Australia’s Premiere Salsa Congress
Expect the unexpected
Flying into Sydney we are instantly bombarded with a sweltering hot day summers day, things are looking good already for a fun event. Slowly our team arrives at the airport there are shuttle busses to go to the venue at Olympic Park, but we decided on splitting the cost of a cab fare, it was ~$60AUD from the airport out to Olympic Park.
Now if your coming to Sydney with the hope of seeing some world class attractions as part of the congress you’re best doing this before or after the festival (due to location your not really close to the CBD), I personally recommend after, since there is almost nothing better than finishing a festival and laying around the world class beaches in Manly, Bondi or Dee Why (this is my favourite beach, much quieter and relaxing).
Anyway back to the festival details, there are 4 hotels in the proximity of the venue, it appears that in 2014 the official hotel partner is Quest apartments, personally last year I stayed at the Pullman hotel, it’s the closest to the venue < 5minute walk. Buffet breakfasts are amazing, literally to die for after a night of dancing and the rooms are well appointed with amazingly soft beds, refer to the photos.
Personally avoid staying at the Ibis Budget hotel, distance is about 10-15minute walk, and it will be on the longer side as the weekend goes on and feet get tired.
Heading to the venue a giant stadium from the time Sydney hosted the Olympic games plays host to the Sydney Salsa Congress 2013, here you will find yourself dancing on basketball courts which doubles to make great dance floors. There is quite a queue to register to get your passes on the opening day, but it moves along at a rather fast pace, personally I think the splitting queues by starting letter of alphabet could be done better (how many names start with t-z).
They are world class workshops here at the Sydney Salsa Congress, so many international and national stars come to this event, generally they have 5 workshops going on at one time, which can making deciding which workshop to do a nightmare, pre planning of the workshop schedule and trying to fit in the great artists is a must.
Of the regular local professionals at the event, look to Sharon Pakir if you want a quick and thorough workout on technique, Nestor Manuelian and Jamie Jesus classes are always alot of fun and interactive workshops. And if in need of sparkles just go and see Tony Lara and his bachata workshops, stand at the front and you’ll get your daily dose of sparkles.
I can only think of one negative aspect of the workshops, and that is that the rooms upstairs are annoying to dance on (carpet), this year they tried to put in more wooden floorboards but it wasn’t with great success and the layout of the room leaves it hard to see the instructors.
Workshops run Friday, Saturday and Sunday for ~5 hours per day from memory, so prepare yourself for a major workout luckily there is food at the venue in the way of sandwiches and snacks, McDonalds and Subway are 5minutes walk away.
The organisers of the Sydney Salsa Congress keep on managing to attract the best of international and local stars to performance in the evenings, but to add to this we also get to see great shows from local students and sometimes international students (New Zealand!), prepare for a full range of dance styles from West Coast Swing by Jordan and Tatiana to down and dirty Reggaeton from various different schools. Performances go on for a long time but they are in reasonably comfortable chairs and since it’s a stadium it’s tiered levels so unless you get unlucky you should have no issue seeing the shows. VIP passes are available which gets you seats up front and also you don’t have sit through the massive queues, highly recommended.
Social dancing starts as soon as the shows are over, you have 3 rooms for dancing. Salsa, Bachata and Zouk all have their own rooms, I’m sure with the rise of Kizomba that it will get it’s own room in the next year or 2 or maybe fused into one of the existing rooms. Salsa room is by far the largest and draws the biggest crowds, mambo, cuban and LA styles are danced here so you’ll never be short of a dance. Bachata room is small and cozy but it just leads to dancing a much more intimate bachata and really for the most part dancers here have good spatial awareness and not too many elbows and kicks are received.
Unlike Europe parties finish here around 3am, but realistically start to dwindle around 2am, make sure you get out on Sunday night for the Samba parade that is always a hit, feels like your in Carnival this happens about 1am.
As can be expected the DJ’s continued all night to put on the great tunes and really kept the party going, the last few songs of the night turn from Salsa to Reggaeton/Hip Hop flavour.
What I didn’t like was the moving of the bar to the dance floor, I felt it caused a congregation of around that location of the floor though it did make for slightly quicker drinks.
All in all an amazing festival and one that shouldn’t be missed, and 2014 the Sydney Salsa Congress turns 10 years old, it will be one amazing festival.