A couple months ago, I wrote an article about the 2015 World Latin Dance Cup, which this year was one of the most poorly organized events I’ve ever attended. The article really resonated with people, and was shared hundreds of times across social media and read by over 11,000 people around the world.
One of the questions that I received from a number of people after I wrote that article, was how the World Latin Dance Cup compares to the World Salsa Summit, a similar Latin dance competition held in February every year.
At the time, I had never been to the Summit before, but this past week I had the chance to attend the World Salsa Summit for the first time, and I’ve decided to share my experiences here so that others who are interested in seeing what the event was like.
Attending a Latin dance competition is a huge investment of time and money (expenses run in the thousands when you include airfare, hotel, registration fees, costumes, and other costs), but it is hard to find reviews of what the events are like online. Hopefully this article will give you a better sense of what the World Salsa Summit is like, and how it compares to the World Latin Dance Cup.
|World Salsa Summit||World Latin Dance Cup|
The World Salsa Summit is the most organized salsa competition I’ve ever attended. The event runs on time, judges use electronic scoring, and schedules, scores, & videos are posted online in a timely fashion. The shorter duration and lower price makes the competition more affordable, and divisions such as heats encourage competitors to compete in more divisions. The competition also offers prize money for pros.
On the cons side, the competition is less well attended than the WLDC, although attendance is growing every year and the top competitors from the WLDC also attended the Summit. There are more competitors from New York and fewer dancers from LA. The production values were also not quite as high as the WLDC.
The World Salsa Summit is a salsa & Latin dance competition held in Miami every February (it is actually held at the Deauville Beach Resort, the same venue as the WLDC). The competition was started in 2013 by Billy Fajardo, the former head judge for the World Latin Dance Cup, along with Katie Marlow and Nelson Flores.
Billy is a longtime judge and competitive dancer in the salsa & Ballroom world, and along with being the former head judge of the World Latin Dance Cup, he was also the head judge of the US Salsa Open Championships and organizes a similar event for the Latin Hustle community.
The World Salsa Summit is smaller in size relative to the Latin Dance Cup, but attendance has been growing steadily every year. The competition runs for four days from Thursday to Sunday, and features nearly 70 categories for competitors, in genres including salsa, bachata, cha cha cha, merengue, samba, and Latin hustle. The competition features divisions for dancers of different levels, including Novice, Amateur, Rising Star (semi-pro), Professional, and Pro-Am.
The World Salsa Summit also features workshops during the day, a VIP dinner on Saturday, special dance showcases and dancing every night until 2am.
World Salsa Summit: 7
World Latin Dance Cup: 9
Presentation is one area in which the World Latin Dance Cup really shined, while the World Salsa Summit was somewhat lacking. The World Latin Dance Cup this year featured an amazing stage design by the talented Magali, with a gorgeous backdrop and paintings that really added to the atmosphere.
The Latin Dance Cup also features high quality graphics for their videos, which really adds to the production value, and professional photography by the talented Ricardo Tellez. There are also a number of little touches such as interviews with competitors after they compete that makes competitors feel like stars at a sporting event. Say what you will about Albert Torres, but he knows how to put on a good show.
The stage design for the World Salsa Summit was spartan in comparison, featuring a Ballroom dance floor with a few simple decorations as backdrops. This may be a matter of taste, but the production values for the Latin Dance Cup felt higher.
The advantage of the Ballroom floor used by the Summit was that it was a higher quality floor than the stage used for the Dance Cup, but the downside of having a dance floor rather than an elevated stage is that it made it more difficult for spectators to see the action.
World Salsa Summit: 8
World Latin Dance Cup: 6
The pricing for the World Salsa Summit is much more affordable for competitors than the World Latin Dance Cup.
The World Latin Dance Cup had a lower competitor registration fee of $90, but individual divisions were more expensive, ranging from $100 for a solo to $175 for teams.
The Salsa Summit, in contrast, had a higher competitor registration fee of $165, but lower costs for individual divisions, ranging from $35 for a heat to $100 for team competitions.
