Sizzling Salsa In Laughlin Nevada – An Event to Remember!

6-20-2002 - By SalsaCrazy!


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What could possibly possess 600 salsa dancers to congregate in the middle of a vast desert, located smack dab in the middle of nowhere, withstanding 100-degree weather, with nothing to do but suntan, gamble and dance?  Sizzling Salsa – and let me tell you up front, it’s fantastic.


This June, after hearing many good reports from others, I decided to take the trip to Laughlin Nevada, and participate in this year’s Sizzlin’ Salsa event, produced by DanceFun.  The deals are absolutely exceptional, with everything including plane fair and direct flight from San Francisco included for between $129 and $229!  In terms of value for your dollar, I’ve never seen such an amazing deal before.  It was simply . . . well . . . unbelievable..


Let’s start from the beginning – arriving at the airport, I immediately noticed several other Bay Area salseros and salseros waiting for our chartered flight to Laughlin.  We would all be on the same plane, with many others from the Bay Area.  Whipping out my trusty laptop, we started the dancing right then and there – with the latest El Gran Combo album (a must-own) – we danced for a good 45 minutes in the airport (go Maria & Robert)!  The time flew by.  This experience alone was more dancing than I’ve had at many other events as of late, but we were just getting started.


Getting off the plane in Laughlin, I notice it’s hot!  Not just a little hot, but scorching hot.  A short drive later, we arrive at our hotel, situated right on the Colorado river.  The town of Laughlin is small, and is situated smack dab in the middle of nowhere.  It exists for gamblers – and the only thing there appears to be casinos.  Don’t expect a lot of other things to do, or the allure of Las Vegas – because that’s not what this is about.  This is about salsa dance, pure and simple.


We arrived at 11:00am and the dancing didn’t start until 8, so we had that day to explore.  Many opted to take Jet-Skis out on the river, or sit out by the pool – they were the smart ones!  I decided to explore what Laughlin had to offer – and that turned out to be, “not much”.  There’s not much to do there besides gamble, and that’s what I ended up doing to my great misfortune.  Thank heaven the night came quickly – because I was not having any luck with the tables at all!


That night we had the pre-party dance, and while it was quite small, with less than a hundred people at first, I was having a great time.  Huge, well ventilated ballroom, with cold water always available (throughout the entire weekend).  Good sound, and a solid floor – I just danced, danced, and danced.  At about 1:00 in the morning it started to fill up as busses began to arrive from Los Angeles and Las Vegas.  The dancing continued until 3:00am.  Everyone danced – no one stood still!


We could have used more guys there, as the women did seem to outnumber available men at times.  I’m not complaining mind you – but it was taxing to get to everyone.  Guys – what are you thinking?  That Friday – a full day of workshops started.  By and large, the workshops were excellent, with everyone able to see and hear clearly!  Even though they were large, they worked well.  Teachers were well mic’d and were on high platforms.  Three workshops at a time, four times throughout the day, with dancing in between.  It takes a lot to make me sit through workshops – but I made it, and enjoyed myself doing it.  Everyone – and I do mean everyone – seemed to really be having a great time.


That first day, there was the pool party – an event that really validates the easy going and fun nature of the event.  A huge barbecue – tons of food – flowing bar – hot temperatures – and a ton of salsa music.  The pool party is a lot of fun and very relaxed and casual.  Everyone comes, dances, eats & drinks – and tries to stay awake in the heat!  I also saw Olivia Dasso (of the all-woman performing group, ____)  dancing with another women (whom I didn’t really recognize), and boy, she’s got those male moves down pat.  Not that you’d ever mistake her for a guy (she’s smokin’) – but when she’s leading . . .damn . . .


That night was the first night of real dancing, and when I arrived at the spacious event tent (well cooled by air conditioning), the band had already started. Son Mayor, from LA, were belting out the tunes, with DJ Frank filling in the breaks – and both did a great job keeping the people moving.  The dance floor is vast, and easily accommodates all the dancers, leaving lots of room for everyone. 


