Congress/Festival Reviews

I don't remember a dedicated thread for salsa congresses and festival reviews. It would be good idea to have reviews for various festivals and congresses in one place.

I will start off with review of the recently concluded DC congress (aka Capitol Congress).

The good things first.

1. Very well organized. Everything from the website to kicking off the shows on time was impressive. Of all the congresses and festivals I have attended, I think Shaka is the best organizer. More impressive was the total congress staff/volunteers were far less than at other festivals.

2. Location: The location in Alexandria is fantastic. Very nice and safe location. The old town area is 10 minutes walk away. Close to Airport (5 miles). Plenty of good food choices at reasonable prices all around.

3. Water. Pleny of free water everywhere. Other than the old NY congress at Hilton, every other congress/festival I have attended in North America always made free water widely available - both in corridors and inside the dance floors. Aside, I didn't see venue try to attempt to make money off alcohol sales. I noticed one or two booths serving alcohol but they were low key.

4. As usual I skipped most of the shows on all the days. But they started on time and mostly ended on time. First congress that I seen that happen.

5. Dance floor: Good space. Never seemed over crowded. It didn't get too hot.

6. Music. It was consistently good all four nights, no matter who was the DJ. My only grouse was one partcular DJ who for some reason played three consecutive songs with very strong cumbia beat.

7. Dance time. Plenty of dance time on all four nights. I think other congresses should follow the hours that DC congress has. I think DC congress has the hours just about right.

8. Hotel: Almost perfect. Good rooms. The staff seem to know what salsa festival attendees need and attentive staff.

9. Terry. He was out every single night dancing. And he was there till almost the end every night. Mighty impressive. This is first time I actually seen ladies form a line to dance with someone. The guy dances nonstop! He would go and ask the next lady to dance after finishing each dance. If someone asked him, I think he remembered and asked her later. He danced in flipflops, barefoot and in shoes (on sat night). I haven't seen any celebrity or instructor spend so much time on social dancing.

10. Live band on Saturday night. Frank Morales lead the band. He emphasized several times about how musicans should play for the dancers and not for themselves. I don't think I heard Frankie Morales before. The band backing him up was probably local.

11. Afternoon dancing. On Sunday evening the dance floor was open from 5pm t o 8.45pm. This is great.

12. Rejection or lack of. Very friendly crowd. Except for one rejection (pretty rude one too), I didn't get a singe no during all four nights of dancing.

13. No carpet dancing. Hardly anyone danced on the carpet. There always was enough room to dance on the wooden floor.

The not so good things:

1. Kizomba room. Am glad it was empty. I didn't dance any Kizomba at DC congress but kept poking in there to see how it was faring . Over four nights, the most I counted was 10 couples dancing. That was only one time. Most of the time there were on an average four couples in a big room. I still don't see why Salsa Congress feels need to have a Kizomba room. I don't think it attracts Kizombies.

Other things:

In terms of size and attendance, my expectation was that this would be one of the bigger congresses. Seattle congress (which is consider to be smaller congress) was bigger than DC in almost every way. The average age of dancers seemed much higher than what we witness on the west coast.


A big disappointment for me was the level of followers. Other than NYC and Congress I haven't danced anywhere else on the eastern seaboard. I have danced on the west coast all the way from Vancouver down to San Diego and Vegas. Let me say, I haven't come across so many heavy followers and was surprised. There were many followers who were heavy, anticipating and trying to back lead. Attendance was skewed by followers that I would at best put as advanced beginners. The total number of good followers (combined advance, intermediate, good rhythm), I must have danced with will probably be around 15. And I did dance with almost every good follower available on all four days. The followers were from all over the place - a lot of them from Florida, followed by North Carolina, Brazil, Chicago, Minneapolis, etc. Other than the performers, didn't run into anyone from NYC. First congress where I didn't run into anyone from my local scene :)

I don't know how many local salese@s supported the DC congress. I danced with exactly five followers from MD-DC-VA area who were good. The rest of local followers were all over the place in terms of their ability to maintain slot, hold their balance when turning, etc.


Bachata room was always packed. Same as in other recent congresses and festivals. It was about half the size of the Seattle congress bachata room for comparison.

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A short review of LA salsa festival. Formerly known as West Coast Salsa Congress.