This means that if you were to attend the World Latin Dance Cup and only compete in one division, the cost may be lower than what you would pay for at the Summit, but if you compete in multiple categories, the Salsa Summit is a better deal.
As an avid competitor myself, my preference is for the Summit pricing because it makes competing in more divisions more affordable, and I saw many competitors taking advantage of the pricing at the Summit to compete in many divisions.
The one thing I didn’t like about the pricing at the Summit was the high cost for spectators. Tickets at the door for a full pass were $185 just to watch, which seems high to me. The organizers of the Summit need to lower ticket prices to encourage more friends, supporters, and fans to check out the show.
One area where the Summit really outperforms the Latin Dance Cup is in the cost of the hotel. The World Salsa Summit is more affordable by virtue of being the shorter of the two competitions– the World Salsa Summit is only 4 days long, compared to a full week for the World Latin Dance Cup.
The World Latin Dance Cup has grown in length every year, and has gotten to the point of being too long for a dance competition. The first two days of the competition are for “Qualifiers” which are mostly for show anyway, since most divisions don’t have more than a handful of competitors, so you automatically qualify for the semis. However, as an amateur competitor, you still have to arrive on Monday anyway if you want to “qualify” for a division.
The Finals for the WLDC are also not held until Saturday, so you have to stay for the whole week if you make it to the Finals. Taking off a whole week from work and ponying up a week’s worth of hotel fees is no small cost for amateur competitors, who only get 2-4 minutes on stage time. At the Summit, many of the Finals are held on the same day, so competitors don’t have to spend a full week just waiting to compete.
It is ironic that the World Latin Dance Cup, which once helped grow the amateur salsa community by creating a competition with amateur divisions, is slowly becoming too expensive for many amateurs to afford.
World Salsa Summit: 9
World Latin Dance Cup: 6
The aspect of competition that the World Salsa Summit really shines in is organization. The World Salsa Summit is the most well organized salsa competition I have attended— pretty much the opposite of the World Latin Dance Cup.
Registration for the World Salsa Summit was a relatively smooth process, not the 3-hour nightmare that was registration for the WLDC last year.
The competition stuck to the schedule for the most part, unlike the Latin Dance Cup which was always late. What was really nice for competitors is that they provided you with the exact time that your division would be competing.
For example, if the competition began at 2pm, but your division was the 5th division of the day, they would tell you exactly what time your division starts based on the number of competitors competing before you. That way you don’t have to show up at 2pm and wait around until your division is up, you can just come down a few minutes before your division is about to compete.
Schedules for all the divisions were available online and updated in real-time so you could go online to see exactly which competition was currently going on, an excellent use of technology which came in handy for both competitors and spectators.
Judging was a quick and efficient process thanks to the electronic scoring via iPads that the judges utilized, and there were no addition errors for scores like there were at the WLDC.
Scores for the competition were also posted online automatically, within hours or even minutes of the competition, so you could see exactly how everyone scored online instead of having to go down to the lobby and read off pieces of paper like at the Latin Dance Cup.
Another nice touch is that videos of the competition were posted to the World Salsa Summit YouTube channel within hours of the competition, so you could see how you and your competitors performed. The World Latin Dance Cup takes months to post videos, and many aren’t posted at all, but at the Summit they were available almost immediately. The Summit also allows spectators to take photos and videos during the competition, which is strictly forbidden at the Latin Dance Cup.
Overall, the World Salsa Summit ran smoothly, and was a much better experience than the Latin Dance Cup for both spectators and competitors, making good use of technology to keep everyone updated on what was going on with the competition.
World Salsa Summit: 9
World Latin Dance Cup: 8
The World Salsa Summit had close to 70 competitive divisions this year, compared to the 80 divisions at the World Latin Dance Cup. There is a lot of overlap between the divisions at the Summit and the Latin Cup, but there are a few key difference.
