After years of failed attempts I was finally able to make a trip to the Salsa ‘Mecca’ of the Midwest: The Chicago International Salsa Congress! I have been told for a long time ‘Michal, you got to attend that Congress!’ and I must say it felt really good to go to it back in February. For fifteen years the Salsa community in the greater Chicago area has hosted this Congress.

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Calling it the Salsa ‘Mecca’ of the Midwest is well earned, nearly everyone whom has attended all say that they went back to their towns as a changed dancer. The Chicago International Salsa Congress is a major event, over a thousand people attend this annually! It is a unique opportunity for Latin dance lovers to take their knowledge/appreciation of various dances and skills to a whole new level. For four days and nights attendees have access to a host of quality workshops and not all Latin dance workshops at that. This year there were workshops covering the dance of Kizomba from Angola, Brazilian Samba, Vogue, Bachata from the Dominican Republic, Zumba, Salsa, Chacha, Tiago a country dance and many more!

My entourage and I arrived Thursday afternoon, because of all us wanted to attend the first ever Rueda Summit at this Congress. Rueda de Casino is a form of Salsa dancing with its origins in Cuba. It involves a group of several couples dancing numbering from four up to the sky is the limit! (Recently Cuba held a HUGE Rueda circle with over 900 people getting down) So as everyone begins with the basic step, a Guapea; the Cantante (caller) calls out the moves that everyone in the wheel executes in sync. I often refer to this dance as a line dance but in a circle instead. The moves can be very simple to the very complicated it all depends on what the Cantante says. The summit here was taught by a local Rueda group Chicago Rueda, they did a fantastic job! I learned some funky moves.

Group photo from the Rueda Summit

Throughout my stay I went to all kinds of workshops: a beginner Rueda, Mambo aka Salsa On2 (the count), Chacha, Sensual Salsa , Salsa Footwork taught by an amazing and fun dancer from Mexico City! But the class I enjoyed the most is the Intermediate Salsa taught by my friend Elaine from Detroit. During this workshop I decided to do a role reversal and become her follower, yes I became the ‘woman’ in this class. To be fair leaders and followers of any dance can be any sex; however, I needed to work on my following skills so this is just what the doctor ordered. As a leader with a dance partner I’m used to taking charge on the dance floor, but being the follower is a tad bit more difficult for me. Nevertheless, by the end of that class I became a MUCH better follower than when I entered.

Salsa Footwork class.

Another great thing about Salsa Congresses is the LIVE MUSIC!!! I am a sucka for good energetic live Salsa music; my feet simply can’t keep still. Each night of the Congress there was a live act to entertain the dancers and every last one of them was FANTASTIC! I’ve heard stories by people telling me how they danced until nearly four o’clock in the morning at this Congress I didn’t understand why then, but I most certainly do now, my God, did those bands spit fire from their instruments. Straight from Puerto Rico they didn’t disappoint us. Hell, on Saturday night I never noticed how much time had passed until around 3:30am, after which I seriously debated whether I really wanted to leave to go back home the following morning. I hate to depart from such an amazing band.

Not only is the Chicago International Salsa Congress an excellent choice for dancers to gain more knowledge, it also serves as a platform for many performers. From the world renowned champions, professionals, and semi-professionals to those whom are just starting off on that path, we enjoyed them all. For me the best performance of the entire event happened to be by a teenage dance couple from Colombia, Sondeluz. I grew tired just watching them, their performance was intense, there is no way my feet could move that fast; but fast is the hallmark of Colombian Salsa. The crowd went wild watching this duo set the dance floor on fire, their routine was cute and engaging all at the same time. I know those teenagers have a bright future dancing across the world. They are just that damn good!

In end going to the Chicago International Salsa Congress is well worth the time and money. If you are interested in learning how to Salsa dance or are a new dancer then I highly recommend you attend the Congresses that are within driving distance. This experience will take you to new heights, and you can had back to home carrying all the memories ready to apply them on the dance floor.

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Michal Hamilton

Michal Hamilton

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