As this year's runner up in the Tour Operator of the Year category, we at The Holiday Place were immensely proud to attend The LUKAS Awards 2014 last night, which took place in London's KOKO club. I, as a music-loving, hip-shaking Latin myself, happily assisted with a group of colleagues who were as ecstatic as I to be participants of this year's gala ceremony and eclectic Latin show.
Having been nominated for the first time ever in the event's three-year history, we were naturally excited to be part of this colourful gala, described in its previous edition as "The hottest ticket in the Latin diary". Those were the exact words acclaimed Cuban ballet dancer, Carlos Acosta, used to praise this Latin extravaganza of music, dance and colour, after having received the Lifetime Achievement Award during the 2013 edition of the LUKAS.
Celebrating all things Latin in the UK, the Latin UK Awards (or LUKAS) reward the contribution of Latin American, Spanish and Portuguese culture to the UK. On past editions, famous guests and award winners have included Spanish singer David Bisbal, Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, fashion designer, Vivienne Westwood and Royal Ballet dancers Carlos Acosta and Tamara Rojo.
The woman behind it all, Amaranta Wright, founder and director of the LUKAS has described it thus:
"The LUKAS is an amazing event. Established international Latin stars share the stage with new musical sensations making their careers in the UK."
But without further ado and prelude I'll get onto the juicy stuff – the dazzling 2014 gala that saw a parade of stars glide through the scenario and take the stage to collect their prizes and thank the UK for its support of the Latin community, its culture and its people. Many award winners were quick to express their gratitude to the UK for being the platform that launched their careers and helped extend their Latin roots to the British public.
Hosted by Yanet Fuentes, a stunningly gorgeous, sexy Latina and Cuban dancer that's also the main co-star in the recently screened British dance film and comedy, Cuban Fury, together with Spanish TV legend, Venezuelan presenter and screenwriter, Boris Izaguirre, the event was kept lively thanks to the natural charms of this duo and to the witty antics that those that know Boris are well used to (I was quite familiar with him from having watched the highly popular Spanish TV show "Cronicas Marcianas", in which he starred for nine years).
The evening was kick-started by the fast-paced, sensual moves of the explosive dance group made up of Cuban, Brazilian and Colombian winners who put up an amazing medley that included Guaganco, Tango, Samba, Bachata, Salsa, Mambo, Flamenco and Kizomba. The stunning performance was choreographed by Strictly Come Dancing's Richard Marcel, who perfectly created a cohesive fusion of these different yet equally tantalising Latin dancing styles.
In between the award-giving ceremony and speeches, various acts took to the stage to gift the audience with memorable performances, each showcasing an outburst of authentic Latin flavour. We were delighted by the tango performance of Kim and David, who were also the winners in the Tango Performer of the Year category, while the Brazilian folklore group, Da Mala, who won the Brazilian Act of the Year performed two of their intoxicating songs.
For a different taste of Latin music and dance expression, renowned flamenco dancer, Rafael Amargo took to the stage to show of his traditional Spanish dancing roots and Andalusian soul to give a hypnotising performance. Picking up the tempo and bringing the evening to a feet-tapping a high, the winners of the Tropical Act of the Year, Colombian singer Dorance Lorza and salsa-band Sexteto Cafe gave a stunning performance, that saw some guests abandon their chairs and take to the dance floor.
During this year's gala party, the shows and events that unfolded were as pleasing to the eye and ears as they were moving and touching to the heart. Heartfelt words of gratitude and encouragement were uttered by famous personalities such as human rights activist, Bianca Jagger (who I was lucky enough to meet in person and personally congratulate on her amazing charity work and worthy causes) and Paco Pena, who, during his speech remembered to mention the recent untimely death of Paco de Lucia two months ago, and also dedicated his award to the memory of who has now become a living legend.
Another celebrity to make a moving speech was Osvaldo "Ossie" Ardiles, who talked about his move to the UK when he was a talented young midfielder and how this country had welcomed him with open arms during a time in which foreign players were still something of a novelty in the UK. He touchingly talked about how grateful he felt towards the UK and the opportunity it had given to develop professional and contribute to the international sports scene.
And on the subject of Hispanic footballers playing for British teams, also present aat the awards was Hugo Rodallega, the young Colombian football player that currently plays for Premier League club, Fulham. Despite not moving from his seat as a guest, he still drew plenty of attention among other gala guests and fans. He also gladly and graciously posed for photos with many of them (including myself and one of my colleagues, as you can see in this post's gallery).
To give this the vibrant, all-dancing, all-colour ending it deserved the samba-dancing group, Tropicalia, the winners of the Brazilian Dance Performers of the Year put on an amazing show, in which scantily clad Latin beauties artfully shook their hips and feathers (no pun intended, they were dressed in bright carnival costumes). For a moment you could forget you had escaped the London chill and were in a rhythmically-inducing, brightly-coloured and fast-moving Rio parade.