Samba Dancing

Melbourne Latin Festival 2013

Festivals with a theme

Dressing up is always more fun

Getting there

As I’m from Melbourne, my normal way of attending the Melbourne Latin Festival is just to drive there, for those arriving by plane you can catch the Skybus to the CBD from Melbourne Airport, once you’re in the CBD you’ll need to purchase yourself a MyKi card available at Southern Cross rail station and then catch the train to South Morang getting off at Bell station.

The other option is to get a taxi right to Darebin Arts & Entertainment Centre as the venue is located on one of the main arteries from the airport.

The Accommodation

The official accommodation for the festival is at Rydges Bell City which is located ~1km from the venue for all workshops and parties. Since I reside in Melbourne normally I didn’t choose to stay at the venue, but it looks reasonably well-appointed and for those who did stay there, I heard no complaints.

Workshops

The works were ranging levels for Salsa LA/NY, Kizomba, Zouk, Bachata, Cha Cha. They were split into 3 separate rooms, you had the main hall which is a great dance floor, a second room which was a good dance floor but tiny and the 3rd room was carpeted, the dancers are at the same level as the teachers which can lead to issues seeing what is being taught in crowded scenarios.

Large range of teachers in attendance at the festival from local and international stars, last 2 years we have had teachers who were from Italy and a translator was at hand to put everything into English, which worked well and gave a quite a different flavour to the workshops.

Performances

I’m mixed on the performances, or more should I say the way they are run, the performers themselves are spectacular. On Saturday night you sit in an amazing theatre like complex to watch the shows, which start and finish at a reasonable time, Alex Bryan once again reprised his role as MC for the night. You begin the Saturday night show with a professional opening act that resembles the theme for the year, which this year was Arabian Nights.

Arabian Nights performance at Melbourne Latin Festival

The opening act of Saturday night at the Melbourne Latin Festival – Arabian Nights

While as you can read from above I really enjoyed the Saturday night performances, but on the other hand Friday and Sunday night was a major let down, but should come to expect that as it’s the same every year. The performances are run on the main social dance floor, where you are either required to sit on the floor or standup for the duration of the shows, if you get there late don’t expect to see much of the shows.

To make matters even worse, the shows are split into 2 separate sections with a short social dancing interval in between, which I assume is due to people cramping up sitting on the floor for an hour add to this that the performances are back-lit which often means spot lights are shining right into the eyes of the audience.

If Friday and Sunday night shows were run in the same location as Saturday night, it would clearly be one of the best performance festivals I’ve been to. If anything I would also run less performances for the weekend, I think it was a total of 72 performances this year, but with so many schools and student teams performing I can understand this would be hard to reduce.

 

Parties

The parties hosted by the Melbourne Latin Festival are reasonably well, though if you’re coming for the parties only the tickets are rather expensive $45AUD for the evening, if your on a performer or early bird full pass the pricing is very reasonable.

Woman in Arabian Nights themed Costume

Beautiful costumes worn by the attendees of the 2013 Melbourne Latin Festival

Now that’s out of the way, on Friday night there is a room dedicated to Tango dancing which is a welcome view and not something I’ve seen elsewhere, and it certainly brings lots of spectators along with integrating the Tango dancers into the wider Latin Dance community, the room itself is rather small and can quickly become crowded.

The main room is Salsa, Bachata, Zouk, which on Saturday night also plays host to an amazing live band The Quarter Street Orquesta followed by DJ’s later in the evening. Saturday also plays host to the themed dress up evening and this year being Arabian nights we had some really amazing costumes on display.

Finally Sunday night is a white dress themed party and again is another hit event which great DJ’s running across both rooms, if my only complaint is that in the Zouk/Bachata room there is far too much Zouk getting played.

At $45AUD/night to attend the parties, it’s 3 times the price of a normal social dance night and it can be hard to justify, they are lots of fun and the organisers Natalie & Pauline Montano works extremely hard to bring together the sometimes fractured Melbourne Salsa scene.

Conclusion

The 2013 Melbourne Latin festival for most part was a very smoothly run event and the themed part of the festival was great and adds lots of salsa sabor. The venue of choice could be better by having multiple rooms that function as proper social floor, rather than the 1 main room and 1 or 2 tiny other rooms that aren’t completely suitable.

I also know many people who didn’t attend the festival due to the high price of the parties and had no interest in attending the workshops so another thing that should probably be looked at. The biggest fix to the festival though to bring it into the spotlight as the equal #1 performance festival in Australia is to host all the performances in the theatre room.

Bring on the 2014 Super Heroes themed party, get your costumes ready!

Score 3.5/5