The 2007 Canada Salsa Congress ran from Oct 4-7 this year, and continues to be a very well organized event that Torontonians are lucky to have in their backyard. For salsa fanatics, performers, amateurs, professionals and the like the event is a great place to meet new people, learn new techniques, and find ways to improve over an intense weekend. In general, all the workshops we attended delivered what was expected. In every session there was something to learn. Sometimes it was challenging, but most importantly it was all fun.

For those who are new to congresses, hopefully this overview of what a congress is like will encourage you to attend the next one. Whether you’re serious about salsa and looking to perform or teach, or just like to have fun there is something for everyone. Pricing is flexible through different ticket options that range from: $10-$25 (depending on the evening) for entry into dancing after 11pm, to $275 for a full pass that gives you access to all the workshops, performances and parties from Friday to Sunday.

Workshop Highlights

Our first workshop became one of our favorites of the entire event. We chose to start the Saturday morning with Salsa Partnerwork with Tango Styling, with City Dance Corps. After a brief warm-up we were shown an interesting pattern with some sexy footwork. Nina loved it and it really tested our ability to maintain a strong frame due to the tango styling. The pattern was at the appropriately and intermediate level of complexity as indicated in the program and definitely had that tango flair in it.

After getting warmed up with the first class, we remained in the same room for one of Alfred’s favorite instructors Super Mario. Mario is based in London, and has fantastic drop in classes out of a salsa club called Bar Salsa. His patterns are often complex but very leadable. The advanced pattern that he taught was definitely advanced in that the moves required quick and accurate leading and following. There was definitely the possibility of hurting yourself or your partner with some of the moves that were thrown in.

New at this year’s congress was a set of discussion forums during the lunch break. Since Nina and I are beginning to teach as assistant instructors for Sharon, we thought it would be helpful to attend the The Road to Becoming a Better Instructor session moderated by Jennifer Aucoin. It was an informative and educational session where veterans such as Al Espinoza, Super Mario, and Salsa Steph discussed the various challenges faced by instructors. There were ample questions from the crowd, and good examples and tips provided by the group. Jennifer hinted that she was considering a lengthier instructor’s workshop next year if there is enough interest. So if you’re thinking you’d attend, make sure you email her or let the congress organizers know when you fill out the feedback form on the internet that’s been emailed to you.

I always enjoy classes with Al Espinoza as he is good at reminding us to think more about dancing to the music. It is important to learn the basics and have a repertoire of patterns to pull from, but to move to the next level sometimes stepping back from complex turn patterns, and focusing on simpler moves but more attention to the music can cause some excitement. In both the Rotating Cross-Body leads and musicality class, Al and his wife Karla focused on how we can play with the timing and leading and following to the various instruments, the pitch and even demonstrated moving and dancing to the vocals.

We attended the workshops in almost every time-slot except for the first workshop on the Sunday morning. Dancing almost non-stop from 11AM-5PM two days in a row while partying until the wee hours of the morning can be quite a strain. Advice for those who plan to go all out include: getting rest before the congress, wearing comfortable clothing during the workshops, pack a lunch or some snacks to make sure you keep you energy level up, and staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

As with the 2006 congress, we had a great time improving our dancing along with having fun with new and familiar faces alike. Hope to see you there next year!