Latin Dance Life #10 was sent to us by a dancer from Australia named Mick.
Festivals, congresses, events, call them what you may. The dance-party nights are but a small part of them, yet important. Many people attend events to perform, compete or to sharpen technical skills at the daily workshops. Some folk go just to socially dance at night. I’m one of the latter group, an ardent, if ordinary, salsa dancer.
My salsa year was a busy one, and my views are my own but I look forward to other people’s perspective. My comments only reflect on the social parties from my salsa point of view, and do not touch on other, fuller aspects of the events mentioned.
The Sydney Latin Festival, as the name suggests, is now a broad brush. Gone is the dedicated salsa room which I enjoyed in 2014 and 2015. This year the enormous room became a 50% salsa and bachata room, including a visit from a samba band, but with live salsa bands too. While the shared styles suited some, for those who prefer one style for reasons of groove and atmosphere, it was an unsatisfying experience. The venue is an issue as three rooms are not easily available. In 2015 a bachata room went ahead but at the cost of not filling the enormous salsa space. The festival draws huge crowds over many dance styles for many reasons, but its dance parties are no longer for diehard salseros.
The New Zealand Salsa Congress team assured me by email that the salsa room would play “mostly” salsa. So, on to the plane and across the ditch I flew. Night one? Yes, 50% salsa and bachata. Night two? Great joy appeared to lie ahead as a cool salsa band played a couple of songs before the shows. But half-way through the shows, on came the organiser. There had been a noise complaint. The music was turned down, the audience was banned from making any noise (even by clapping), and the salsa band was cancelled forthwith. And after the show? The music was played at a lower volume than the conversations around the room. Night three? Ah, the salsa and bachata room was moved to a sound-deadened space, but very few people walked through the door. Need I say more? Only this. Apparently the same thing occurred in 2015.
With great trepidation, I packed my shoes and flew to the Bangkok Salsa Fiesta. Thailand’s beloved King had just passed away, and it was really dubious as to whether the event would go ahead. But it did. And what an absolute joy for salsa dancers it was. In the main room, 400 salsa fanatics from across Asia danced without a break until 2 am on each of the three nights, while bachata had another room. My Sydney dance teacher had told me that Asia loves salsa, ‘go there’. She was spot on. The dancing was just fabulous. Partners were filled with both salsa technicality and salsa joy. They came from South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, but there was only one language spoken. Add the roof-top pool party, Frankie Martinez and an after-party, this was The Event of 2016’s social salsa-dancing calendar. And I’ve booked for 2017 already.
Sydney’s famous DJ Mambo G pulled out his wallet, took a deep breath, and hosted the top-class first-time Mambo and Salsa Palladium Convention at the Factory Theatre in Sydney during November. And it was a big success with not one, but three salsa/mambo rooms. Two live bands played across four nights (two evenings were at Off Broadway in Glebe) and filled the dance floors. The stand-out band was Mucho Mambo which included enough salsa for anyone not mambo-crazy. Eddie Torres jnr. excited the crowd and it was a fine event which I absolutely recommend. Does Sydney dance salsa as well as Asia? Go to Bangkok next year, and then we’ll share views!
And finally, the Brisbane Latin Festival’s World Salsa Solo at the Exhibition Centre on Southbank. The perfect venue, and so well-organised that it could be described as faultless. Four nights of social dancing, three separate rooms set aside for zouk/kizomba, bachata and, of course, salsa. The salsa dancing was of a high standard at the top-end because of the competitors. This is an advantage of combining a congress with all the normal workshops, with the draw card of trophies. Again, this was my third visit to the event, and it was in large part the separate rooms that made it for me. For Australian salsa dancers and beyond, it’s a must do again in 2017.
An interesting year indeed. Given more dance styles challenging our esteemed organisers, social salsa dancers (of the fanatical kind) need to look carefully at the program before dusting off the credit card. But the real salsa events are still out there, I proved it!