Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Salsafestival Switzerland

I spent this past weekend in Zurich in Switzerland for my first salsa congress this year. The Salsafestival Switzerland is an excellent congress, well-organized with quick and smooth ticket pick-up and with a good line-up of performers and instructors. This congress is quite big – a rough guess is that about 700-1000 people attended the Kongresshaus every night – but the atmosphere is very friendly, the bar staff attentive and cloak-room staff pretty quick.

I had been home with a terrible cold and light fever the days before the congress, so I was not exactly in best form for the congress, but it was good to sweat it out on the dance floor. It was a true pleasure to meet some of my congress friends again: Jonas and Sarah (his dance partner) from Bern - the former just came back from traveling in South America for five months making everyone visiting his blog envious thanks to fantastic photographs of nature and the locals he met, and the latter is running a ballroom dance school in Bern; Bernard from Holland; Hamidine from Nice; Abdellah from Marseille; and Lautaro (or “Latte” as we call him in Sweden) who is from Stockholm but has lived in Zurich for the past few years leading a dance school in the outskirts of Zurich with his dance partner Candice.

Jonas and his dance partner Sarah

On Friday night there was a very good band, Mercado Negro, playing. The main party lasted until about 3:00 am and then roughly 100 of the most salsa fanatic people moved into the adjoined bar/club “Le Bal” on the ground floor of the Kongresshaus for the after party. I was pretty beat so I didn’t stay more than an hour or an hour and a half.

I was supposed to attend workshops on Saturday but due to my cold, I desperately needed a long sleep-in to be able to enjoy the social dancing at night. The rest of the weekend I actually felt a lot better and regained some of my usual energy on the dance floor, but the coughing lasted. I took a walk from my hotel – Rex Hotel, a simple but decent hotel on Weinbergstrasse – to the Zurich center and the river Limmat to get some fresh air and do a little bit of shopping. All of a sudden the skies opened and it started raining heavily so I hopped into the nearest café, which happened to be the Central Bar & Café, for some soup and a glass of wine while I waited for it to stop raining.

Saturday night I had dinner with Jonas, Sarah and a couple of their really nice friends, Christoph and Jenny. We arrived at the Kongresshaus in time to see most of the excellent performances by big names like Johnny Vasquez and his group from Los Angeles, Tropical Gem from Milan, and Yamulee Dance Company from New York. But as usual, I was eager to start dancing myself, so I got a little impatient. The DJ’s played really good music so I had a good dance night until 4:00 am when the after party started. After an hour of reggaeton – not my favorite – Jonas, Sarah and I gave up and left.

I slept late on Sunday and then walked around in Zurich taking photos. It was quite cold but after a couple of hours the sun peaked through the clouds and it turned into a quite beautiful afternoon. I had thai food from a street stand and walked over to the picturesque Old Town. There was some sort of festival or carnival going on so the streets were filled with confetti and people in colorful costumes. Children were using the silver-colored street-blocking plastic bands for pulling competitions. On the square in front of the Fraumünster Church there was a beer tent and marching bands were gathered for festivities.

You’ll find a selection of pictures from my photo excursion below.

Old Town

In the afternoon, I met Bernard and some Dutch friends for some hot chocolate at Starbucks and then we all walked back to the Old Town and had a look at the view over Limmat and the rest of Zurich and the surrounding Alps.

Dutch friends with Zurich in background


View from the Old Town

Sonder, Mimmis & Bernard

We had dinner at an Italian restaurant across the street from the Central Station and then I headed back to my hotel to get ready for the Sunday night salsa party at the Kongresshaus. I arrived at midnight in a new dress I had bought (Zurich is really good for shopping) with only an hour to go before the after party. The latter fortunately turned out to be a lot of fun with high energy levels from the remaining salsa congress participants, a lot of fast mambo, a mix of bachata, good old disco, hip-hop and R&B music. I was bold enough to invite Johnny Vasquez to dance for the first time and found him nicely supportive and I wished the song had not been so short. Some people gave an improvised hip-hop dance battle on the floor with other congress guests cheering. I had a great time and stayed until the party ended after 5 in the morning.

Filled with new energy from all the dancing but also tired and slightly dehydrated, I left Zurich with a sense of having made the most of it for a short and intense weekend.

PS. Those who are interested in getting a glimpse of the congress glamour, check out the below links for professional photos of the shows and parties:

I actually found one of myself and Bernard on the dance floor, copyright

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