The fifth annual S’pore International Salsa Festival starts next week as more S’poreans move to the Latin beat
By Germaine Lim
November 04, 2010
LATINO passion is firing up in tropical Singapore. Since July, there has been at least one festival celebrating South American culture and dance every month – and Singaporeans seem to be lapping them up.
NTUC Club will be holding its fifth annual Singapore International Salsa Festival (SISF) from Nov 12 to 14 at Downtown East.
Highlights include San Francisco brother-and-sister duo Junior and Emily Alabi, who are 10-time dance champions.
Renowned salsa pairs Ricardo Murillo and Viviana Vargas, and Russians Serge and Polina will also be at the event.
The festival director, Mr Mark Koh, thinks that this year’s event will attract at least 1,500 people, up from an average of 1,100 over the last four years.
Expatriates make up about a fifth of attendees, he said.
Mr Koh, 29, told The New Paper: ‘This year, we are expecting an increase in the participation numbers due to stronger support from our sponsoring local dance studios.
‘The strong performance line-up is also attracting salsa enthusiasts due to more performances by famed champions.’
He added: ‘Besides being a festival for the local salsa enthusiasts to get together and let their hair down, SISF is also an opportunity for the local salsa community to interact and learn from some of the world’s best.’
The cost of organising SISF was not available at press time.
Two weeks ago, Chijmes hosted the inaugural Laberinto Flamenco Festival (LFF), which was organised by local dance studio Los Tarantos.
In early September, the Brazilian Carnavaltroupe Beija Flor – one of the most influential samba schools of the annual Rio Carnaval parade – performed at the Esplanade.
Famed for its flamboyant costumes and percussion segment, Beija Flor counts Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and former Brazilian soccer star Zico among its fans.
Between July and September, Clarke Quay held its first Latino Salsa Thursday music series, with live music and free salsa dance workshops and performances.
In July, the library@esplanade hosted a Latin American and Spanish guitar concert by Argentine guitarist Sebastian Pompilio and British guitarist Justin Hyer, who performed works by Spanish and Latin American composers.
Dr Daphne Huang, the LFF’s organiser, said the surge of interest was because Singaporeans are more widely travelled and more exposed to the culture.
ON THE FLOOR:
Salsa dancing at Clarke Quay.
The LFF, which cost about $175,000 to organise, attracted about 2,000 people.
Half of them were locals, said Dr Huang, a 38-year-old medical doctor by profession.
Tickets were priced at $68 and $88.
On flamenco’s popularity, DrHuang said: ‘Singaporeans have become increasingly receptive as an audience and as participants.
Also, these festivals give homesick Latino and Hispanic expatriates and tourists ‘something to look forward to’, Dr Huang said.
Sales has become more popular in Singapore as the dance itself is a big draw, said Mr Adrian Khi, NTUC Club’s divisional manager.
Mr Khi, who is in his 40s, oversees NTUC Club’s Union Square clubhouse, which was established in2000.
He said that it attracts more than 100 salsa enthusiasts every Tuesday, when dance instructors guide beginners for free.
On salsa’s rise, Mr Khi said: ‘It’s a sensual dance, the beat to the music is pulsating, and the percussion sounds differentiate it from other genres.’
Dance studios also play a ‘big role in promoting salsa to beginners’.
He added: ‘They organise social nights, which is a good chance for people to widen their social circle and make new friends who share the same interest in salsa. It is also perfectly normal for strangers to dance with each other.’
Clarke Quay could not provide the number of attendees as Central Square, where Latino Salsa Thursday’s free dance workshops were held. The square is an open area, and it was difficult to do a headcount, its spokesman said.
But the venue’s photos showed that Central Square was packed.
Clarke Quay’s spokesman added that the free dance workshops were meant to ‘encourage more people to take the first step in learning the dance’.
Clarke Quay is keen to hold the event again next year.
Some Singaporeans who had attended these events told The New Paper that they were a good way to learn about other cultures.
Ms Rachel Chia, for example, had always been intrigued by salsa, but never felt compelled to pick it up.
The 33-year-old IT specialist said: ‘I happened to be at Clarke Quay one Thursday and joined the crowd during the dance workshop. I enjoyed myself thoroughly and have signed up for salsa classes.’
She also plans to attend SISF.
Arts specialist Herman Mahn, who is in his 30s, jumped at the chance of attending Beija Flor because he had ‘really wanted to experience a samba procession by a real Brazilian ensemble’.
But it’s never quite the same as the real thing, MrMahn said.
‘It was a good performance with bateria (percussions) and passistas (dances). However, it fell short of the ‘carnival experience’ as it was not performed on the streets.
‘I would go to more of these events if it was held on the streets or any huge parks and if there is a good line-up of artistes.’
WHAT: Singapore International Salsa Festival 2010
WHEN: Nov 12 to 14
WHERE: Downtown East
TICKETS: From $32 to $352 (www.tdc.sg or call 6296 2929)
Tickets to be won
WIN tickets to the Singapore International Salsa Festival.
The New Paper is giving away a pair of tickets to the Festival on Nov 12, courtesy of NTUC Club.
To stand a chance at winning, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and answer this simple question:
Where will the Singapore International Salsa Festival be held?
1. Downtown East
The contest ends on Nov 10 at midnight.
Please include your name, e-mail address, IC number and contact number. The winner will be notified, with details of ticket collection, via e-mail.