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Barbara Bernstein
Invitation to the Dance - Reflections
MCI Center

Casino Rueda Meets the National Basketball Association! (It's Latin Night at the MCI's Wizards Game!)

by Barbara Bernstein
February 29, 2004
MCI Center
details coming soon

Casino Rueda Meets the National Basketball Association! (It's Latin Night at the MCI's Wizards Game!)

Barbara Bernstein
February 29, 2004

Let me tell you how it all began. I was at an NBA game last Christmas with my family, watching our local basketball team, the Washington
Wizards. During time-outs and quarter breaks, a fleet of lively cheerleaders ran onto the court and did some pretty hot, snazzy cheers. Watching them from my seat, I thought to myself, "They are basically just dancing."

And that is when it hit me. Dance entertainment during breaks in the game is obviously of interest to those who put together the program for the NBA games. So I contacted the gentleman who handles their entertainment and inquired about bringing Salsa dancers to perform. He was interested and said they might be able to use Salsa dancers in the upcoming season on their "Latin American night." And so it came to pass that I produced a Salsa and Rueda show for the MCI Center at an NBA game.

Professional basketball games in Washington D.C. are held at the MCI Center, a 20,000 seat arena. No indoor venue would be a larger audience or could give Salsa and Rueda more publicity. But due to the size of the stage area and the audience, they needed many dancers to fill the area for a strong show. So I got together several dance teams and couples who perform, plus Rueda groups from NYC and Richmond as well as my own Rueda team. We all danced together, filling the stage with life, rhythm, and Latin music!!

Everyone danced to the same music—-Rueda circles and Salsa routines alike. There were nearly 70 performers in the show which made it very exciting. To maximize our dance time (breaks in the game are brief), we ran on and off stage. Being part of such a huge group running onto the court to dance was quite an experience. And as we all ran off, we looked up at the thousands of people watching us and waved.

Since each Rueda circle and group was doing its own thing, we wore costumes that would add some cohesion to the presentation. All the guys wore black slacks and shirts. The ladies wore red or pink tops and black slacks. This helped us look unified on "stage" (i.e. the basketball court!).

And here is how we did our official bow the first time we were on the court. My Rueda circle which was the largest opened up into a semicircle with everyone holding hands and facing the center. Then all the other performers joined hands with us and completed the circle. I wanted everyone to turn around, face outside the circle (so we were looking at the audience) and then bow simultaneously. But once we were turned, we wouldn't be able to see or hear each other. It was unclear how to direct both the turn and the bow so they would be done at the same moment by everyone.

It occurred to me that the one thing we are all used to is keeping time and this was a timing issue. So we accomplished this by having someone count loudly: One, two, three, four, Turn, two, three, four, Bow, two, three, four, Wave Wave Wave Wave (We waved to the audience), and then we ran off! Once we heard the first few "beats," we could all keep that rhythm in our own heads even if we couldn't see or hear the speaker. So this maneuver enabled us to turn and bow simultaneously which provided a sharp and coordinated look to our ending.

It was a very cool experience to be part of a huge cast of dancers in such an enormous facility. And hopefully it gave visibility to a dance we all love and want to promote! I prepared some free hand-outs for the audience on the history of Salsa and Rueda. Some of the other Rueda dancers prepared a write-up on Timba music which we also gave out. As a Casino Rueda instructor in the Washington/Baltimore area, it was an honor to be able to produce a show that featured Rueda in such a venue.

And after the show, we partied and continued to dance into the weekend. Since I'd invited some out of town Rueda groups to participate, this provided the perfect opportunity to trade steps as Rueda dancers like to do. I showed them a couple of my favorites and they showed me some of theirs. We videotaped and have shared copies of the video so the groups could learn from each other.

Let me close with a brief anecdote from another show that I had produced over a year ago for the National Zoo's Annual Hispanic Festival. We were dancing in front of the Visitor's Center, an area right by the entrance. We were placed there so that everyone who came to the festival saw us as they walked in. Inside the Visitor's Center we had been assigned a room that was secure to leave our things and to relax between sets, etc. We had brought a CD player and some music so people could practice moves and routines before going on stage. But every time I walked into that room, no one was resting or practicing what they were doing in the show. They were just free dancing——showing each other new steps——you know the drill. To me what this says is that Salsa dancers love what they do so much that they can't be parted from it. And what better way to share that love than by dancing for an audience of thousands at an NBA game!

Barbara Bernstein is the director of DanceInTimeProductions.com, which is based in Maryland and Virginia and offers Salsa Rueda classes and custom shows, among other services. You can contact them at 301-464-6244, by emailing BarbBtalks@aol.com or visiting www.DanceInTimeProductions.com.

This article is copyright 2004, by Barbara Bernstein, Director of www.DanceInTimeProductions.com and is reprinted on ExploreDance.com courtesy of Barbara Bernstein.

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