Salsa Cuties

After last week’s Salsa Festival in Cali, I’ve gotten the distinct feeling that a child who does not how to dance would be a social outcast in this dance-obsessed city. My friends and I just about died watching Cali’s uber-talented kids compete in the “infantil” division of Cali’s Mundial Salsa Festival. Please watch the above video from Estilo y Sabor. You will understand what I mean. We are talking about five and six year olds (as well as teenagers) who dance like professionals. The cute factor is just about through the roof. The wow factor is pretty high too, making the four hours we spent watching near the front row one opportunity to gasp after the next. Adult couples and groups can’t compete with the charisma of the kids.

There were 52 groups competing that day, ranging in size from 5 to 25. Most of the groups were from Cali. How is it possible that there are over 500 kids who dance so professionally, preciselyl?

Cutie pie

We got lucky with fantastic seats in the front center (it’s probably the power of blond hair, the Calenos are very eager to show off their culture to foreigners), and we sat behind the group that wound up winning! Their group is called Estilo y Sabor. The kid-dancers in Cali are so assertive and polite. They’re like mini-adults in many ways, in their confidence in approaching strangers as well as their stage presence, make-up and costume. Two of the eleven-year-old girls held our hands and danced with us while the crowd danced in anticipation of the results. They were all teary-eyed and my friend Griet asked me why they looked sad. They had so much invested. Who knows how many hours of practice?

When I watched Estilo y Sabor, I saw kids who could be on the verge of stardom if they were promoted sufficiently, with the right PR. I had the feeling that I could get them an appearance on NBC’s the Today Show. This whole dance culture in Cali–and the Caleno-style salsa–feels undiscovered to me, a bit off the radar compared to how incredible these people dance. (More videos to come of the adult competitions.)

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