Venue: Downtown. Nice Hotel.

Organization: Chaotic. Only accept cash payment at the door.

Salsa Bands. Very good bands all three nights.Spanish Harlem ( and various other known artists singing in tribute to Jhonny Polanco who passed away months earlier), El Gran Combo, Oscar D’Leon.

Bachata Bands. Two live bands. though both started playing at 4am in the morning!

Level of dancing: Much lower compared to earlier years. Also the dance floor was smaller compared to earlier.

Shows went on too late!! Most ended around 12.30 to 1am.

The best part of the LA congress experience was the pool party and dancing in the afternoon to both the DJ music and live band. Great atmoshphere and a lot of good dancing.
Attendance was skewed by followers that I would at best put as advanced beginners.

I don't know how many local salese@s supported the DC congress.
I noticed the same things at the Vancouver mini-congress last year (think it's the Vancouver Dance Congress this year), only saw a handful of Vancouver follows I recognized. Weirdly, I even saw some Vancouver follows volunteering that I never saw doing anything else.
Very nice thread. I'll come to post my review on Rovinj (yes so original :D) in a couple of week.
About American congresses like DC. Is the crowd international or mostly from US?
Very nice thread. I'll come to post my review on Rovinj (yes so original :D) in a couple of week.
About American congresses like DC. Is the crowd international or mostly from US?
In the past there was a fair amount of International crowd on both the west coast congresses (SF and LA) and east coast (NYC). I don't know about NYC, but the international crowd has been mostly missing in the festivals I have attended in past year. It is mostly from North America (USA, Canada, and Mexico) out here in USA these days. At least on the west coast.

I didn't dance with anyone who had traveled from outside of eastern seaboard at the DC congress. At LA congress I ran into only one follower from NYC.
Review on Rovinj festival, salsa week.
I just came back and still on my little cloud so every thing is mixing in my head.
I'm not a native English speaker so I will try my best.

Location: Rovinj in Istria Croatia.
It's easy to go around by foot. But renting a bike is better. I rented mine near the bus station. The owner was cool and it was cheap.

Accommodation: There are a lot of options, hotels, b&bs and apartment rentals for all kind of prices. The closer you are from the center/beach the more expensive it is.

The main actions take place in the old Tobacco Factory which is in the city center. The place is huge, they have a margin to have more dancers in the future.
They have workshops and night parties there.
Some workshop take place in other venues around town. You have 15 min between workshops to travel from one place to the other
Amarin resort host a pool party every day except sunday. A pool, the beach, some bars, a space to dance, some sun, that's enough for me. You have to take the boat (40 kunas return) to reach it or go by car.
The final pool party is at Rubin villa, the place is big enough and enjoyable. You will find a big pool with slides, bars, snacks, restaurant, toilets and the beach.
They have wifi installed everywhere now. Not that people should start playing online poker or netflix during parties and workshops but it's convenient for what'sapp get in touch with people or big Shazam users like me :).

- The sound quality was good.
- The DJ's were very good in general
- The floors were fine for me but I noticed some people where pouring some powder on them. I guess it wasn't slippery enough for them but when I danced on those areas I really had to be careful not to fall with slippery shoes.
- There were 4 dance floors: xbody, cuban, kizomba and bachata.
They opened a 5th floor (salsa romantica) on Saturday night when it was really crowded in the main hall (the biggest one in fact) which was used for the concert and some workshops the other times. I think this was a last minute decision. They should make it a official dance floor if the number of attendees keep growing and the room is huge.
The bachata floor was sometime overcrowded.
There were space to dance most of the time on other floors when paying attention. I especially think of the xbody salsa floor.
I never understand why in some people absolutely want to dance near the DJ booth, like it's the "cool people" place.
That's sometimes ridiculous as they are all bumping in each others with their big moves while there is plenty of space elsewhere. Not complaing, that's means more space for me but I don't get it.
Supermario for example was dancing in the back for the pleasure of the "not in cool gang" followers.
Other strange phenomenon in the Kizomba room this time: Why all those ladies were packing close to the DJ booth in the least accessible place of the dancefloor(in the middle on the wall side), standing there or sitting for hours?
I wonder if some of them have been invited at least once on Saturday for example. At the same time men where inviting women next to them on the edges or near the entrance.
- The paradisio beach party is not at a good place. It takes time to get there it's not really suitable for dancing: dusty and inclined.
- The Sunday big pool party was awesome with two floors salsa and sensual, good music, nice atmosphere. I don't have much to add. I think most of people have heard about that one. It's one of the thing that made this congress famous.

