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Local dancers aid troupe in World Cup win

FOUR North Vancouver dancers were among the members of a Vancouver dance troupe that won the World Championships in Cuban Salsa at the World Latin Dance Cup last month.

FOUR North Vancouver dancers were among the members of a Vancouver dance troupe that won the World Championships in Cuban Salsa at the World Latin Dance Cup last month.

Local residents Daniela Ugarte, Sasha Cooke and Marissa Heaven were joined by Manuel Aguilera, who travelled all the way from Venezuela to compete with the Grupo America team at the competition put on by Albert Torres in Miami, Fla., from Dec. 12 to 15. Aguilera will remain in North Vancouver to learn English.

The Vancouver-based troupe Grupo America is part of the World Dance Company and was awarded first place in the Casino Rueda-Cuban Salsa category and second place in the Bachata team category.

The only group team from Canada that has ever won in this competition, Grupo America beat out hundreds of competitors from Latin America and around the world to claim the two world titles.

This is the first time the team has entered the competition in four years, having entered and won first place for Casino Rueda-Cuban Salsa in 2007 and 2008.

They've heard from some people that no one at these kinds of competitions ever believes that their multi-ethnic Canadian team can dance at as high a level as the teams from Latin America, says Erika Sanchez, the group's manager, in the statement. The team represents nine different cultural backgrounds. Each time they win, it's like they're showing the world, 'You don't need a Hispanic last name to dance good salsa.' It's powerful to be able to help spread this kind of message, she says.

The group was put straight through to the finals for Casino Rueda, and danced its way up from the semi-finals to the finals for Bachata.

With three of the team members having just joined the group this summer, the troupe trained all summer and fall for its wins.

Grupo America was started 15 years ago by artistic director and choreographer Diego Sanchez and his sister, Erika.

The troupe performs dance choreographies for school groups and at special events all over B.C., and puts on a yearly event at the Shadbolt Theatre called the World Dance Festival, promoting dancing from around the world.

Grupo America practises regularly at the World Dance studio in Burnaby, where Diego teaches salsa, bachata, tango and other Latin dances to beginner, intermediate, and advanced dancers every day of the week.

He was called "the world's best Cuban salsa choreographer" by Torres, an international salsa event organizer and promoter.

Info: worlddanceco.com.

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