By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
Looking at the diverse crowd here including people from Japan, England, and Saudi Arabiait's like you've died and gone to hipster heaven, or flipped through a United Colors of Benetton catalog. There are two types of people, those on the dance floor, and those who have formed a circle and are watching the dance floor. People on the dance floor are divided into two categories: those who are dancing, and those who are standing in front of the DJ with their camera phones taking pictures of the DJ. Common is the sound of people screaming as if they're on a roller coaster. Yeah! Woo!
The best thing about WMC is that people dance. Everywhere. In their chairs. At the bar. Near the dance floor. On the dance floor. Everyone dances. But not in couples; you're dancing in circles, with yourself and with everyone in the whole party at the same time. Additionally, you're dancing with the DJ.
Anyone can be a good dancer. The key is the ability to completely let go. Don't think. Just move. Once you start to think, you are doomed. Don't be smart; be obedient to the beat. It's very important to have no qualms about letting the beat kind of hang out in you. Of course, it helps if you've had some training, but never underestimate the power of the beat in providing the right movement at the right time. Some of the best dancers in these ciphers at WMC are those who've had no training at all.
The dancers on the roof seem to be much more serious about taking it higher and going deeper, so to speak, than those in the garden. Earlier on the roof, New York DJ Ian Friday threw on some Ghanaian high-life, and people went nuts. Brooklyn's DJ Spinna rolled through to hear his set.
Later, as the garden party winds down that night, the beautiful Tahitian-looking waitress and the buff blond bartender are making out at the bar while Sam, the hotel's general manager, snaps pictures of them with his camera phone. As people descend from the rooftop party, they're so thrilled and/or drunk that many can't help but compliment the security guard as they leave.
"Good vibe. Really good vibe."
"Really great party."
"Now that is a party up there. Great party, guys!"
"Uh, somebody vomited in the stairwell," adds a petite redhead. She walks away with her friends.
"It was probably her," retorts the guard, a big, bearded, bald guy who resembles Isaac Hayes. "They've been drinking all day. I don't see how they do it. The music never slows down.
"Everybody wants to be a DJ," he adds, snarkily.
Interestingly, all the naysayers let down by the MAW party still follow Louie Vega to his Roots party at Lummus Park Beach the following afternoon. Nothing like dancing in the sand. This morning it was pouring down rain and a lot of early parties were cancelled, but this one just started later. Telemundo is here; the bar has espresso as well as alcohol. Vega kicks off his set with the Super Bowl song, "One Dream," with its distinctive Latin-jazz flavor. Nothing like salsa dancing in the sand. Soon, he brings up timbales and a conga player.
Vega's uncle, Héctor Lavoe, is getting a lot of attention this year because El Cantante, the biopic starring Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez, will be released in August. Lavoe's entire catalog will also be released this summer, and Vega is compiling a remix album and writing the liner notes. "As a kid, I remember he and [fellow Bronx salsa icon] Willie Colòn used to come over with their test pressings and play them for my mother," Vega recalls. "I kind of feel like I'm carrying on his spirit. And I'm really excited about the way my remix of 'Mi Gente' came out. I took him to the clubs, but still kept the integrity of his feel and his soul and his and Willie Colòn's sound."
On the beach, Vega uses the party to showcase the artists on his label, Vega Records: a spoken-word artist named Oveous Maximus, a Bronx rapper named Mr. V, and Louie's own wife, Anané, a Cape Verdean and Portuguese singer of statuesque beauty. When she takes the stage, the sun has set and more than 800 people have arrived. She pulls people onstage until it's filled to capacity with people dancing, including Vega's mother, sister, and son. With the stage overflowing, Vega does a live version of "One Dream," complete with banners reading "One Love" and "One Dream" held in the air by kids. By the time he gets to "Mi Gente," hardcore breakdancers have taken over the stage and people are furiously salsa dancing in VIP.
The next afternoon, everything is pandemonium at the Miami Beach Marina. Even with an RSVP'd invitation, there's a 50-to-1 shot of making it on board for the Masters at Work sunset yacht soiree, one of the most exclusive parties at WMC. Being on the list has nothing to do with it; it's more a matter of convincing the right people that you belong here, dancing on a yacht with an open bar and free food and a few of the best DJs in the country.