One thing during pool/beach parties: too many animations. It's cool for 10 min, people get involved, laugh and enjoy it but after a while everyone get bored.
It's like anyone craving for attention is allowed to go on stage and do the same boring, cheesy moves on the same five tracks like La Gozadera .

- Concerts:
El Chino Y La Diferencia concert took place in the old factory. I think not everyone was really aware of this...
The show was good for the part I saw as after I've been trapped in the kizomba room where I was just passing by for whatever reason (maybe looking for someone) and missed the end of the show.
Apparently all the artists went on stage to dance. It happened last year and it was really nice, actually better than prepared shows.

Maykel Blanco. The concert was outside in the main square mixed with local people and other tourists. The show was very good. I was dancing sometimes and not really focused on what was happening on stage.
Maykel Fonts was a guest singing and dancing. He didn't take off his shirt this time, sorry ladies :p

Let's say aged from 20 to 70. There were some families with kids as well. The majority in their 30's.
People were coming from all the continents. It's easy to meet people if you go alone so don't hesitate.
Small tip: get people phone number if you are planning to meet them later as you are hardly going to cross their paths again. The "see you later on the XYZ floor or at the bar" won't work, it's too big.
I think the ratio men/women was even. I don't have any official numbers it's just a feeling. I think every one can have a lot of dances.
Even during workshops I didn't feel that there were too many men like last year.
I say men/women and not lead/follow as i saw like two women leading and one guy following once.
Regarding the level, it was good enough for me. I consider myself as a not too bad intermediate and most of the dances (90-95%) I had were pleasant but I'm not picky in general.
Some people said that the level was average and is decreasing every year. There were more beginners/improvers than in other congresses for sure.
I got invited a lot by women which is a good feeling for me as a man.
Some people were more popular than others like the tall sexy women and good looking men in nice jackets but I didn't feel a lot of snobbish.
As always their were the usual 2-3 ladies you ask to dance with and check you head to toes with a pout condescending face, hesitate for two seconds and eventually give you the privilege to waist three minutes of their time with you.
I didn't have any rejection and didn't ask anyone staying under the DJ booth.

I don't really know if the artists were social dancing apart two or three I noticed because I knew them or they were next to me on the floor.
I definitely saw a lot some of them around the floors or at the bar so they were at parties definitely.

Shows: I didn't see them. People have to sacrifice something in order to sleep and eat at some point :D

Workshops: I did only the weekend workshops. There were of good quality in general. I did a lot of cuban ones although I dance everything.
It was hard to choose as there were always like seven or eight in parallel. I got good feedback as well from others.
Maykel fonts ones were very popular but the organizers put him in a too small room which doesn't make any sense to me.

General organization: brilliant, professional, they know what there are doing for sure.

I can't wait to go next year and maybe try the sensual week end as well. I'd like to see a review on that one.

- drink a lot of water, plenty of it
- try to sleep, even quick naps are helpful
- accept that it's impossible to do everything: parties, workshops, pre parties, after parties, dance in the streets, pool, beach, sight seeing, night, day...
- Get a bike to go around faster
- Don't be shy. There are a lot of single people so you won't feel awkward if you are alone. If you are in a group open yourself to others.
- Guys, bring extra t-shirts, polos or shirts and deodorant. It's hot and crowded, you are going to sweat.
A point not specific to Rovinj but important there as it's very crowded
- try to make a effort on your look if you want to maximize your chances to dance.That sound superficial but that's the reality. It's not fair I know but that's more applicable to ladies especially if you are too shy to ask for dances. I spoted some ladies standing in the same corner for hours and barely saw them on the floor despite the high number of men. I sometime invited them, sometimes not. I'm sure their appearance has a lot to do with it and the time going they stopped smiling, started crossing their arms, looking at their feet annoyed and grumpy certainly because they were not dancing giving them even less opportunity to dance...vicious circle. Most of women dress (or undress if i can say:D) to impress, if you are the one in jeans , flat shoes and black long sleeve top and stay in the back you will miss some good dances as you won't be noticed. I guess the same goes for guys in cargo shorts and hiking shoes. It's sad to travel so far to stay on the side line.
By the way I'd like to have some women thought about the guys look and your perceive it. Maybe there is a topic on the forum on that.

