Hobby Turned World Record

The first Singapore International Salsa Festival was held at Downtown East last weekend, a 3-day event featuring salsa workshops, performances and some really nice Latin bands.  Why am I telling you this? Because although I only planned to attend the party on Saturday night, I ended up with my name, along with some 351 others, in the Guinness Book of Records.

When I first started to salsa in 1998, the result of my sister having won two free passes for 6 lessons, I was immediately hooked on the dance and after those 6 lessons, signed on and went faithfully every weekend to dance class for 2 years. Since then, there has been the occasional salsa workshop or choreography I would do, or performance at events, as a hobby.

Little did I expect the highlight of my salsa experience to involve having my name in the Guinness Book of Records. I was among the 176 couples last evening who danced our way to set a new record with 10 rueda calls (enchufla, arriba, adios, damẽ, la cucaracha, fly, etc.). “Rueda” means “wheel” in Spanish and involves couples in circle formation, dancing to the call-outs of a leader. Some calls eg. damẽ involves moving on to the next partner, so guys go anti-clockwise while the ladies go clockwise, which explains the wheel, somewhat like folk dancing.

While the dancing itself was enjoyable, what struck me more was the excitement of being part of a team (somewhat big as it may be) about to set a world record. The idea of having everyone focused on a common purpose, with only one opportunity to do it right, and the team-spirit evident from the conversations that evening was indeed a remarkable feeling. Every stranger in the hall and field (yes, we spilled out of the hall into the field) became a friend because each one mattered in breaking the record. We were also held together by a common language that we all understood in the form of the rueda calls and our passion for the dance.

Ten minutes to the start time of 7.30 p.m., and we had only 160 couples. The record then was 173 couples and 5 calls. Each time, a couple walked in, the emcee shouted out the new count and the entire “congregation” cheered, whistled, applauded, coo-ed. At 7.30 p.m., we had 168 couples. Then the unexpected occurred. As we had many more girls than guys, some of the more seasoned female dancers offered to be “leads” (take on the guy’s role) and partner the remaining girls so that they we could break the record of 173 couples. The rule allowed for it so long as there were equal numbers of “leads” and “followers” (male and female roles). When we reached 176, we were ready to roll – first to break the record and then to set a new record with the 10 calls.

The experience of being part of the 352-strong team dancing in synchronicity was amazing and the sense of achievement when the song ended was even sweeter.

So, anyone with an idea for a Guinness record with the global KM community?

2 Comments so far


Dance is one of those areas where someone can learn some steps, learn a routine, and perform it relatively well, but not be able to actually apply that routine to another situation. That person hasn’t really learned to dance, they’ve learned a dance. 

It sounds like you’ve learned to dance, congratulations on that (and the world record!).

It seems to me that this is reflective of how organizations go about knowledge management: Some want to manage their knowledge, and some want a knowledge management system. The latter is easy to do, anyone will sell you a knowledge management system. Actually understanding what your organization knows and being able to use it to further your organization’s goals, on the other hand, is a master’s journey that, unfortunately, too few seem willing to take.

Posted on November 10, 2006 at 03:33 AM | Comment permalink

Paolina Martin

Thanks Brett. It is daunting when you begin the journey because all the experts seem to do it so effortlessly. In salsa, I watched closely what they were doing and I did not follow their routine completely. I followed their attitude, which is to be different from the rest and push the boundaries to what can be done, so I created new moves.  It’s like the “hacker” you talked about in your blog.

In KM, the experts would be the Buckman Labs and BPs of our day. I think their success has very much to do with their attitude than what they implemented at their organisations.

Posted on November 13, 2006 at 11:21 AM | Comment permalink

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