Ballroom Raymi, Peru 2019

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The Inca and it’s Quechua!

This past weekend we had the great fortune and privilege to be asked to adjudicate the “Ballroom Raymi” in the city of Lima, Peru.

This competition was established by the Arthur Murray Studios in Peru and as the organizer, Don Alfredo Di Natale, told us, it was time to open the competition and let everyone come and see his country and participate in this three-day event. As first time in Peru and at his Ballroom Raymi event all we have to say to summarize everything we saw and experience is - “Wow!” It is certainly a bucket list competition, but we will be back invitation or not next year to experience great food, great historical sites, great hotel and a terrific ballroom dance competition.

The competition was held at the “Swissotel,” a 4-5 star hotel where they pamper you from top to bottom, we know some of our staff had their suits steamed, shoes cleaned and some of the judges spent great time in their 5-star spa.

We could go on about the outings and everything that surrounded this event but let’s get to the meat and potatoes and what we were there for - ballroom dancing. Some of you might disagree, but there in Peru the essence of ballroom dancing is not “disco, hustle, or waltz” it is “salsa, bachata, merengue” and most of the dances that we call “Nightclub.” As some people say, this music and the dances are very prominent with their music being created every single day, so just like the hustle was back in the “70’s” people are lining up to improve their salsa, their merengue and for sure their bachata.

The last night at the Ballroom Raymi was all about these three dances and so it is only natural that they would have an Open Professional Salsa event. This commenced with a full semifinal round and we ended up with 6 very talented couples for the final. In the end the same result was awarded to the same couples, I have to point out that all the judges were not from Peru, with the exception of the current 7-times World Salsa & Bachata Champions Natalie Villanueva & Deklan Guzman. So it was quite fair for them all. However, in the salsa we had it a little differently than the majority, the winner was Waldir Felipa & Alessandra Barrios but we felt that the couple that placed second, Jorge Avila & Manuela Calle gave a better performance in this dance and in this final. For our taste, their performance was a little more compact yet with enough power to get our attention and for us their material was easier to understand or as we would say “cleaner.” We have to say that when it came to soul nothing could have compared to the winners Waldir & Alessandra, but for us they needed to stand up a little more and be counted especially with so many couples on the floor. With that kind of “soul” we should be able to see them from a “plane”.

Third place went to Oscar Olaechea & Demi Villacorta. We were quite impressed how they were able to pick it up in the final, because we felt that perhaps they might have been walking around a little in the semifinal. Fourth was awarded to Karlos Vasques & Juliana Villacorta a good couple also with lots of soul that at times got their base a little too big for the music being played. Fifth went to Irving Villavicencio & Nicole Vargas Garabisco and sixth place was awarded to Senier Surichaqui & Yaritza Arboleda.

In the Bachata it was basically the same result but here Waldir Felipa & Alessandra Barrios we felt stole the show. You cannot take your eyes from this couple and basically some of my colleagues with me may understand, their performance was so organic and sexy that it made me “blush,” but it was in a good way. In no shape or form they were inappropriate, but “wow” was that a sexy bachata….. Uhmmmmm! And that is exactly what we liked about this couple and it made it perfect for us - not inappropriate something that is hard to do and see nowadays in the bachata world where everything can seem to be in your face whether you like it or not. (A little “unhygenic.”) In this contest Jorge Avila & Manuella Calle placed second once again and for us it was a very deserving position, their work was good but failed to touch that “sexy spot” and soul that for us bachata required.

Third in this open bachata were Oscar Olaechea & Demi Villacorta and here once again we were quite surprised by how they managed to improve their final performance, this is good and no good at the same time. In a bigger competition with rounds and not just a full semifinal, they might be left out of the first round. You must perform strongly right from the start to maintain your position. Fourth were Karlos Vasquez & Julia Villacorta and here perhaps once again their base could be a little smaller so they can get to the step and what’s in it.

Fifth in Bachata was awarded to Irving Villavicencio & Nicole Vargas Garabisco. We felt their performance in this dance was a lot better than in their salsa and in both styles their choreography was very interesting, but cleaning it up is the word, at some point there was more “perspiration than inspiration,” and you could see it by the sweat on his shirt, perhaps also the wrong material or color to wear. You don’t need this kind of attention. Last but not least in sixth place were Senier Surichanqui & Yaritza Arboleda. The word here is “green” this couple had tremendous potential in both styles but you could tell they were thinking about it and trying to do it right, when you get on the floor there is no wrong or right, there’s just a performance with a heart and soul, whatever happens, happens.

