For the last 12 years, Marisol Blanco has been fighting against numbers.
Specifically, she has been hard at work dispelling the notion that dancing Salsa is about counting steps and following a mechanical style. "That's just atrophying the brain of dancers," she says.
For this Havanera, who hails from the the culturally rich Guanabacoa neighborhood, it's all about understanding the African history of Cuban music, how it has created its percussion and steps. Then the rest – and the body – just follows.
“If you know where you come from,” Blanco says. “You know why you manifest yourself this way.”
Blanco is one of the dancers and instructors who will be participating in the Miami Salsa Congress and offering a Master Class workshop. The annual event, which will take place from July 26 to 28 at the Eden Roc Hotel in Miami Beach, features Latin dance workshops with local and international experts, top-of-the-line showcases, and huge dance parties late into the night.
Blanco, who leads the Sikan dance company, is teaching a workshop and performing at the event on Saturday. She has been participating in the Miami Salsa Congress for 10 years now, on top of teaching regular classes in two studios in Miami.
“It’s been ten hard years trying to educate and trying to show them the correct way,” Blanco said. “Ten hard years fighting to show them the importance that they need to learn the foundation.”
Blanco’s Afro-Cuban classes focuses on dances from those various African ethnic groups, such as the Yoruba and Bantú as well as Afro-Haitian groups that have been incorporated into Caribbean rythms. These culturally rich activities includes specific dances inspired by the orishas, the West African deities of Afro-Cuban traditions like Ifá and Regla de Ocha, also known as Santería.
Blanco makes it a point to say that she teaches culture, not religion, however.
“The body, when it’s dancing, is not empty,” Blanco said. “All the artists when we perform, transmit essence, transmit message with your body. But if you don’t know how to interpret it or what that means, you can’t transmit nothing.”
For Blanco, dancing to Salsa is a work of staying true to the historical foundation of the music. In this case, it's honoring the legacy of West African ethnic groups that lives through the Cuban music and in Salsa.
“It’s not only about performing, it’s about knowledge,” Blanco said.
If you go
Miami Salsa Congress
July 24 - 28, 2019
Eden Roc Miami Beach Hotel
4525 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, Florida 33140, United States
Tickets available here. http://miamisalsacongress.com/