Pontins Pakefield Salsa Weekend 2000

I wasn't sure what to expect from the June/July Pontins Salsa weekend. It was advertised as being for intermediate and advanced dancers only and there was only space for 800 people. Up until a week before, I wasn't intending on going, but I ended up booking at the last minute. I need not have worried; I think this may have been my best Pontins (and many other people said they felt the same way).

To get the bad stuff out of the way, I have to mention the food. This is the first Pontins event I've been to where food was included and I have to say that it was unimpressive. It transported me back more years than I care to remember to my dinners at school (I expected somebody to be at the door, checking that we'd washed our hands). It was all there ... liver and bacon ... lumpy custard in an unnatural shade of yellow ... stuff you thought you'd never see again! On the plus side, it meant that the canteen became an area where you could mix with people since you were all eating at the same time.

To be fair though, the food was generally acceptable and there was a salad bar and an omelette bar (also selling baked potatoes). It was also very sociable in the restaurant with people really mixing.

The workshops themselves were really good. Tammam and Samira from Holland were excellent teachers (with their mambo-style salsa moves). Ricardo and Elbe came all the way from Washington DC and gave some specialist workshops on lifts and dips. Jose and Lara came from Spain to give a range of workshops in things like Sevillanas, Pasa Doble and Cha Cha Cha. Kerry Ribchester had managed to bring Harold over from Cuba to give authentic Cuban style lessons. Yatie was representing the North West, teaching Salsa and Lambada. Rohan, Cressida and Jenni rounded off the teaching duties.

There were no bands, but several excellent DJ's, including Ricardo, Yatie and Louie St Clair. A few people commented to me that the 'no bands' approach was a good thing since they preferred dancing to the DJ music than to a band.

Other innovations included repeated workshops (to ensure that everyone could get to the workshop they wanted to), optional extra workshops (you had to pay for these, but they meant you got much smaller numbers and they filled the dead time between 6pm and 11pm) and afternoon discos (so you had an alternative to doing workshops).

The Pontins weekends seem to be going from strength to strength and Cressida keeps trying to add something new each time (the next one will have an amateur cabaret competition, for example). So, if you haven't been to one yet, why not give it a try?

Here are some questions I put to Cressida and her replies:

Many people I talked to said that this was their best ever Pontins weekender. Do you feel the same way?

I do tend to think this, but I think it is more a case of this event specialising, and therefore bringing out the best in people. The last few events I've thought 'this is the best' at the time! everyone is still high on the current weekend and the feelings about the previous events seem remote!
There were no bands at this weekender. Is this a one-off or do you see less emphasis on bands at future weekends?
It was partly to do with the budget! Bringing all those teachers from abroad was very costly. However, I also saw this event as being more 'educational' in that we didn't have a Latin party room, and the emphasis was on the workshops. I do wonder how important live music is as I know a lot of dancers are not overly keen......can we get some feedback out there?!
This was an intermediate/advanced weekend for smaller numbers than previous weekenders. Do you have any plans for running other 'specialist' weekenders, for example a Rueda weekender or a NY on 2 weekender?
Yes, I am seriously thinking about other smaller weekends. I would not want to narrow it down to one style, however. I think the beginners, improvers and lower intermediates deserve some attention too.
You seem to be trying to be innovative with your competitions. I see you have an amateur cabaret competition planned for the September event. Do you have any other ideas for new competitions?
I think I will see how the amateur cabaret competition goes first.
At another Salsa weekend I went to recently, there was a DJ competition, where about a dozen DJ's each got to do a 15 minute spot, with the dancers voting on the winner at the end. Do you see this as something you might do at a future event?
I really like this idea and will look at including this in the Dec progamme!
The standard of teaching was very high at the event. Do you know which teachers will be at any of the upcoming Pontins weekenders?
(Kerry is a regular teacher on the event, plus Rohan and myself). I will defintely be using some of the the teachers again next year - Ricardo, Elba, Rosanna, and Tammam fro instance. I have so many people who want to be included in the event now I have to 'juggle'! For Dec I have a great line up including Edie the Salsa Freak and Angel Ortiz, and partners
During the afternoons, you had a DJ in the bar, so people could dance if they didn't want to do any workshops. Is this something you plan on keeping at future events?
If the site has an area for afternoon dancing, then definitely. The larger the event, the more I am restricted in this though, as to keep classes smaller, I need to utilise all space to repeat them.
There was a much broader range of dance styles at this event (for example Pasa Doble, Rhumba, Sevillanas and Lambada). Will this continue at future events?
I've always included other styles as I see this as an important factor in the weekend. I don't want people to be totally fixated on salsa and forgetting the other influences which are beneficial for salsa dancers too. So far I've introduced: Afro-Cuban (folk-loric), Carribbean (merengue, socca), Brazillian (lambada, samba, samba-gafeira), Argentinian (tango), Spanish (Pasa Doble, Rhumba; Sevillanas, cha cha cha), plus la rueda, dance technique, mambo on 2, le roc, ballroom jive, Cuban rumba, street jazz, jazz, comtemporary, salsa aerobics, and to come Arabic and Choreography, more Styling. Most people either don't think about other styles of dance or don't have time to try them out, and so it is ideal for other workshops to run alongside salsa at Pontins.