At about 10 – the dancing stops for the shows.  There are a single set of shows a night, lasting about forty five minutes.  Everyone can see the shows clearly, and there is plenty of seating available.  The shows were great, with the energy level kept high by the variety and talent of the performers.  Total blast – Congratulation to all those teams whom performed, and special congratulations to RicaSalsa and Tribu Nueva who represented the Bay Area – another shout go out to Marcelo and Coco from Seattle!  All the shows were so good, I don’t want to start calling out individual performances, or I’ll be here all night.

Each night, more dancing follows the shows. Unfortunately, the tent closes at midnight, and people have to move inside to the ballrooms, because it would have been nice to stay in one place the entire night.  In the ballroom, the dancing continues until the early hours of the morning – I’m not quite sure how long, as I never lasted in the ballrooms past three. 


The next day – more workshops – more dancing! Our old Bay Area salsa dance father – Alex de Silva, was there, with partner, Liz Lira.  Wow – Liz is great.  She just exudes grace – and she dances with everyone – making each partner feel special.  It’s a pleasure to watch her, and a pleasure to dance with her.  They taught two workshops – both with cool moves that had people gasping.  Same with Al and Edie – whom are fantastic performers, and great people to boot.  They dance with everyone – and really help people have a great time.  They always looking like they’re having a blast!


The second evening of dance was as great as the first!  Great shows, great dancing, and great people. 


So - what makes this event so special?  It’s hard to say.  Absolutely everyone I spoke with had something positive to say.  Everyone had a great time, and the energy throughout the event was overwhelmingly positive.  It was a true dancers event, from beginning to end.  Everyone danced with everyone else, regardless of level, and for the entire event, I never saw anyone turn down a dance . . . ever! 


The other thing is attendance was high – at every workshop and dance.  Without anything else to take your mind away from dancing, everyone shows up at all events, which is great and served to keep the energy level . . . . “sizzling” – for lack of a better word.


I would sometimes sit outside. Looking out at the river and the endless desert, and marvel at the fact that you can get so many people to the middle of nowhere, to have such a great time.  It speaks highly of the quality of the event, and the fantastic word of mouth.


What’s bad about it?  Well – really not much, but there’s always something.  The hotel has truly bad service.  I mean, really bad service. Everyone there, working at the hotel and visiting, seems lifeless, on the brink of death, just kind of waiting for it to happen.  The staff does not seem enthused to be working there (ask Zain of Tribu Nueva – as an employee unplugged his running machine as he was on it, ordering him to leave the workout area because the employee wanted to take a cigarette break)!  The cigarette smoke is thick at times, throughout the casino. That being said – It is a casino – and that can also be a bit depressing at times, watching seniors gamble endlessly on the slots and tables, losing everything.  It’s in stark contrast to the vibrancy of the salsa dancers as we take over the hotel.  The food is passable – but don’t expect to be eating filet mignon every night or drinking good coffee (I would have even settled for a Starbucks here – that’s how much I wanted a passable cup).  Oh – and of course, there’s no internet connections there (bummer for some of us).  The hotel is no Bellagio, which I stayed at on the next leg of my trip, and could quite possibly be the finest hotel I've been to in quite some time.


That all being said – the event itself is fantastic - most of the negative comments above actually make the event MORE fun! Anyone who wants to learn how to dance, or wants a fantastic dance weekend – meeting people from all over the states and beyond, should get a ticket for next year, and EARLY.  From beginners to advanced dancers – this event has something for everyone.  I give it an unqualified thumbs up!  This is a dance event that dancers have been waiting for.  Don't miss another very high quality event coming in September at the Doral Resort in Palm Springs (details on SalsaCrazy)!


DanceFun, creators of many fine dance events, do a fantastic job of catering to, and pleasing, the dancers! They put on an incredible event, they understand about customer service, and they provide an excellent value for the dollar.  SalsaCrazy.Com have worked with them on many events now, and can honestly say, they’re fantastic.


I guess the at the end, the things that speaks most highly of the event, is that without a single abstention, everyone I talked to, and myself included, said we’d be returning next year.  See you there!


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