Salsa Dance Life #10 – Big Event Salsa Parties (Down Under and close-by, 2016 in review)

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Social Dance Life #10 was sent to us by a dancer from Australia named Mick. Enjoy. 

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 die hard 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 organizer. 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 Jr. 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 organizers, 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!

3 Comments

  • Jaime Jesus says:

    I guess the old Saying of your dammed if u do your dammed if u don’t remains true as ever…

    The goal of the Sydney Latin Festival will always be to unite not divide. Unfortunately our attempt at individual rooms caused division amongst dancers, atmosphere fun and appreciation for the event.

    Last year saw the return of a combined room and there was a overwhelming sigh of relief, a unity that was missed and fun that was appreciated by the majority of dancers.

    No event will ever cater for everyone. Impossible to meet everyones needs BUT i always suggest!

    Support your events, support your. community as a whole because when we stop supporting those who take the risks, put in the effort and make things happen. That will be the day you will see the end of the effort, the end of risks, the end of growth, the shrinking of the dance community, the lack of unity and finally the end of the amazingly eclectic and diverse latin dance community we have in Australia that is the envy of many dance communities world wide!

    For Salsa die hards… Enjoy your and socialise and make friends during Bachata hehehehehehe

  • Mick says:

    Colada Colors of Latin Dance Bangkok 2017 – social salsa aspects 🙂

    This was the inaugral event, and its production values were huge. Bangkok’s Shangri-la Hotel was the 5-star venue and into the Grand Ballroom went 700 dancers from 35 different countries for a dazzling array of performances by big names from all over the globe across four nights. The same names taught during the day. You know them, Adolfo, Terry, Griselle, Super Mario and many more.

    By 10:00 pm the shows were dusted and three rooms split, kizomba and bachata in other rooms and the big ballroom remained as the salsa empire. It took time to remove the chairs which killed the mood a little but it had to happen and full marks for the seperate rooms which is the gold standard these days.

    To fly the 14 piece salsa band La Maxima 79 from Europe and have them play three concerts must be commended but with Henry Bosch as guest leader, dance wise, it was a super-fast bunch of good musicians revving it up. It was about the players, not the dancers.

    Having said that, a world-wide selection of DJs spun the tunes late into the nights and there was no shortage of salsa dancing. Bucket loads! And the dance quality was really good with the usual cheery range of beginners to pros. Hats off to Super Mario and Terry who were the two big names who consistently made an effort to dance with the guests. Some didn’t.

    How did it compare with the Bangkok Salsa Fiesta as far as social salsa dancing? BSF is cheaper and more social-dancing focussed I think, with a higher standard of salsa dancers. I think BSF’s pricing makes it more inclusive. But make no mistake, the production efforts of Colada were astonishing and it left anything I have attended in Australia or New Zealand in its wake. The organisers need sincere congratulation for a super congress. Totally professional and really glamorous.

    Solution? Go to both and make up your own mind. BSF is on in November, 2017 and Colada is back in 2018. I am doing each again 😁

  • Mick says:

    An update to Downunder and Close-by dance events (with dedicated salsa rooms) still to come in 2017 and an early look at 2018.

    In Bangkok 3-5 November 2017 – Bangkok Salsa Fiesta – the social salsa dancer’s pick – seperate salsa room.

    In Sydney 10-12 November 2017 – Salsa Palladium and Mambo Convention – seperate salsa/mambo rooms.

    In Brisbane 1-3 December 2017 – Brisbane Latin Dance and World Salsa Solo – seperate salsa room.

    In Bangkok 6-10 June 2018 – Colada Colors of Latin Dance – seperate salsa room.

    And finally, a correction and apology to Mr Jimmy Bosch (for calling him Henry) which is a nice name but inaccurate.

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