This past weekend Nate and I attended the Las Vegas Desert Challenge Ballroom Competition with ASU’s Devil Dancesport Team. The competition draws students from several major southwestern universities and is held over a two-day period. My little brother Nate is currently a Sophomore at ASU and has picked up where I left off with the ballroom program. As part of the fun he’d signed up for a number of dances in this past weekend’s competition with several different partners. I had initially planned to tag along and support Nate and the team but ended up doing a late sign up about an hour before the competition started on Friday. One of Nate’s dance partners and a mutual friend needed a partner for several latin dances and graciously talked me into signing up for the competition.
Friday morning at 6:15 a.m. we all gathered in the parking lot north of the football stadium, staggered onto the two waiting buses and prepared for the long drive to Vegas. Two stops and X hours later we finally rolled into the city that never sleeps and set to exploring our hotel. We had an hour and a half to prepare before check-ins during which I frantically ran around getting the fee paid and signing up for Rumba, Salsa, ChaCha and Merengue. After getting checked in I set about trying to locate an outfit that would work for the comp. Luckily I’d brought a pair of black slacks and was able to borrow a black dress shirt. We all grabbed a bite to eat and then the dancing began.
After an hour of check-ins the comp started at 5 and ran until about 8 Friday evening. The main event was the open salsa competition. Andrea and I made the first two callbacks which was fantastic since we hadn’t had any time to practice together and had only danced Latin once or twice before. What really made the night though was Nate and Debbie’s Salsa. They were able to carry over some of the social Salsa moves we’ve developed for the club, and apply them to the competition environment. The result was a fantastic set of dances which took the GOLD! No small accomplishment given the structure of the Salsa competition. Unlike the majority of the other dances which are broken down into skill categories – Newcomer, Bronze, Silver and Gold – the Salsa is an open dance where all levels of dancers compete at once. As a result it’s both significantly more competitive than some of the other events and has a much larger crowd.
After a few exciting hours of competition the first day of the event ended. We assembled a decent-sized group. After waiting a while to round everyone up about 25 of us started toward the strip. The walk ended up being about a mile or so and after a few hiccups we ended up at a restaurant capable of serving the 15 of us or so that were still together. The food hit the spot and we managed to work in a little dancing at the restaurant in an open space that had been created when they put our 5 or so tables together. Stuffed, exhausted, and dreading the walk back to the hotel we began the mile walk down the strip and the additional mile between the strip and hotel. After a few hours spent socializing we all turned in.
The 2nd day of the competition was long. Check in was from 8-9 and open dancing stretched from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. with a 2 hour break for dinner. The day was a full one. Luckily the dancing was excellent, and the event organizers did a great job moving things along and mixing in social dances.
All of the ASU competitors did a fantastic job, and there was a lot of terrific dancing. For my part, I danced Rumba, ChaCha, Merengue and had a blast. Mixing things up and keeping everyone on their toes Nate and I decided to have some fun with our Merengue. Dragging our poor partners along, we performed a mid-dance tunnel maneuver where one set of dancers holding hands opens up and creates a bridge/tunnel of sorts, which the other pair then bends down and backs through. While the move didn’t score us any points with the judges (and may have even gotten us disqualified) it was entertaining and well worth it!
While I don’t have any direct video of the comp itself uploaded, Nate just finished posting this video of a ChaCha I danced with Jill during one of the social breaks.
After the competition wound down a group of us formed up and began the trek back towards the strip. After another long, tiring walk, we managed to arrive at the Excalibur before the buffet’s 10 o’clock closing time. As you can no doubt imagine, after a long day of dancing without food breaks, we were famished. We hungrily set to the task of emptying out the buffet and managed to make a pretty impressive dent before relaxing for a few minutes in a food coma.As we left the buffet in the Excalibur we picked up a few refreshments and then hit the strip. Several of the members of our group were under 21, and eager to keep the group intact we avoided areas that carded, sticking instead to the outdoor parts of the strip and common areas/casino floors.
Singing, dancing, and goofing off we made our way down the strip pausing to take in anything/everything interesting and generally having a blast. Eventually, we found our way towards Paris, Paris! We were delighted to find a large open portion of the sidewalk located directly in front of the bar’s patio area. The bar’s music blasting on the patio was loud enough that we could easily hear it on the sidewalk. As luck had it, it was just right for dancing. Before long we’d dropped our bags, put down our drinks and grabbed our dance partners. The sight of the 12 of us dancing on the sidewalk quickly caught passerby’s attention and before long we’d managed to gather a bit of a crowd. As the crowd grew, the occasional random brave soul jumped in and joined us. Hotel/Bar security kept a wary eye on us, and at one point 3 officers on patrol paused to watch us for a few minutes before continuing on down the strip.
One of the most entertaining moments came when one of the group realized that the music would work for the Wild Wild West line dance we’d learned earlier that day during the competition. If we thought we’d made a scene with the random dancing we’d been doing before, the line dance stopped passerby’s in their tracks. Before long, we’d probably gathered 30 or so people on the street and another 30 or so on the bar patio. After a few minutes of the Wild Wild West line dance, we decided it was time to continue exploring. We picked up our bags and were gone…just like that =) It felt like a spontaneously orchestrated Improv Everywhere skit. It was a blast!
From Paris, Paris! we meandered up and around the fountains before pausing briefly in front of one of the Casinos. Georgi and Chels (our two resident dance/gymnasts) showed off their skills with a number of back flips in a grassy area. Back flips completed and all extremely impressed we made our way inside and found our way to the stunning floral gardens. The gardens are incredible, with intricate designs created out of live flowers. It’s a beautiful and vibrant creation. As an added perk there were a number of beautiful butterflies on display in the butterfly greenhouse. Enjoying the setting we paused for a number of photos…more than a few of which involved dips, lifts, or other entertaining poses before making our way back outside and onto the strip.
Once back on the strip we wandered for another hour or two, pausing to take photos, dancing, drinking, and generally having a wonderful evening. Eventually, footsore and exhausted, we made our way back to the hotel by way of McDonalds. By the time we got back to the hotel it was 4:00 a.m. and after40 minutes or so socializing in the hotel room we split up and called it a night.
After 3 hours of sleep it was wake-up time. We piled our sore, bruised bodies back onto the buses for the trip back to Arizona. We’d all made loads of new friends, had incredible stories, and a wonderful weekend full of memories to show for it. Vegas was a blast!