- Don't hesitate to ask men, ladies. I think most of us appreciate it. There were some times when I was leaving the floor to drink but stayed because I was asked to dance and was flattered. I'm not Mouaze or Supermario so it kind of boosted my ego and my motivation during the dance as well. :dancingbanana:

- The promotional videos you will find on fbook or youtube don't always reflect the reality as it's look like an american college spring break and can put off some people.
If you just want to stay by a pool/beach (which is away from the town anyway) get drunk and hang out with six pack bros and thong bikini girls you can but you can also just focused on your dance or have family time, hang out with your friends or new people you've met or do mix of everything.
It's so big and diverse that you can find what you came for.
I haven't seen anyone really intoxicated though. Just a lady who apologized to me during a dance because she was offtime and unbalanced and confessed that she was a bit drunk.
For the rest what happens in Rovinj stays in Rovinj as they say...
- The promotional videos you will find on fbook or youtube don't always reflect the reality as it's look like an american college spring break and can put off some people.
wow thanks for that line, thats exactly the reason why have have not considered going there so far. So maybe I could give it another thought.
wow thanks for that line, thats exactly the reason why have have not considered going there so far. So maybe I could give it another thought.
You have to keep in mind that it's a dance festival first of all (salsa, kizomba, bachata). The organizers have to differentiate it from other festivals. The usual festivals are over a week end for few undreds/thousand people. This one is over two weeks and target 6000 or more. The best way to do it is to promote pretty girls, handsome men, cocktails, pool jumping , twerking and boat riding in 3 min videos as well as famous artists, glamorous night parties, workshops and concerts.
It's a good combination of holiday and dance. I think most of people come for this mixture (also my case). If you are really allergic to pools and reggaeton you can still have an amazing time and dance 12 hours a day but I think it's a pity and you would miss a big part of the experience. I don't know where you live but how often do you dance salsa under the sun between the pool and the beach?
wow thanks for that line, thats exactly the reason why have have not considered going there so far. So maybe I could give it another thought.
A friend of mine was there this year and also gave it a glowing review so although congresos aren't my thing I may do this next year - depending on who the live music is.
I do like to dance under the sky and at the beach, but not the way it is promoted with all the sexy 20 years something halfnaked people :) Its a selfesteem Problem :)
Rovinj fest has always been very good both for dancing and music. I'm not going lately just because it's too big for me. Can't get the same emotional quality as smaller events. But if you hang out with a group of folks, it's different.
A friend of mine was there this year and also gave it a glowing review so although congresos aren't my thing I may do this next year - depending on who the live music is.
I think if a band is touring in Europe during that time they will try to get them like Maykel Blanco this year or Elito Reve last year. I'm wishing Alexander Abreu or Van Van :cool:
A friend of mine is going to Houston this weekend and is looking for information re. where to dance salsa there - any info please?

Thanks in advance !
I do like to dance under the sky and at the beach, but not the way it is promoted with all the sexy 20 years something halfnaked people :) Its a selfesteem Problem :)
That's exactly how I felt! I think it's a mistake to promote it that way, as it sounds like most of their audience is not early-20's college students.
This year I was at the Salsa Festival in Marrakech for the first time. Here my thoughts/review

1. Organization: On a scale from 1 (bad) to 10 (excellent) I would give it a 3-4. The registration form on the webpage says it all. It looks like it was designed 15 years ago and since then never changed. The system is not state of the art. The checking in for the festival was very bad organized. It took forever to get the pass. Imad himself and 2 or 3 assistant were taking care of the process. Imad had an old laptop running Windows XP (which isn't necessarily bad) and used Word for finding the passes. The assistant had to find the participants on paper (only one laptop was available). So basically if you finally got to the desk the assistants were trying to find your name on the print-out. After finding your name they had to find the corresponding envelope (yes, there was an envelope with the name on it), open it up and handing you the wristband. As you can imagine this took forever.

