I mean, not only was I travelling with the great Nelson Flores and his Descarga Latina Dance Company, I was to perform for the first time ever in my “dance life”! While I – at that time – had been socially dancing in the NYC salsa scene for over 7 years, performing was not something that I had ever envisioned in my lifetime……..let alone on an international stage!
However, once the initial anxiety & nervousness passed, the excitement of traveling to T&T took over. I started my usual routine of researching the history, the culture, “touristy” landmarks, the foods, and – of course – the music. As our plane landed and our team began our travel to the event hotel, I briefly remember thinking to myself, “How a small country such as Trinidad & Tobago could measure to the same level of love and passion for Salsa / Latin music – and partying – outside of the US & other Latin American countries?”
That question was quickly answered within hours as we had arrived for the first – of many – Latin parties being held on that Thursday evening. It was where – in my opinion – my “inner Trini” was born. There was a whirlwind of beautiful, smiling people all over the place to witness a competition of locals and their respective love for Latin dancing. To say I was blown away at the level of competitiveness and talent was an understatement. There were so many introductions to so many locals that I could never, ever imagine I would remember any of them. Not to mention the – sometimes hard to understand – Trini accents. Of course, once the competition was over, the party had JUST begun. By the end of the night – one thing became VERY apparent: The Trini’s can PARTY!
By the next day, there was a multitude of people who were very welcoming and quite friendly to us “foreigners” and ensured that we were all having a great time. You can immediately see that a “family” was being built and comradery amongst one another was happening right before your eyes all for the love of dance & music. As the event proceeded on through the rest of the weekend and ultimately to its end, it became quite clear that saying goodbye to everyone was not going to be easy, however, it would not be the last time that I would be back.
With the event now in the rear-view mirror and the by the good graces of social media, I was able to maintain the friendships most of those that were met on the trip. There were daily communications about what is going on in T&T, jokes, pictures, stories. In short – there was no end in sight of ever letting go of this beautiful group of people and ties to the country. And – with the wonderful, strong bond of true friendship – I was able to experience a Trinidad carnival in 2014 with those whom I had met less than a year prior. An experience that – not only should every person experience – but one that I will NEVER forget.
By the time of Salsa Fiesta 2014, I had a year of “practice” and felt that I was a “Born again” Trinidadian. I was able to understand everyone’s accents, write and speak in true Trini slang, could eat any level of spicy foods, and – of course – dance (or at least try) to my Soca! I was clearly the object of joyful amusement amongst my friends and, at Salsa Fiesta 2014, was awarded a title of “Honorary Mr. Trinidad” at the Queens Hall main event. A gesture that I will remember for the rest of my life.
The event has not only allowed to meet some of the most amazing people and dancers from all over the world, it has also allowed me to meet my – now Trinidadian wife – Kelly. And, as our 2nd year wedding anniversary approaches in July, I continue to thank God each and every day for – somehow – placing me in the beautiful arms of Trinidad & Tobago to meet her. I love you Kelly but remember – “doh bun di roti, eh!” (LOL)
Today, as the 2017 Salsa Fiesta event approaches – my 5th consecutive and my 8th overall trip to T&T – I am reminded as to how this passion for T&T all started. The anxious excitement of seeing everyone from years past, the strengthening of the bonds made, the stories to reminisce of and, the new ones to create. When asked to write my perspective – apart from my thoughts – of Salsa Fiesta, the only way I felt I could only respond is by congratulating all those who make it happen. For – without them – ALL of us would not be here to celebrate the love of friendship & dance!
Lastly – and to all those who have ever wondered – if Salsa Fiesta T&T can measure up to the other Latin events around the world, my response is, “Come fast and see fuh yuh self eh…….Cuz we Jammin Still!!!!”
P.S. To all of you out there – Kurt “Fluffman”, Ade, Kim, Nicholas, Mike Fortune, Lisa, Jewel, Chezelle, Karline Edwards, Karline Brathwaite, Chevonne, Mekeisha, Chris, Carol, Martin Jim, Mary, Laura, Michael, Devon, Anderson, Remy, etc., etc., etc, (sorry if you weren’t mentioned, but I thinking of allyuh!) ALWAYS REMEMBER this, “ah consider allyuh meh people!”