One of the main differences that I noticed at the Summit is that in addition to Amateur and Professional divisions, they also had divisions for Rising Stars (semi-pro) and Novices (beginners). This is a welcome distinction, so that newer dancers don’t have to compete against amateurs who have been competing for years, and likewise the Rising Stars division allows competitors to more smoothly bridge the gap between Amateur and Professional.
Another category of competition that the Summit has that the Latin Cup doesn’t is heats. Heats are social dancing competitions, where a random song is played and the competitors have to improvise a dance rather than perform a rehearsed choreography.
The heats were an extremely popular category at the World Salsa Summit, especially the pro-am heats where Amateurs got the chance to dance with Professionals. Since no choreography is involved, you can ask any Pro to dance with you, even one you’ve just met at the competition. It’s a great way for Amateurs to get the chance to compete with their favorite Pros, and for Pros to earn some extra income.
Another division that the Summit has that the Latin Dance Cup lacks is Amateur Cabaret. For some reason, the organizers of the Latin Cup stubbornly refuse to allow tricks in any Amateur divisions, allegedly for safety concerns (despite tricks being allowed in the youth and junior divisions). At the Summit, however, there are multiple divisions in which Amateurs can perform tricks and lifts, which I am personally a fan of.
Overall, I felt the heats and the different level of competition that the Summit provides add another dimension to the competition, whereas the Latin Dance Cup has a lot of divisions for the sake of having lots of divisions (“Pro Am Latin Over 75 Lady Lead”), many of which didn’t even have any competitors.
World Salsa Summit: 8
World Latin Dance Cup: 9
In terms of competition, the World Latin Dance Cup definitely had more competitors than the World Salsa Summit, but the level of competition was still very high at the Summit and the top competitors in the sport showed up to both competitions.
The reigning champions from the Big 3 divisions (on1, on2, & cabaret) from the World Latin Dance Cup all competed at the Summit as well, with Deklan & Natalia winning the On1 division, Simone & Serena winning On2, and Ricardo & Karen winning the cabaret division. The small teams division was won by Baila Conmigo (who placed 2nd & 3rd at WLDC) and the large teams division was a tight race between Alma Latina (former WLDC champs) and The New York Movement.
One of the main difference that I noticed between the two competitions is that the World Salsa Summit had more competitors from New York and the East Coast, while the World Latin Dance Cup had more dancers from LA, which is perhaps not surprising given where the organizers of each event are based.
There were also a large number of competitors from Puerto Rico and other South American countries who weren’t present at the Latin Dance Cup. There were a large number of Canadians at both competitions, but not the same set of Canadians, and there were no dancers from Turkey or Japan at the World Salsa Summit.
So the participants of both competitions were largely a reflection of the networks and alliances of the organizers, with some overlap, but neither competition had a monopoly on all the good competitors. The Summit had The New York Movement but not Omambo, the Couture Dance Alliance but not Salsamania, Alma Latina but not Balcon de los Artistas.
I will give the edge here to the World Latin Dance Cup, since they had more attendees overall, but it will be interesting to see how attendance for both of these competitions grow in the future.
World Salsa Summit: 7
World Latin Dance Cup: 8
Both the World Salsa Summit and World Latin Dance Cup are streamed live around the world, and the Summit is definitely the smaller competition of the two when it comes to viewership numbers. However, the difference between the two is not as big as you might think, if you’ve seen some of the bogus numbers thrown out by the Latin Dance Cup.
The World Salsa Summit received 40,000 total views for all of its videos over the course of the competition, with a peak concurrent viewership of around 1,200 viewers on Saturday night for the finals. All of the videos from the competition are also posted to their YouTube channel, and should continue to gather more views over the coming months.
The World Latin Dance Cup on the other hand claims that it is “Seen Live By Millions”, which is pure bunk. The live YouTube view count for the Latin Dance Cup hovered around the thousands for the finals of competition, but were nowhere near the millions.
On Facebook, the WLDC has one video of Ricardo & Karen (which they promoted via paid Facebook ads) which has a few hundred thousand views, but most of their other videos have a few thousand views at best. In fact, most of their videos are never posted at all.