In the Ballroom styles that we are used to here in the USA, the Professional Rhythm had the most entries and participation and here 7 couples were in the final. The Bachata champions just mentioned, Waldir Felipa & Alessandra Barrios, won the competition overall with these marks 1,1,2,2,1. As you can tell they lost the swing and the bolero, and perhaps for the same reason we mentioned, we did not think they should have won the open salsa. As in the salsa and the bachata Jorge Avila & Manuella Calle took second overall 2,2,1,1,2, and in this style we also thought they could have easily won and as you could see they lost by one dance. In this 5-dance Rhythm competition we felt their work was a little more clean and easy to read than the winners’ but as you can see it was nearly a close call for the judges and we too could understand their dilemma.

In the Rhythm the placement changed a little the couples that placed fourth in the previous open competitions, third in this style were Karlos Vasquez & Julia Villacorta 3,3,3,4,4. Karlos & Julia still have their base issues, but they were a little clearer as to what they were trying to do in this competition. They perhaps did not have the soul of the first two, but their line work was cleaner than the rest, and he ran over over the music a little but a lot better than the next four we are going to mention. Fourth in this style was awarded to Oscar Olaechea & Demi Villacorta 5,4,4,3,3, and here we can say they had that issue that followed them in the semifinal rounds of the last two competitions, they did not have as much passion or impact as they did in the other competitions and so they were not placed as well, this of course is Dance Beat’s opinion and not that of the judges. Fifth place in this Professional Rhythm competition was awarded to Gonzalo Pevez & Daniella Moreno Garabisco and they took fourth in the cha cha and fifth in the other four dances. Sixth in all dances went to Irving Villavicencio & Nicole Vargas Garabisco and seventh in all was awarded to Ivan Romero & Alejandra Vial.

The Smooth was quite good and this went to an US couple and that was Dmitry Krasnyansky & Esther Frances from New York. Second were Gonzalo Pevez & Daniella Moreno Garabisco and third was awarded to Ivan Romero & Alejandra Vial. The Open Professional Latin went to Gonzalo Pevez & Daniella Moreno Garabisco as well as the Professional Open Ballroom.

After a few “Pisco Sours” Don Di Natale and Didio Barrera from Dance Beat had at times a very heated discussion about our roots, the music and the organic feelings of sensuality and purity that our music (Latin American music) brings to the table and produces - that is if you allow it and understand it. Don Di Natele and Didio Barrera created another Style for South America and one we hope to import called, “Ritmos Latinos Libres.” The dances include bachata, west coast swing, merengue, bolero, and salsa. This discussion was quite fun and in the heat of the moment Don Di Natele decided to let the couples know about the new division and to run the inaugural “Ritmos Latinos Libres competition at this Ballroom Raymi. The experiment was wonderful. Five couples dared to participate in our crazy venture but it was interesting to say the least. In the end the Ritmos Latinos Libres, Ballroom Raymi winners were Waldir Felipe & Alessandra Barrios. In this heat we too agreed with the judges that they were the most organic of all couples and the one that made us feel exactly what we wanted from this style and here are their marks 1,1,2,2,1.

Second in this fun and great new event were Jorge Avila & Manuella Calle and they placed first in the swing and bolero and second in the other three dances, from what we wrote about the couples earlier you could tell that he was more uniform but perhaps not as organic feel as we all want to feel and see in this style. Third was awarded to Oscar Olaechea & Demi Villacorta 3,T3,4,3,3, as you can see they tied in the west coast swing, with the couple that placed fourth overall, Karlos Vasquez & Julia Villacorta 4,T3, 3,4,4, and last but not least in fifth position were Irving Villavicencio & Nicole Vargas Garabisco and they took fifth in all dances. In the future we hope to see this style flourish and we already have huge support from many of the schools and Latin American countries participating and so we think it is going to be a hit for Pro/Am, amateur and professional levels.

As like all the professional events here in Peru, the Pro/Am categories had most of their following in some of the nightclub dances. The Open Pro/Am Bachata winners were Gemma Palomino w/ Irving Villavicencio; second went to Marcela Leon w/ Wladir Felipa; third was Lucienne Martinez w/ Oscar Chacaltana.

The Pro/Am Open Salsa went to Marcela Leon w/ Waldir Felipa; second was awarded to Lucienne Martinez w/ Gonzalo Paves and in third place was Gloria San Martin w/ Gonzalo Pavez.

