• Salsa Festival Switzerland



    Zurich, Switzerland's Salsa Kongress
    ...The Finest of World Class Events


    www.SalsaFestival.com
    By Edie, The Salsa FREAK!!



    So I get this email...

    "Dear Edie,
    I want to invite both you to our Salsa Kongress in Zurich Switzerland this year. We will cover all of your expenses. You don't have to teach, nor perform, just be there with us, as our guests of honor." - Thomas Stadler, Zurich Salsa Kongress Event Promoter

    ...
    I almost fell off my chair.
    I had to read it again.

    .... OK. So I don't have to teach, I don't have to perform, I don't have to helporganize anything, I just get to HANG OUT, dance, and completely enjoy myself stress-free for a change. What a concept! I kept thinking to myself, "Does this mean, that I have finally 'arrived?' "

    I couldn't WAIT to go! I packed my bags the night before, and I was OFF to a fabulous week in Switzerland!

    One of the event promoters, Thomas Stadler picked me up at the airport in his stunning Mercedez Benz, and we headed off to a very schick hotel where dancers and performers from all over the world would be staying.

    I arrived from non-stop flight from Los Angeles to Zurich on Swissair. As to be expected, the flight and service on this Swiss airline was excellent. I was still a bit jet-lagged, so I slept in the hotel until dinner that evening. We went to a restaurant called Limmathaus and met with most of the performers who arrived that day.

    The promoters held a huge complimentary welcome dinner for all of us. Some of the attendees were World Salsa Promoter Mr. Albert Torres and his beautiful wife, Maya, the Addie-Tude and Santo Rico dance companies from New York, Salsa Freestyle from Zurich, Manuel Mascarell's group from Spain, Papa Tambor from Puerto Rico, Ballet Areito from Cuba, Salsa Brava from California, Leon Rose and the adorable Susana Montero from England.

    On Thursday, the Kongress opened up with dancing and shows at the X-tra Limmathaus nightclub in the heart of Zurich. The local Salsa Freestyle Company, the NY Addie-Tude dance company and Harvey Anturi and Miriam of Club Latino from Sweden all gave spectacular performances that evening. I had a blast dancing with all my friends from New York and Albert Torres. I tried asking some of the local Swiss Salseros to dance, but most of them refused! They told me they were too intimidated by me, or just simply said, "Absolutely not!".

    I started developing a complex. "Is it what I'm wearing? My hair? My breath? WHAT!?!?" I thought to myself.

    That was so sad! I'm not used to getting turned down so often! Many were very apologetic, but I still just wanted to cry! I'm here to tell you, that if I'm in your home town, I want to dance with local Salseros to feel accepted, warmly welcomed, and a part of their family. I can't tell you how many times I have to ask men to dance with me when I'm visiting a different country, and how many times they turn away in horrific fear! It can be devasting.

    Look. Dancing with a highly-trained female dancer should be a piece of cake for most men! It's a proven fact, that when you're dancing with a woman of a higher calibur, it is much easier than dancing with a beginner! Higher calibur dancers follow better, and are much more forgiving than most. There are a lot of women who just want to get out there and move to Salsa music (like it was made to), instead of sitting on the sidelines just watching.

    HELLO!!!!

    If you don't want to MOVE your body when you hear Salsa, then you're probably dead!

    Salsa rhythms can be so addicting, so intoxicating, that it beats ANY drug - day or night. So if you ever see me in your town, PLEASE ask me to dance - I rarely turn anyone down! Besides, people tell me I am a very good follower!

    On Friday, I slept most of the day to get plenty of rest for the evening ahead. Maya and I got a first-hand look at the convention center where the Kongress would be held. It is called, appropriately, the Kongresshaus. We were awestruck when we walked in. It was the perfect place for a Salsa Congress of this magnitude and calibur.

    The ballroom had a specatularly spacious 5,000 sq foot wooden dance floor. The dance floor was about five feet below the stage, and about a two feet below the spectators and tables. This type of sunken dance floor provides excellent "dancer" and performance viewing for the spectator from virtually every angle

    The ballroom came complete with a fully-equipped stage, surrounding tables and bars, a three-story high cathedral ceiling, and beautiful panoramic-view, full-length windows that displayed the picturesque lake and Swiss Alps just outside.