If you were an amateur competitor who competed on Monday or Tuesday morning at 9am, the only people who saw your performance are the people in the room and a few hundred people on YouTube, not millions. You could be seen by more people by performing at your local salsa congress.
Albert has recently been making even more incredible claims about taking the World Latin Dance Cup from “5 million viewers” to “60-80 million”:
Ignoring the fact that the WLDC never had a million viewers to begin with, the most watched episodes of So You Think You Can Dance, America’s Got Talent, and Dancing With The Stars last year received 4 million views, 11 million views, and 13 million views respectively. That’s 28 million views COMBINED. Albert is claiming that the World Latin Dance Cup will be seen by 2-3 times that number of people, which is pure fantasy as far as I’m concerned.
World Salsa Summit: $15,000
World Latin Dance Cup: $0
One final thing I should mention is that the World Salsa Summit offers prize money for the winners of the professional divisions, while the World Latin Dance Cup does not. Albert Torres is notorious in the salsa community for offering prize money for his competitions, then not paying up. In fact, the WLDC stopped offering prize money to competitors at all since 2012.
There are no such shenanigans at the World Salsa Summit, where the winners are handed their prize money along with their trophies. There was $15,000 in prize money up for grabs at the Summit this year, and the winners of the pro divisions were paid on the spot.
It seems like a no-brainer to offer compensation to professional dancers. When even college salsa competitions such as the College Salsa Congress and Collegiate Salsa Open offer prize money to the winners, it seems backwards that a major competition like the World Latin Dance Cup does not.
Overall, the World Salsa Summit was a much better organized event than the World Latin Dance Cup. The event ran on time, the judges used an electronic scoring system which was fast & accurate, and event schedules, scores, & videos were posted online in a timely fashion.
The Latin Cup still boasts higher attendance numbers, but attendance to the Summit is growing annually and the top competitors from the WLDC also attended the Summit, making for a strong competition.
For Amateur competitors, the World Salsa Summit is hands down a better experience. The event is shorter, and thus more affordable, and the lower entry costs mean you can compete in more divisions. The divisions are also spread out evenly through the week, so you can easily compete in a Pro-Am on Thursday, do a couples routine on Friday, compete with as a team on Saturday, and get a chance to dance with your favorite Pro on Sunday in a Pro-Am heat.
There are also Amateur Cabaret divisions for Amateurs who enjoy tricks, and a Rising Stars category for Amateurs who want to move beyond Amateur but aren’t quite ready to go up against the most experienced Pros.
Contrast that with the World Latin Dance Cup, where Amateur competitors have to arrive on Monday if you want to qualify or Tuesday if you are pre-qualified. Since only a few competitors will make it onto the Finals, for the majority of Amateur competitors your competition will end on Tuesday, but you have to stay until Saturday or Sunday because you’ve already booked the hotel & flights, paying over a thousand dollars to do so.
Most of the Amateur competitions will have low viewership because the competition starts at 9am (6am West Coast time) on a Monday or Tuesday, and the videos from the competition will likely never be posted online.
For Pros, it still makes sense to attend both competitions since you won’t have to stay as long as an Amateur would, and you get the opportunity to compete against the best dancers from both the West & East coasts. With the Summit you will have the opportunity to compete for prize money, and although the Latin Cup doesn’t offer any prize money, winning the competition can win the attention of Albert Torres, who remains one of the largest promoters in the international salsa world.
Those are my thoughts on the World Salsa Summit vs the World Latin Dance Cup. Personally, I will be skipping the WLDC this year and work towards the Salsa Summit in 2017, even though it is at an awkward time of year. There are also a couple of new competitions coming up this year as well, such as the Ultimate Latin Dance Championship and World Salsa Championships, which will be interesting to watch.
If you’ve read this far and have attended either or both competitions, leave a comment and let me know what you thought of the World Salsa Summit and World Latin Dance Cup. I would love to hear what you think!