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Editor's Note: You ever wondered what mambo dancers will be like when your old and retired. Well Jai tells us of one experience that gave him a peek of what his future might be like. - Manny Siverio 

Go easy on him Bea…
- by Jai Catalano

Photo on page - Directly below: 
Jai and Candy doing their Dorothy and Tin Man number at the 3rd Annual West Coast Salsa Congress

Have you ever wondered what the salsa scene would be like once you are at the retirement age?  If you are in your 20’s or 30’s, most congresses that we attend today will be reuniting dancers for the 40th or so anniversary.  Will we all be there?  Will your passion for the dance be the same as when you were a young adult?  Will we all be circled around each other admiring the retired couple battling each other on the dance floor?  How different was the scene then as it is now?  Well, in December 2001, I discovered some pretty interesting things that the new comer of today has to look forward to tomorrow. 

I recently had the pleasure of performing at the wonderful, and luxurious Goldcoast Ballroom in Coconut Creek, Florida.  Home to the retired, but hospitable to all that grace their dance floor.  Candy and I were well received there and after we socially danced, many of the regulars came over to congratulate us on a job well done as they enlightened us of the many dance stories they experienced at places that no longer exist.  One after another they came over to give us a taste of the mambo past and the vision of what’s to come.  It wasn’t until one of the ladies there took me by my wrist and walked me on the other side of the 3000 square foot ballroom, and put me face to face with a lady named Bea, who danced at places like the Palladium, that I realized I was about to be enlightened.

I never asked to dance with Bea and it sure didn’t look like she asked or even wanted to dance with me at first.  Neither one of us knew each other but this lady that took me by the wrist swore that Bea moved similarly to Candy.  This lady took both Bea and myself and positioned us on the dance floor.  We looked at each other without even knowing who the other one was, and to save face both Bea and I danced.  Right from the start I knew something was about to happen.  I gave Bea a CBL (editor's note: Cross Body Lead) and 25 people or so stood up and walked over to where Bea and I were dancing.  I gave Bea a single right turn and 6 or 7 couples stopped dancing and turned around to watch us.  I gave her a double and the crowed gasped and then I knew it was on.  Our confusion of each other turned to wonder as I did a double right turn and she screamed out Woh!!!  The crowd cheered…  So I figured if the crowd wants a show then a show is what the crowd will get and Bea got to work on them too.  Turn pattern after turn pattern we danced as sweat was forming from us both.  I felt the need to do shines as the song was nearing the end so I could see what she had to offer the eagerly anticipating crowd as well as myself.  I started off with something simple like a Suzy Q chord to see if she could hang.  She jumped straight back on the heels of her shoes and stayed suspended in the bar of the music and screamed.  One of her male friends yelled out “go easy on him Bea.”  So I did one of my more advanced steps called “on the edge” which ends with four circular chest rolls.  Bea approved but at the same time she syncopated her way to where I was waiting as she did a double body roll.  It was hips, stomach, ribs, chest, shoulders, head and then she went back down.  Head, shoulders, chest, ribs, stomach, hips and boom the song was over…  

Photos on page - directly above:  
Jai and Candy doing their Guys and Dolls Number at David Melendez's Starlite Caterers in the Bronx

Bea and I finished our dance with a traditional dip, a hug, and then a kiss as we parted ways.  The crowd congratulated us both and I went back to thank the lady who took me to Bea but she had disappeared into the mix of people.  I never got a chance to speak to Bea or the lady who brought me to her after my dance down mambo lane, but I no longer wonder where I will be, or what I will be doing if God keeps me around another 40 or 50 years.  I can’t help but feel that the scene that I know today is not as different, but rather more similar than I could ever imagine.  Sure the dance has changed a bit, the turn patterns are faster and more complicated, the shines are more syncopated and complex, the music is more technologically defined, they sold it as mambo we sell it as salsa, the people have come and gone but the essence of everyone’s passion and desire to be part of the dance, no matter how big or small, is exactly the same.  I guess you can say Bea schooled me that day but the ironic thing is that her invaluable lesson never said a word

Click here for more info on Jai & Candy's Dance Studio.

Click here for their listing in the Directory of Mambo Performers.


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