The Pro/Am Latin Challenge with 3 dances went to Ursula Tavara w/ Jorge Avila and they placed first in all dances; second was Percy Freyre w/ Manuel Calle taking second in all dances, and third in all was Tuti Levi w/ Waldir Felipa.

The “B” category was the best and the most attended of the Pro/Am Smooth divisions and here Ursula Tavara w/ Jorge Avila won all dances. Second was awarded to Elizabeth Bustamante w/ Gonzalo Paves 3,2,2,2, and third went to Alejandro Reyes w/ Daniela Moreno 2,3,3,3. The “C” category was won by Ilse Wold w/ Jose Luis Tejo. The “B” Category in the Rhythm was awarded to Ursula Tavara w/ Jorge Avila, and the “C” went to Ilse Wolf w/ Jose Luis Tejo. The “B” Pro/Am Latin category is certainly worth a mention and here Pamela Munos w/ Jose Luis Tejo want the division.

Attending Ballroom Raymi from the USA this year were Nazar Norov & Irina Kudryashova and Thomas Papkala & Frantsiska Jordanova. Both of these couples performed during the competitions.

For any of you that have been following Didio Barrera and Keith Todd, Editor of Dance Beat, you know they have been traveling Peru and sharing so many incredible pictures of Machu Pichu, this Iconic World Heritage Site and some other places around like the iconic city of Cusco, as well as the station post for Machu Pichu the small charming town of Aguas Calientes. It is hard to explain the emotions that come from seeing this beautiful World Heritage site. We will attach a few pictures now and we promise a whole composition of pictures for the printed version of Dance Beat when we publish a full length version of the competition, mainly because this was a private Dance Beat tour and not one this year provided by Ballroom Raymi, but we will tell you about all the incredible locations the Ballroom Raimi brought us to and all included dancing.

The first of the outings we did, was a welcome dinner dance at the “La Basilica” where the theme was “church” like. A good example in one of the rooms is the “last supper” painted by a well known artist in Peru with a good sense of humor. On this outing you can also see other pictures on the ceiling but not by “Michelangelo” like the Sistine Chapel in Rome. The main feature this night as all the nights here at the Ballroom Raymi was plenty of dancing (social dancing).

The next day was a city tour of Lima and shopping. If I told you how much the Dance Beat people paid for shoes that is just enough to go there. As you will see the Colonial architecture is amazing with many of the buildings still preserved in their original condition. In the evening they treated us to a very special place with traditional Peruvian food and incredible folk dancing from many of the areas in Peru. And as always there was plenty of dancing there and even some audience participation with a few of the people you might know just like in the last supper building.

The next morning, we were off again but this time to a very artsy area in Lima called Barranco. Many writers lived here and it compares to the “Village” in New York City. This town was lovely with great views to the see and their light house as well as a cozy charming little town.

We then headed to an incredible archeological sight, “Huaca Huallamarca” in the town of San Isidro. This might not look to you as impressive as the other sights in Machu Pichu but to know that this was there almost at the same time as the Egyptian civilization and unlike the “Inca” civilization they were ruled by “women” not men (that should get some of you women going). It was a simple civilization but as you can see built great cities and buildings and they also mummified and buried their people among the “pyramid looking” buildings. The best of all after a long day is the lunch among these ruins with as always five-star food for all tastes.

That night after a three-hour rest we were then taken to a world class restaurant that is at the moment 3 or 4 in the world for their cuisine and that is “Astrid & Gaston”, and a totally incredible experience with a dance floor that even Didio Barrera who usually does not dance at dance competitions, danced until he felt it for the next 2 days. The food and drinks that kept coming and made everyone salivate.

As I said before, the Dance Beat team looks forward to 2020 Ballroom Raymi and whether we are invited or not, we will just go there, because there is so much more to experience in this incredible country of Peru. Look forward to more pictures and more from the Peruvian “Ballroom Raymi” in our coming editions of Dance Beat. Also you must be wondering “Raymi” means. Well in the Inca language it is a gathering and this was for sure an incredible “Ballroom Gathering.”

Also you must be wondering what “Don” stands for. Well it is just like “Inca” there was only one king the “Inka” the rest of the people were “Quechuas.” Well in Spanish I was taught the Castillian way. When you meet a senator or anyone with great status you use the word Don instead of Mr. (or Senor).  That's why I called Mr. Di Natale, "Don Aldredo."

With this we leave you until you get the full story on the pages of Dance Beat with more professional pictures and insight.


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