Some of you I’m sure are already way ahead of me on this, but I recently discovered just how amazing it is to attend a Salsa congress in another country. I’ve danced in other countries before, but just took classes or went to a regular social or club. I’d never gone to a large scale, well-organized dance event in another country.
I returned from Paris a few weeks ago and it’s safe to say I’m hooked on the idea of traveling to other countries for congresses. And I’m already plotting returning to Paris in 2019 for the next Paris International Salsa Congress.
Paris. Paris. PARIS. Need I say more? I visited Paris for the first time on this trip and like many others, fell in love with the city.
Majestic opulent buildings everywhere you look? Check.
Visits to iconic locales? Check.
All the croissants you can fit in your body? Check.
I loved being able to explore Paris before and after the congress activities. It added extra flavor and glamour to the event.
Putting the “International” in International Congress
Again, I’m a newbie to truly international congresses so this might not be *that* spectacular, but people came from all over the world for PISC. I met a dancer from Venezuela who lives in Morocco, a couple made up of a Swedish girl and Iranian guy who live in England, ran into a pilot friend from Kuwait, chatted with fellow Americans and danced with a man from China in a workshop. That’s just a tiny sample of the mix. For me, this blend of cultures represents everything I love about the Salsa world.
Artists and Performances
I would have bought a ticket just to go see the shows separate from the congress. Made up entirely of professionals, the performances moved fast and kept the audience engaged and excited with a range of styles and clean, tight execution. From law-of-physics-defying stunts in Salsa routines to creative fusions of contemporary and Latin dance, each group stood out.
And the high caliber of artists of course led to great workshops. I only attended a handful because the time difference gave me trouble waking up and moving before about noon, but the ones I attended– ladies styling with Karel Flores, partnerwork with Terry and Cecile, Rumba with Alberto Valdez, partnerwork with Leon Rose and musicality with Terry and Cecile– were excellent. And full. The average workshop size looked to be 200 or 300 people and I can only guess at how many people crammed in for Eddie Torres’s workshop.
The Music and Social Dancing
The lineup included at least 20 DJs, mostly from France, and during the parties I could not choose between dancing or trying to Shazam the songs. Unfortunately, Shazam could not keep up with the deep cuts and older music, but I did find some of the DJs mixes online. And my attempts to Shazam the music led to making a new friend who introduced me to Sound Hound, which is like Shazam but works better.
I stayed in the Mambo room most of the time and bounced to the Cuban room every so often. The social dancing, like the performances, stayed varied and creative with the mix of people from all over. There were also Kizomba and Bachata rooms, but the bulk of the people danced in the Mambo Room.
The PISC organizers clearly put a lot of thought and effort into all aspects of the congress. The workshops, performances and socials all ran pretty much on time and there were plenty of PISC staff on hand throughout the event to answer questions and direct traffic. The festival used a cashless bracelet that you loaded up with money and scanned to pay for drinks, merch and coat check. They partnered with Le Cab, a French version of Uber, to help people get to and from the festival if needed. Before and after the event, the organizers sent email campaigns to prep you for the congress and follow up on your experience.
For the truly dance addicted, there were pre- and after-parties outside of the main event, but I opted to explore Paris instead of attend those. I didn’t stay in the event hotel, the Hyatt Regency, because it was out of my budget, but I stayed in a less expensive hotel a mile or two away and had no problem walking or Uber-ing to and from the congress activities. I traveled solo and felt safe the entire trip.
A random note from the congress: people dressed more casually than I expected for Paris. There were themes for the parties and some people got fairly dressed up, but on the whole there were a lot of jeans and casual tops. Maybe because everyone knew they would leave looking like they just jumped in a pool fully clothed?
This is not a complaint, but you had to buy water, bring your own or drink out of the tap in the bathroom. It didn’t bother me, but it did make me amused because I see a lot of people on my Facebook feed complaining about a US event that didn’t provide free water but nobody at PISC seemed fussed about it. From an organizational standpoint, I don’t see how the congress could have provided complimentary water to that many people.
On Saturday night, Karel Flores took the floor with about 40 ladies who came from her teams all over the world and they performed a piece together. Because of the crowd and my stature, I couldn’t see much of the actual performance, but I love how these worldwide teams provide opportunities like this for dancers across countries to perform together.
So for all of you who have already been on the international travel for Salsa congresses train, I’m with you now, and for all of you who aren’t on it yet, come join us!