Two weeks ago I attended the Calgary International Salsa Congress for the fourth time and was once again blown away by the the caliber of the event! It was by far my favorite event of the year.
Organized by Eric Caty and Kelly Lannan (Directors of Salsa Rica Dance Company) and David Joseph and Olga Joseph (Directors of Dando Dance), the three day congress (with a pre-party Thursday night, and optional ski/mountain trip to Banff National Park on Monday), the congress is the best organized event I’ve ever been to in the latin dance scene. It’s also an especially great experience for amatuer and pro-am competitors, and a fun place to social dance whether you’re a beginner or more advanced dancer.
Whether you’re competing, performing, or attending socially; a brand new beginner or reknown professional artist, nowhere else will you feel quite as welcomed or at home. You’ll also learn a lot during the workshops, enjoy the wide variety dance styles during the shows, laugh uproariously during Sunday night’s Jack and Jill, and eat a lot of delicious food. I highly recommend attending in 2019!
Workshops at the Calgary Salsa Congress are well attended, but still intimate experiences where you can ask questions and get personal feedback. The event organizers do a great job of bringing top talent in varied disciplines, so there are great options for both bachateros and salseros, as well as beginner and advanced dancers.
This year’s workshop highlights included NY-style partnerwork by Huracan Dance Company, timing and musicality by Anya Katsevman and Luis Santiago, bachata by Harold Rancano and Regan Hirose, Lifts & Tricks by Jefferson Benjumea & Adrianita Avila, and latin hustle by Billy Fajardo and Katie Marlow.
MC’d by Edwin Rivera and Kelly Lannan (a hilarious and delightful pair), Friday and Saturday night shows generally have around 30 numbers with a mix of student and professional teams and couples. The stage is big and beautifully lit, and luxury cars are even brought into the ballroom for extra flair!
The shows you expect to be good always are, but what makes the congress shows even more delightful are the creative pieces from local dance schools and the wide variety of different dance styles on stage––from hip hop and lyrical to semba and afro-cuba, the Calgary Salsa Congress has it all.
This year the audience especially enjoyed a James Bond piece by Bello and Bella Dance Company and an Amelia Earhart inspired piece by Tate McCrae’s Dance Company. Additionally, Burlesqueicize’s ladies reminded everyone that you’re never too old to dance or perform as long as you really enjoy being on that stage, and the Tux Dance Project’s ballerinas stole everyone’s hearts.
One of the things I love most about this event is that each year there’s always some kind of surprise or special moment. In 2017, dancers from around the world came together to perform a special collaborative piece for the event organizers, in celebration and gratitude for the event’s 10 year anniversary. This year, Anya Katsevman and Kelly Lannan performed a special collaboration, and Harold and Regan surprised the audience with a last minute, extra show Sunday night. I can’t wait to see what happens in 2019!
Finally, Sunday’s professional Jack and Jill competition is also always a highlight of the weekend! During the competition, pros are paired with random partners and asked to dance everything from salsa and bachata to hip hop and reggaeton. Things get rowdy quickly, props get involved, and dancing devolves into a full on performance that’s bound to have you in fits of laughter.
As former competitors themselves, Eric and Kelly understand what it’s like to compete and have gone out of their way to make the check-in process fast and easy, as well as to minimize all unnecessary waiting time in the ballroom during each event.
All showcase competitions take place on a beautiful stage Friday and Saturday nights before the shows, and all three top places were awarded prizes in addition to trophies and/or medals. First place amateur and pro-am showcase winners received full passes to a different congresses throughout Canada and the United States (including the Canada Salsa Congress, Montreal Salsa Convention, LA Congress, and Las Vegas Congres), as well as roses, wine, and other goodies.
Location & Food
The Calgary International Salsa Congress is held at the Hyatt Hotel in downtown Calgary, and it’s the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed at for a latin dance event! Rooms are spacious, with huge flat screen TVs, big bathrooms (with a rain shower and deep tub), and they’re reasonably priced too $159 USD per night with the congress discount)!
The hotel restaurant, Thompson’s, is delicious and also reasonably priced. You can dine in the spacious cowboy-inspired room dining or have food delivered to your room at any time. Breakfast includes an all you can eat buffet option, and congress participants also receive 10% off all dining.
The hotel is also just a few steps (literally) away from a slew of great restaurants, coffee shops, stores, and a mall, you know, just in case you forget something or want to do a little shopping during your trip. Check out the Blue Vinny Diner, a local favorite for weekend brunch and order the French Toast, or grab a breakfast sandwich on a biscuit from Rosso Coffee Roasters (they have great scones too, and you don’t even have to venture outside to get there.
Optional Sightseeing/Ski Trip to Banff National Park & Lake Louise
If you can, stay through Monday and join the optional trip to Banff National Park and Lake Louise; the mountains are absolutely breathtaking and definitely worth the 2 ½ hour drive post a #nosleep congress weekend.
You’ll depart with the group (usually about 30 people) around 9am on Monday morning, and can then choose to spend the day skiing and snowboarding at Lake Louise, or hanging out at the lodge drinking blueberry tea, snacking, and taking a sleigh ride around the lake. Learn about the history of Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and enjoy dinner with a gorgeous view before heading back to the hotel (you’ll arrive around 10pm).
Don’t miss out on the 12th Annual Calgary International Salsa Congress, March 28 – 31, 2019. Tickets will be available soon!