floor from what my untrained eyes could tell. At first it was mastering simply counting and placing feet where appropriate for each number in the move. During this time he directed the couples closer together, building some tension and anticipation which kept everyone interested and smiling as though opening presents on Christmas morning. The three-step, initially mastered was then engaged with music. Then Julio introduced the complete six steps to the salsa, first counting without music; then with music. There was time given to enjoy the dance, to get into the groove of the moment.
They took a break; replenished their wine at the bar ably tended at the back of the ballroom. Sat and chatted with each other. After probably 10 minutes, the teacher called his eager students back to action and taught the Merengue and the Bachata. Assisting throughout the presentation was his fine lady friend. I was too busy behind the camera to remember her name, but she deserves half the credit for the dances well demonstrated. It was as smooth as single-malt whiskey sipped to a melody by Julian Bream. Did Bream write salsa music. I don’t think so, but I’m sure you get my point. The crescendo of growing delight reached its zenith in the final 20 minutes. It was after 8:00 by then, and some of the participants had departed the ballroom, little knowing what they would miss.
The final session was what I call “the Jello-wrestling close to earth part.” Julio is too smart and too nice to call it that, but this is my blog, not his, and I’m calling it as I see it — or seen it, if you consort with wanton marsupials. Dancers were given some instruction about the finer points of Latin American dancing and invited to let their hair down, so to speak, so to dance . . . to just have fun. Julio also had a Latin-American friend sing some ballads in Spanish, karaoke-style to recorded accompaniment. The fellow was good. To come close, you’d have to pay a $10 cover charge at a Chicago or Miami bistro! After a few songs, things really began to roll with a conga line and incredible energy and delight on the dance floor. Friends and family of Julio’s who had been watching from tables on the side even joined in. It was a musical fireworks display for the ears and eyes from where I stood, and the dancers had the real fun!
It was clear the rest of the evening was in wind down mode as participants began to depart, thanking Julio for a great evening. As a photographer who loves the music and the energy, I feel like a fisherman who loves to fish, but who doesn’t eat fish. I know I’m not dance floor material, but I had great fun behind the camera. But there are many places to have fun behind a camera; only one way to share a night as much fun as the one I witnessed January 19 at the Sangamo Club on the first anniversary of Julio’s first major presentation in Barranzuela-seasoned heart of Springfield, Illinois. I had a great time, and when you attend Julio’s next dance presentation, you will too!
Live long . . . . and proper.