2. Venue: The congress center where the parties on Friday and Saturday took place are very nice. However, the Mambo, Cuban and Bachata area had the same size. Cuban was empty and Mambo area was for a congress party way to small. I was really surprised of how small it actually was (I got blinded by the exaggeration of Imad). Then there was the All-In-White-Party at the Nikki-Beach-Club. A very nice venue indeed. But it was only one area with mixed style of music. So it was Salsa, Bachata and way too much Kizomba.

3. Drinks: I don't drink alcohol, so no idea how the drinks were. Water is about 5 € for 1.5 ltr. I think thats ok. Except for the All-In-White-Party. At the Nikki Beach Club it was 5 € for 0.5 ltr water. Thats quite expensive.

4. Shows: Haven't watched the shows.

5. Dance floor: Very disappointing. It was obvious that Imad prefers to spent as less money possible on this events. It was the cheapest wooden floor you can put on a carpet. No fixation of the dancefloor which made the dancefloor move towards the wall until it bursted into pieces. And he didn't used all the space of the room. There was a lot of carpet. Therefore lots of people dancing on the carpet.

6. Music: Most of the time flatlining and boring. Someone pointed out to me that he never saw so many people sitting around and starring at their smartphones. But I can totally relate to that (I played Tetris at some point due to the boring music). But Saturday party I tried to not be picky about the music anymore and just dance. That worked more or less. Although I haven't had any moment that stood out for me.

7. Dance time: Dancing started most of the time at 0:30 and ended between 5:00 and 5:30. Imho not the longest dance time.

8. People: Cold would describe it at best. Not sure if it's the festival, the country or whatever but I couldn't connect with the followers. It felt cold and not nice. Beside the fact the it was lots of On1 dancing and low level. The few good followers were the cold ones. I didn't enjoy the dancing very much. No comparison to the UK, Eastern Europe etc.

9. Hotel: No way that this is a 5 star hotel. But maybe I have a wrong idea how a hotel gets his stars. There is nothing close by to the hotel. Everything is very expensive. A trip to the city center, in case you want to eat something else and cheaper, cost 4 € p.P. with the shuttle or 10 € with taxi. Depending on what kind of person you are you either like it or don’t. I’m not a huge fan of resorts. Just not my cup of tea.

Overall it was one my worst festival experiences this year. Bad dancing, boring music and expensive venue. But others do like this festival, so you have to find out for yourself if it’s a good or a bad one. Although one of the assistant told me that not a lot of people return to the festival.
Review of Berlin salsa congress. As always, these are personal subjective impressions.
Location: Berlin, central location easily accessible. Not in a suburb or isolated airport hotel.
Accommodation: big city so lot of options. A lot of options to eat as well.

Venues: The main venue is the Tempodrom. It's big concert hall where the parties, shows and some workshops take place.
Two hotels and some studios nearby are also used for workshops.
It's not allowed to bring drinks in the Tempodrom day and night. They were claiming the price inside would be fair. We don't have the same definition of fair price.
A 50cl water bottle was 3.5€ + 1€ of recycling tax you could get back by bringing the plastic bottle. You will lose the bottle, forget it, or through it away half of the time.
This price was brought to 3.80€ + 80c on Sunday.
- The floor wasn't the best I've ever seen (not wooden) but was dance-able with good shoeing.
- The venue is big with high ceiling so it was easy to get some air.

Workshops: Different qualities from bad to very good. Some were well run with partner rotation, first rows sitting down during explanations, etc some were busy and a complete mess.
Some instructors need to understand that teaching is not only showing moves but also organize a class, adapt to the lead/follow unbalance, size of the audience, prepare the music for demo, etc...

Shows: I only saw a part of the Moulin Rouge show on Saturday. It wasn't only about salsa. From what I saw it wan't bad at all, it was a good surprise.
There were also some amateur performance competitions, I thought most of the performances were boring and predictable.
Stand up comedy. LR put up a small comedy show talking about the salsa scene and his life in Paris and the trendy topic: instructors getting women pregnant in Croatia. That was pretty funny and accurate.
I didn't see the other shows on Friday and Sunday.

