Hustle and Prance
"Men know that once they know how to lead, any woman they want is theirs," says Randy Atlas, making a statement that might apply to the political or business arenas, but actually refers to the world of dance. It's a realm he knows well. The light-on-his-feet Atlas, in an odd sort of superhero twist, dubs himself the world's first architect, criminologist, and ballroom dancer (he holds a Ph.D. in criminology and a master's degree in architecture). When he's not designing jails, prisons, or courthouses, consulting with law enforcement agencies, or teaching criminal justice, Atlas is continuously moving, teaching swing dance, DJing at parties, and dancing at every opportunity.
A big chance for dancers of all kinds (from amateur nightclub denizens to those taught by professionals) to have a ball is this weekend's International Hustle and Salsa Competition held at the Miami Airport Hilton. Hosted by Atlas and hustle champions Billy Fajardo and Katie Marlow, the first annual affair features professional dance demonstrations; 30 workshops with first-rate instructors in various styles such as mambo swing, salsa casino, and hustle; private lessons; contests galore with cash prizes; vendors hawking dance clothes, shoes, and accessories; opening- and closing-night parties; and a festive gala. Atlas claims to have taught 5000 people to dance. About half that number is expected to attend this event. Or will they? A rival convention, the World Disco Classic 2000, which Atlas helped found, will occur at exactly the same time in Broward County. Atlas claims it is purely a fluke that the "dueling disco events" are scheduled at the same time. But he also assures his event will be the superior of the two. "We've got the A list," he claims. "They've got the B list."
Take his partners' dance credentials: Fajardo is founder and leader of the acclaimed hustle company Dance Dimensions, which appeared on the syndicated TV show Don Kirshner's Rock Concert from 1978 to 1982. Marlow is a long-time dancer who has made numerous appearances on television and runs her own troupe, Dancesation. The two joined forces last year and clinched, among many honors, the national championship title at Philadelphia's Disco America competition. "They're basically the world-reigning hustle champions," Atlas brags.
Take some of the conventions' big events. The World Disco Classic 2000 intends to salute Salsoul orchestra leader Vince Montana with an appearance by Montana and a concert by disco diva of yore, Loleatta Holloway, during a Saturday-evening affair. The International Hustle and Salsa Competition boasts "Dance Dimensions 2000," a Saturday-night dinner party, which will include a musical tribute to disco kings the Bee Gees, along with a special award presentation to the band (which unfortunately will not be present) by one of the stars of the movie Saturday Night Fever. They also trumpet an appearance by local salseros Hansel and Raul, who will play live later that evening.
And of course, with more than 1000 people attending, networking and mingling possibilities are sure to occur. "I can give you the ugliest, homeliest man and if he can dance, you know what? By the end of the evening, he's going to be looking a lot more attractive to you," Atlas says. "I can't tell you how many marriages and relationships have bloomed between people because they could dance. There will be some serious romance and passion going on here. It will be a blast."
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