So you’ve been dancing for a while now and have taken the plunge and got yourself a full pass for a Cuban Salsa Congress. It’s a multi-day event featuring workshops, social dancing, performances, and sometimes competition. Congratulations! Lucky you. But this is your first experience and you really don’t know what to expect. Usually the price isn’t cheap, so naturally you will want to get the maximum value out of it. The guide below should give you the basic essentials you need to prepare before and what to do during the event.
Do some research and prioritise
In a Cuban Salsa Congress, normally there are choices of workshops in Salsa/Timba, Rumba, AfroCuban/Orishas, Son/ChaChaCha, Reggaeton, Rueda and/or other Cuban dances. If you’re not familiar with them, do a bit of research first, ask your regular instructors for advice, and see if you’d be interested in doing the class. Remember to also check out the artists giving out the workshops. Look out for their work on their website, facebook page or youtube. See if you like their style of dancing. Bear in mind that big names are popular and their classes at congresses tend to be really busy. Prioritise on what workshops you’d like to do first, and then make plan B, just in case the timetable is changed or the artist cancelled on the day (although rarely happens, this isn’t unheard of).
Stick to your level
People spend quite a fair bit of money to attend congresses, so nothing will annoy the participants more than to have someone in the class who can’t keep up and slow down the entire class. Don’t be that person. If the level guide isn’t clear, don’t hesitate to step back as soon as you realise that you’re struggling too much (the class should be challenging enough but not impossible). If you’re not sure, look out for classes marked as ‘open level’ or anything that doesn’t require partnerwork. This way you will get the best value from the congress.
Eat well & keep yourself hydrated
Forgetting to eat is a common thing at congresses. It is easily done as sometimes congresses have the classes back to back with no break between them, most likely even all the way through lunchtime. You might also wake up late after social dancing the night before until the early hours and forget to eat breakfast. Beware, this way you’d be risking an early burn-out and low energy doesn’t actually give you an effective learning experience anyway. Therefore make sure you eat well. Make time to eat a proper breakfast and don’t forget to carry a lunch-pack with you as well as a large bottle of water. Banana or protein bars are easy to eat in between classes to keep your energy level up and you should keep yourself hydrated during and in between classes. Make time to eat dinner too before you attend the evening party.
Choose the workshops carefully. Normally AfroCuban, Orishas, Rumba and Reggaeton demand considerably more energy than, say, Salsa/Timba or Son/ChaChaCha. Have them varied throughout the day if possible. If not, depending on your energy level, consider to skip participating in one or two classes and be an observer instead so you’ll still be learning. Also remember to pace yourself during the evening party. Remind yourself that you’ll still have some workshops to do the next day. Reserve your energy by watching the performances from the professionals. It is always inspiring watching the artists showing off their hard work and you might even learn a thing or two out of it!
Pack yourself a spare t-shirt or two, a small towel, deodorant, a large bottle of water, and apples/bananas, or some protein bars, or a sandwich, as a minimum. Additionally, you might want to pack a scarf or handkerchief/hand towel for a Rumba class, an extra pair of socks (might come in handy for practising tornillo in Son class), and your smartphone to record what you’ve learned.
Record the class recap
Usually, at the end of every class, the instructor will give you a chance to record a recap of what you’ve learned in the class. Make sure you do this. You will be doing many classes throughout the event so you will experience information overload. You will forget what you’ve learned, sometimes even as soon as the class is finished. If you have the recording of it, you can look back at it, remind yourself, and practise it at later times.
Above all, don’t forget to have fun! Dance with strangers and make new friends. Congresses are not only a great premise for some intensive learning, but they’re also very sociable. It is not uncommon that you’ll see your new friends again in another congress, possibly even in another country!