CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jeff Canon and Kimberly Hernandez danced to the live sounds of Adela Chu y Espiritu Libre at the Salsathon held at McCoy Pavilion yesterday. The three-day Puerto Rican Cultural and Salsa Festival featured DJs, music, food, vendors, dance workshops and a competition to qualify for the Third Annual World Salsa Championships.
Salsa dancers put spice into contest
Two HPU students advance to the world semifinals
Dressed in a pinstripe suit, Jerome Ramos spun his partner, Golsar Banabi, across the wooden dance floor of McCoy Pavilion at Ala Moana Beach Park.
Bubbly in her demure black dress, Banabi matched him step for step yesterday at the seventh annual Salsathon.
"We're a little nervous," Ramos confided, even though the couple looked completely at ease.
Both have years of experience, but the couple has been dancing together for only a week. Here they were, competing against two other professional couples.
As the three couples battled out on the dance floor, screams and applause erupted ever louder from the audience.
After an initial song, when all three couples danced, each took the floor to demonstrate their abilities during two-minute sessions.
After a quick tally of scores, the judges announced Ramos and Banabi the winners.
Ramos, 23, and Banabi, 24, who are both Hawaii Pacific University students, will be dancing together at the semifinals for the 3rd Annual World Salsa Championship at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., in December.
BRANDI SALAS / BSALAS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii Pacific University students Golsar Banabi and Jerome Ramos won yesterday's salsa dance contest and will dance in the semifinals of the World Salsa Championship at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., in December.
The competition yesterday brought together about 100 fans of the Latin dance in an atmosphere of bright colors and Caribbean music in an event to support the Hispanic Center of Hawaii.
Visitors from Puerto Rico, Japan and all over the mainland joined Honolulu residents to enjoy the eight-hour extravaganza, which included live music, margarita bars and cultural booths.
The creator of the annual event, Margarita Valdes, said she wanted to bring something a little different to Hawaii.
"I also found out that the City and County of Honolulu had a sister relationship with the city of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and I started to put things together," said Valdes, who goes by the name Latin Lady DJ.
Valdes sought out Nancy Ortiz, the founder of the nonprofit agency Hispanic Cultural Center of Hawaii, and created the event to help benefit the Hispanic community in Hawaii.
As emcee and a passionate former salsa dancer, Albert Torres helped Valdes coordinate the event. He was in charge of the salsa competition and was also selling original salsa CDs directly from Puerto Rico.
Torres danced in the 1992 movie "Mambo Kings" and choreographed the film "Dance With Me" (1998), starring Vanessa Williams. The Los Angeles resident said that he travels to Hawaii just to enjoy the Salsathon.
"I think it' s a great event," he said. "It's beautiful to see kids running around with their parents and an atmosphere where it's safe, they can dance and have a good time."