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Berlin Salsa Congress 2002

In September 2002, UK Salseros had to make a difficult decision. There were two Salsa congresses happening over the same weekend: one in Bognor and one in Berlin. Both had great line-ups and I knew I'd enjoy either one. In the end, I decided to go to Berlin. I'd been to the same event the previous year and had enjoyed it, and the Berlin line-up included Frankie and Aisha, Caribbean Soul and Henry Knowles. So, here are some words and pictures from the Berlin Congress.

Friday Afternoon

We flew into Berlin on the Friday of the Congress, arriving at lunch time. This would give us plenty of time to get to the hotel, settle in and relax before going out for the opening event ... or so we thought! As it turned out, there were a variety of problems along the way. We had to change at Frankfurt and when we arrived there, it turned out that Nicky (one of the people I was travelling with) was actually booked onto a different flight to us, despite what the itinery we had been sent said. We managed to sort that out so we all ended up on the same flight to Berlin and we all arrived together. Which, unfortunately, cannot be said about our luggage. One of our cases went missing. It belonged to Kate (the other person we were travelling with) and contained all sorts of stuff like her dance shoes and clothes that were good for dancing in. So, we then spent another few hours in the airport visiting various offices and buildings hoping that Kate's case would turn up. We also bumped into a load of the London crew (Leon, Mario, Susana, Ash, Sarah and Simone) most of whose luggage had also gone missing!

Eventually we gave up on waiting around, assuming that Kate's case was off to more exotic places and wouldn't come back until it had got bored of its new jet-set lifestyle. So we headed off to the hotel. The hotel staff didn't speak any English (although the bloke on reception helpfully told us he spoke Russian), so we struggled through checking in using our faint recollections of German from school. We then went off to our rooms to get some rest before the evening event.

Friday Evening

The Friday evening event was at a club called "Havanna", which is a fair-sized club with four different rooms. We were in a basement room (probably the biggest room), which was divided into a number of dance areas with seating around them. The music was good (naturally, with Henry Knowles as DJ), the floor was reasonably fast and there was a good atmosphere. We could also wander around the club to visit the other areas. There was another room in the basement which was playing R&B. The ground floor and first floor rooms were both playing Cuban style Salsa.

My only criticism of the Friday night event was that there were a fair number of dance displays and shows, which meant that everything else in the room had to stop. Owing to the layout of the room, most people couldn't see anything of the displays, only the backs of other people's heads. At these times I went off to visit the R&B room instead.

The other major problem on Friday night was that Nicky's bag, which she had checked into the cloakroom, went missing. It contained all the dancing shoes she had brought with her, plus the shoes she had worn to the club and also her credit cards. The staff at the club were not helpful at all about this. Fortunately, one of the Mas Salsa staff (the Congress organisers) was more sympathetic and helped us to cancel Nicky's credit cards.

Apart from these problems, I had fun on Friday night and everyone else seemed to as well.

Saturday

We'd only booked a party pass for the Congress, which meant that we weren't allowed to do any of the workshops. So we all went off shopping on Saturday. Fortunately, Kate's case turned up in the afternoon as well, so she had everything she needed for Saturday night.

Reports from the workshops were very good (which you would expect, given the high quality of teachers there). The only slight problem was to do with people being in the wrong level of class (which you get a most of these events). The Berlin Congress used a "themed" approach to workshops. You bought a ticket which would allow you to attend a certain set of workshops. This would be something like "advanced on1" or "advanced on2". This seems to be a good approach, however, it didn't quite work out in practice because of the "VIP" passes. A holder of a VIP pass could attend any workshop they wished to. This meant that the number of people in the class and the level of those people wasn't as controlled as it could have been. So, some classes ended up being at a slower pace than was hoped for.

Saturday night we went to the biggest event of the weekend. It seemed to be in some sort of grand, civic building. Again the floor was good and the music was good. There were two rooms in use, one for dancing and one for shows. The room for shows had a stage and seating, meaning that it was much easier to see the shows. The highlight shows for me (and I have to say that I didn't see all the shows) were Frankie and Aisha doing their excellent new shines-based show, Caribbean Soul doing their show to a capella music, Tropical Gem (from Milan) doing an Afro-Cuban style show with an amazing amount of energy, and Club Latino (from Sweden) doing a routine based around Madonna's "Vogue".

We eventually got back to the hotel around 5.30am. Because breakfast started at 6am, we thought we'd all have some breakfast before going to bed. However, despite all the food already being laid out, we actually had to sit around waiting until 6am before we were allowed to eat, rather than eating breakfast 20 minutes early.

Sunday

Sunday night was the farewell party and, as with the other nights, there was excellent music courtesy of Henry Knowles. The floor was a bit too fast, which the organisers acknowledged and put down wax to try to slow it down a bit. A fair number of people had gone home on Sunday, so the venue was smaller than for the previous two nights. This meant that there was a different atmosphere for this party. It seemed more laid back and a bit more friendly. Personally, the Sunday night was the best night of the Congress for me. There was a dance competition, which didn't take too long, and a few shows. Including one which proved that Elvis is not only the King of Rock & Roll, but also El Rey de la Salsa.

The evening was so good, that it went on well past the scheduled finish time of 3am. A great end to the Congress.

Overall Impressions

I have to say that the organisers (Mas Salsa) have definitely learned from last year's congress and it was a smoother, better-organised event than the previous one.

My main problem with this congress is that it takes place in many different venues. There were two different locations for workshops and every evening event was in a different location. There was also no main congress hotel. All of this meant that you didn't get the "congress feel" that you normally would at an event like this. You didn't bump into people you knew during the day, you couldn't just hang out with people and there were none of those impromptu dance sessions that you often get. It felt more like we were on holiday in Berlin and just going out to different Salsa clubs every night (which I guess is exactly what we were doing). To make this a top-class event, I'd say that the organisers should think about holding it in a single venue (like, for example, the Dutch, LA, New York and UK congresses).

As a related observation, it seems to me that on2 is really taking off in a big way. I probably only danced on1, 3 or 4 times all weekend. Everyone else I danced with, I danced on2.

Useful Links

Mas Salsa (www.mas-salsa.de)

Albert Torres Productions (www.alberttorresevents.com)

The Pictures

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Mario and Nicky
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Mario and Nicky
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Mario and Susana
 
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Mario and Susana
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Frankie and Aisha
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Frankie and Aisha
 
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Frankie and Kate
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Frankie and Kate
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Leon
 
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Leon
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Sarah, Susana, Ash, Kate and Nicky
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Ash
 
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Sarah and Olu
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Sarah and Olu
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Nicky
 
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Kate and Nicky
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Henry and Nicky

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