    The lighting was soft and very comfortable - just enough to adequately see the dancers at their best. There were no annoying colored or strobe lights. I can't stand going to events where you can barely see the dancers because of darkness, poor lighting and smoke machines. Darkness causes you to miss your partner's hands, and the smoke from smoke machines gets in the way of your view. When you inhale it, your throat gets dry and you start coughing. To top it off, it makes the floor sticky, and you can no longer spin very well (Gosh, am I picky, or what!?).


    A good Salsa event is created by experienced dancers, for dancers,

    and the Zurich promoters did an exquisite job at keeping the visual art of dancing in mind.

    DJs Fermin from Valencia/Spain, Livia, and Rodolfo were phenomenal. I'm finding the Salsa and Mambo music in Europe is just as good as it is in Los Angeles now. I was so pleasantly surprised! I was also surprised that there is a 24-hour Tropical radio station here in Zurich that plays Salsa all day long! The Artists got the pleasure of listening to it when the van drivers were driving us to the convention center each day.

    Friday night was electric. It was the best night for me because there was room to dance, great music, a lot of energy, and I got a chance to dance with different people from all over world - including (finally) some of the local guys from Zurich! Many of them dance traditional Cuban style, and although it is not what I am used to, it was very relaxing, and just perfect for me.

    Some of the most impressive leads I got that night were from Manuel Mascarell of Spain, Christian Pao of Germany, and my dear friend Pedro Gomez from Italy. I had a BLAST dancing with all of them! Dancing with Albert Torres is always fun, and getting technical on-the-dancefloor spins training with Thomas with the guys from the Santo Rico dance company was priceless. Paco and Steven's leads from the Salsa Brava dance company made me feel right at home.

    I think I shocked Steven when he was spinning me at a hundred miles an hour when I decided to start going down for a perfect coffee-grinder with him (I explain this move in my new Lifts and Tricks video). There's very few men in the world that can lead me into that very complex move well, and Steven really proved himself that night! Great job Steven! I'll never forget when Steven first joined Salsa Brava when I was part of the company a few years ago. He has certainly come a long way. "Look Edie, no thumbs!" he told me while dancing. I cracked up. I used to get on his case about his thumbs pressing down on the backs of my hands during a lead, and now he's teaching a "no thumbs" lead to all of his students. I AM SO PROUD OF HIM!!! I'm also proud of all Salseros who constantly strive to make this art form a challenge, and continuously try to perfect their lead, while making it comfortable for the lady at the same time.

    What I mean by making it comfortable for the lady, is simple. It is one thing to learn a ton of moves and another to make the woman feel warm and fuzzies following your move as well.

    Now THAT is a challenge.

    Striving to remember a ton of "turn patterns and combinations" is all fine and dandy, but if the lead is not smooth and comfortable for the woman, it's not even worth it. I'd rather dance with a man with a limited number of moves but feels comfortable, than with a guy that knows every trick in the book, but feels horrible doing it.

    A firm but relaxed body tension, frame, hand-holds, and a relaxing but powerful lower center-of-gravity lead is paramount to a solid and comforting turn pattern. This is the type of technical training I like to focus on. Anyone can teach you a turn-pattern, but not everyone can teach how to make it comfortable for the lady.

    Anyway, back to the Zurich Kongress. The performances on Friday night were great! There were two MC's that night. The beautiful Stephanie Berger (Ms. Switzerland 1995) and a gentleman by the name of Chris. If there is anything I would have changed about the entire event was her attire. For a Kongress of this caliber and magnitude, I believe that most of us expected an elegant, long sequenced evening gown on such a beautiful woman. The performances were projected on an enormous 480 sq foot video projection screen directly behind the Artists, so no matter where you stood in the entire ballroom, you had an excellent close-up view of the spectacular performances, and even their facial expressions! The professional visual affect made me feel like I was at the Academy Awards or Grammy's back in Hollywood!

