Some may be wondering, what exactly is a Salsa Congress?
While others may wonder how did such a serious, official sounding title become synonymous with such a sultry style of dance?
A salsa congress is essentially a large gathering of amateur and professional salsa dance enthusiasts who come together
to share and cultivate their love of salsa music, dance and culture.
The term ‘Salsa Congress’ was coined in 1997 to describe a salsa festival that had the characteristics of a professional conference, which featured specialists in different areas who met to present and discuss their work and other relevant matters. Professional congresses all share common elements complete with lectures, panel discussions, workshops, demos, roundtable discussions and the like. The first salsa congress was in Puerto Rico in 1997 and had just under 400 participants from 19 countries. The highlights were the performances, workshops and “World Salsa Open” competition. Just a few years later this event became a sponsored mobile tour that traveled to 30 cities in countries around the world called the “Congreso Mundial de la salsa”. When the tour reached Los Angeles in 1999, it drew in several thousand participants and gained such popularity that it turned into a yearly event, drawing larger crowds each time.
By 2002 the popularity of international salsa events spread like wildfire, particularly throughout Europe, growing from small events in the UK, Spain, Italy and Switzerland, to large scale productions in nearly half of Europe’s major cities. There are now congresses and festivals covering every corner of the globe from the Middle East to the Far East, from Down Under to just shy of the North Pole, and everything in between. At any given week of the year there is a Latin dance event happening somewhere in the world.
In fact there are now so many events in so many different places, that some have shifted from just one style of salsa to a focus on specific styles like on salsa ‘on 2’ or mambo, NY Style, LA style and so on. Other events now primarily focus on different dances all together like bachata, kizomba, zouk and more. However most of the larger salsa congresses still offer workshops in a variety of all of the popular styles of dance. So for those who are well versed in multiple dances, or wish to become so, this type of event is a great place to learn a lot in a short amount of time. In addition the classes and performances, there are also booths and specialty companies selling special clothes, dance shoes and a variety of other products that are sometimes hard to find outside of such conventions.
Among hundreds of performers from all over the world, this year Atomic Ballroom was represented at the congress by Melomanos salsa team. With a diverse group of individuals from different countries and backgrounds, the newly revamped Melomanos team shared the stage with hundreds of other groups, including professional dancers who have trained and competed for decades. The Melomanos team wowed the large crowd with a salsa fusion routine to Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal”; wearing white fedoras and flashy costumes inspired by the iconic video. Although the current members of the team had only been together and rehearsing for a few short months, we were the only group selected to perform a special encore performance again later that evening, of the fifty groups who had also performed that afternoon. In addition, we were also given the special privilege of opening the evening show that was packed with some of the greatest world champion dancers on the planet.
In addition to the great variety of workshops offered throughout the day (for everything from spins, footwork, lifts and other styles of dance), there was a social each night until 5 a.m. that followed the performances. Sharing a grand ballroom with thousands of other dancers, accompanied by a live full piece band makes for a very special experience that can’t be replicated at any regular dance club. After dancing all day at workshops or rehearsals and then again for hours each night, many participants need a little R & R. Luckily this can be achieved at one of the local pool parties, during a session with an in house massage therapist or by taking a break from the congress to explore the local surroundings of that city. Since congresses and festivals are held in a variety of metropolitan cities and beach resorts, and often during holiday weekends, there is always a lot to do and see in the host city, particularly when participants take an extra day or to really make the most of it. If you have not experienced anything like this, what are you waiting for? Just keep your eyes peeled for the next event coming up in your area and be prepared to learn, burn and have the time of your life!