My First Jack & Jill Contest By Yana Moultrie

Despite the gloomy weather the week prior to the event, I was looking forward to attending the 1st Annual Long Beach Salsa Expo. I often enjoy the low-key-ness of the salsa scene in the Long Beach and South Bay area. The salsa expo turned out to be an unforgettable experience, because it was my first time competing in a Jack and Jill Salsa contest.
A friend of mine, prompted me to give it a try. I had little time to prepare myself. Less than five minutes after I signed my name on the list, the host announced that we were to line up at the front of the stage. My heart began to race and my hands became numb with coldness. I looked at my friend with trepidation, wondering, what in the world did I just get myself into. She smiled enthusiastically and gave me a hearty two thumbs up. I appreciated her vote of confidence, but I can’t say it eased my nerves at all.
At the direction of the host, we began to line up, women on one side and men on the other. We introduced ourselves. Just when I was beginning to feel comfortable now that I knew who I’d be dancing with, the host yelled “rotate!” Was he kidding?! Just like that I was back at square one as we walked around and around until being asked to stop again. Finally I met my partner Diego. He was a very attractive guy, with a friendly smile, which helped a little. The host gave us all about 45 seconds to dance and get acquainted with our partners. Diego was a great dancer. I immediately became worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with him, or that I would mess up and make him lose out on the prize.
Competitors Lining Up
Competitors Lining Up
The host stopped the music and had all of us line back up at the stage. Then he had, the first couple go out and perform. Then the next couple went and so on. As each couple went and my turn came fast approaching, I clapped and cheered the other couples on to release some of my own nervous energy. Diego asked me, how I felt about styling. I honestly told him, I’m not very good at styling, but I could throw in some Hip Hop moves.
As I finished my sentence, low and behold, the host comes up to us and says “couple number six!” (I think it was six, I was so freaked out I really can’t recall). I stated my name, as does Diego. The crowd claps for us. Diego said ready, and the music started. I was on my toes, trying to anticipate what to do. I put a few extra steps in, because I lost my rhythm for a moment. Diego performed smooth movies, and I shimmied a little. The crowd cheered. Diego spun me around twice. And the music stopped. I thought to myself “whew, it’s over!”
The host made a comment about how all the couples were wearing the “whew it’s over” expression on their faces. We all laughed.

Other Competitors Giving It Their All!
The couples that were chosen for the next round and as winners of the competition in general were selected by the audience. The host came to each couple and the audience chose their favorites by applause. The audience was very gracious in giving each couple a big cheer. When the host came to me and Diego, I was surprised and relieved to hear a swell in the cheering. We were actually taken to the side and nearly made it to the second round of judging. Not bad for my first time performing Salsa in front of a crowd.
I spoke with my friend after the contest and she said I did a great job. She also offered me a little advice for the next time, which is to not worry so much about technique or messing up, but do something that people will remember. I had no idea it was more important to leave an impression on the crowd so that they would remember you the most. Although Diego and I did not win, I’m happy to have tried and opened myself to something new. And who knows, maybe I’ll be at next year’s Jack and Jill contest, with something shocking in mind to show.

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