For those of you who love to dance – whether you’re an expert or a novice ̶ I have just the event for you! I was a ballet dancer growing up, so the current social dance craze has opened up a whole new world to me. As some of you know, for about a year, I’ve done a little social Salsa from time-to-time. My first official lesson was last July and, I confess, it was also my last…that is, until now.
Last weekend, I attended my first-ever Salsa and Bachata festival. Apparently, these events are staged all around the world. They are called “congresses,” so that is the term you use if you want to search for one near you. Just type a city into a Google search, followed by “Salsa Congress.”
Congresses feature hours of workshops and boot camps at reasonable prices. Some of them are specifically tailored to beginners. I was offered about 50 hours of instruction, social dancing, and performances over the course of three days for $170. That’s an incredible deal, especially considering that dance champions flew in from around the world to teach and perform…Spain, Portugal, France, Columbia, Cuba…more than I can remember. Attendees also flew in from an array of foreign lands for a chance to learn from them.
The entire weekend was an experience that I will never forget! If you’re thinking about attending a congress, here is some inside information that I was fortunate to learn:
Bring three pairs of shoes.
I didn’t survive all of the 50 hours, but I would definitely say that in three days, I danced for over 20 of them! That called for bringing three pairs of shoes. In this picture, I’m only holding up two, but a third was in my bag. Bringing extra pairs of comfortable heels is a must, otherwise your feet will be screaming for mercy! I’d also advise bringing a pair of flats that dance well.
Tips for Beginners: My congress included a Beginner Boot Camp. I highly recommend it if you are just learning.
I also recommend carefully planning your time. The workshops run all day, beginning around 11am. The professionals perform at night, and everyone enjoys social dancing from 11pm-6am.
True beginners will want to attend the socials between 11pm and 1am. That’s a terrific time to practice because it draws in a combination of beginners and good dancers who aren’t necessarily professionals. After 1 am, the hardcore dancers arrive. Some beginners who stayed felt overwhelmed trying to keep up with them. So if you are in this category, you might take the opportunity then to watch and learn.
Tips for More Advanced Dancers: This was my first time ever Bachata-dancing, but I did not sign up for the Beginner Boot Camp. I went straight for the intermediate/advanced classes. If you have any kind of a dance background, even if you haven’t danced in years, you’ll be fine in those as long as you can pick up choreography.
Most people are like me…they cannot handle three days of nonstop action with only five hours to eat, shower, sleep and get be ready to go again. To really utilize your congress experience, I suggest taking the workshops during the day, enjoying the performances at night and then taking a nap so that you can dance when the professionals are there from about 1-6 am. Confession: I never made it to 6, but I did push through until 5 am! And what an incredible experience!!
After one of my workshops, I got to film choreography with former Bachata and Salsa World Champion from Venezuela, Grizzly Hidriago. I’ll do a longer post on him and his company next week, but in the meantime, here’s a clip of the choreography that I learned from his workshop.
If you ever get a chance to attend a congress, I highly recommend it. You’ll make friends from around the world. At my first workshop, I met Sherise, who became an instant best friend. We spent hours dancing, chatting and having a terrific time. She’s from Canada and was staying with friends at the hotel where the event was being hosted. I felt like I was adopted into their room. They were all dance-congress veterans and showed me the ropes. At the end, as we left with sore bodies and happy spirits, Sherise confided, “You don’t do the congress correctly, if you walk away without a blister!”