- There were three areas: salsa, kizomba and bachata. The Kizomba and bachata ones were running from early night when the shows were ongoing till the morning after the main area was closed.
The size was reasonable and you had some space dance except some specific spots like under the DJ deck where "cool people" always hang out.
I will never understand why people insist in dancing close to each other near the DJ, bumping in each others while you have empty spots in the middle. I've been dragged there a couple of time, clearly not the best spot.
- The sound system was good. You could here from everywhere. There were few bugs on the first night when the music dropped few times.
- The DJ's were good although some were playing to much latin jazz tunes in my opinion. It also happen few times were some DJ played tunes played by the previous DJs.
- There were not enough chacha for me. Same as for cuban music, it was basically the same three, four tunes from Alexander Abreu played every night.
- In the kizomba area the focus was more on ghetto zouk and tarraxinha (at least 50%) but the selection was good. Some kizomba and semba was played as well.
- In the bachata area I didn't hear too much of pop song remix, good point.
- The dress code was globally respected especially Saturday for the burlesque party.
I have to cheer for the ladies, they took the burlesque dressing thing seriously! wow. What a pleasure to dance with them, I wouldn't imagine it would change the dancing experience to that point.
- They put some social dancing during the day as well which was a good idea. The two small arenas were used for kizomba and salsa/bachata.
- Some music was played between workshop as well so people could practice.
- There were also a pre festival party but I din't go nor heard anything special about it.

A majority of salsa dancers with a big portion dancing kizomba or bachata as well.
The majority of dancers were dancing on1.
Few bachata and Kizomba people who were dancing only those.
I had a majority of good dance whatever the level was. I had also some dances with some very advanced follows I had absolutely no connection with. Maybe it comes from me.
Maybe I put to much emphasis on the technicality with those dancers...not sure. Maybe they were bored with the 75th dance with the average Joe of the week.
I also had my most awkward dance in years. My partner didn't look at me even once during the song. At the end she said thanks and walked away without looking.
I tried many things to catch her attention, smiling, clowning, tricks, waving my hand, looking straight at her, she wouldn't look at me...
The crowd was mainly European with a lot of German people obviously. I haven't personally talked to any non european.
I though the people less friendly, talkative than some other festivals. They were there to dance and not to increase the number of facebook friends for sure.

It was a follow heavy . I think follow who really wanted could dance all night though as there were always a bunch of leads on the sideline at anytime.
I haven't been invited by a follow in the salsa arena except by the ones I knew nor I saw follows inviting other leads. So it's not me :p . Is that a german thing? I would pass some areas many times and see the same persons standing at the same place for hours.:wacky:
For those interested I noticed that some of the artists like Terry, LR, Super Mario and others were at social parties. I didn't know all the artists so I'm not sure if there were all there.

The unbalanced follow/lead ratio was even higher in the Kizomba arena where you could see groups of women sitting on the stairs hand under chin. Some staying at the same place for hours as well.
I got invited there a countless number of time even between workshop as opposed to salsa. Looks like kizomberas are more eager to dance.
My humble advice as a lead to follows: don't stay in group. As a man it can be intimidating as you have to walk toward a group of women sitting together and pick one of them with other ones looking weirdly at you like "Why you picked her and not me?:mad:"
So I would usually invite the isolated women.
The kizomba instructors/DJs were social dancing as well. Some of the salsa ones discretely showed up in the Kizomba area as well.

In the late morning the follow lead/follow ratio was inverted especially in the salsa/bachata area.

General impression: It was a very good congress. The organizer are very professional and know what they are doing for sure.
The party was shut down too early on Sunday. Not their fault apparently.
I had very good dances and I clearly improved.
The price was reasonable. I think I will go again.
Hearing yet again about how terrible the lead/follow ratio is in Europe for women makes me even more grateful for the fantastic dance weekend I just had in NY :) At Taj last night guys were reserving dances in advance even before the next song started :p
Gotta say, I feel for European salseras, their ratio struggle is real.
Stand up comedy. LR put up a small comedy show talking about the salsa scene and his life in Paris and the trendy topic: instructors getting women pregnant in Croatia. That was pretty funny and accurate.
What the... I'm having a hard time imagining this being done in a non-offensive manner.

Otherwise nice detailed review of Berlin.
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