    The promoters made sure the Artists at the event were very well taken care of. They went above and beyond accommodating all meals, hotel, transportation, teaching accommodations (big screen projection, sound, music, water, and microphone headsets), and private men and women's changing rooms for the evening performance shows, complete with food, elegant hors d'oerves, and plenty of beverages for the Artists.

    The daily weekend workshops were very well attended - chalk full of eager students, and very well taught. We had a spectacular view of the lake and the towering Swiss Alps from the Kongress ballroom cathedral windows. I was shocked to see the most beautiful white swans who have made the Zurich lake their home. The Swiss Alps are some of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world.

    Some of the most famous instructors in the world showed their best moves and turn patterns that weekend. It's interesting that the biggest complaints at large workshops is the inability to adequately see the instructors. Not so at the Zurich Kongress! The promoters literally thought of everything in advance. In the ballroom, the instructors' turn patterns and footwork where closely filmed and projected on the large 480 sq foot projection screen for all the participants to see. Any student, including those in the back of the room could get an excellent close-up view of the instruction. This was the first time I had ever seen, and truly benefitted from an instructor teaching over 300 people at one time.

    I had the honor of assisting World Famous International Instructor Mr. Pedro Gomez at the event's weekend workshops. He is not only an excellent dancer, but one of the finest instructors I've ever known. He not only gave excellent lessons, but taught each workshop in four different languages, German, English, Italian, and Spanish. This Cuban-born Puerto Rican regularly holds weekend workshops all over Europe and the Ivory Coast of Africa. He's in very high demand all over the world, and I'm very proud to call him my friend.

    I met Pedro Gomez during Team Salsaweb's Euro-Tour back in 1998. We were the first American team from Los Angeles to teach and perform in ten different countries throughout Europe, introducing Los Angeles Style to the Europeans. I'll never forget that time. We weren't very well received in some cities, because the most predominant Salsa style in Europe was Cuban. The people at the time couldn't believe that Salsa could be danced so "differently" from what they were used to. Afterward, what made the entire trip worth it, is to now see all types of styles all over Europe, quickly catching on, and getting better - with more tricks and techniques than Team Salsaweb had back in 1998! Pedro Gomez let us stay at his home in Italy during our tour, and freely gave us footwork and turn patterns to take home with us. He drove us around to different Italian cities to get a feel for what Salsa in Italy was like at the time. We learned a great deal from him, and about the Italian culture. We were forever thankful for his kindness and sincerity as a giving human being and instructor.

    Pedro Gomez has taught more people Salsa in Europe than anyone I've ever met. He holds a workshop in a different country virtually every weekend, teaches full time during the week, and has recently opened up a new nightclub in his home town. He teaches Puerto Rican style Salsa both on the One and the Two. When Pedro teaches on Two, his timing is completely different than what I'm used to. He steps on the 2, 3,5, pause, 6,7,8 counts, instead of the traditional Eddie Torres Mambo Typico style, 12,3 pause, 5,6,7, or the RazzMTazz or classic Ballroom 2,3,4 pause, 6,7,8 style. There is nothing wrong with this, it is just another way of dancing on Two.

    Pedro Gomez will go down in history as one of the most influential Salsa instructors in the world. At an event of this caliber, it was only natural that he be a featured instructor.

    The Zurich Kongress promoters thought of everything. Keeping the performers, instructors and people happy and well satisfied is something so often overlooked at other events. Simply by having that big-screen alone, keeping the Artists and Guests as their primary concern, the promoters went far above and beyond anything I've ever experienced at any World Salsa Congress to date.

    The Saturday night shows were astounding. The performance groups stunned and amazed the audience with humor, wit, and talent, show and after show. One show I loved in particular was performed by Rafael Munoz of Germany. His dance team came out as... gosh, I can't even name, much less describe what or who they were!! Put simply, they were little-big men with big top hats, fury hair, and Mambo-Legend gloved hands, performing shines and cracking everyone up! I was rolling laughing! It was the funniest thing I've ever seen! It's interesting that performances are now taking on more of an entertainment value, combining different types of music with traditional Salsa, and the audience loves it. People are now craving creativity and pure entertainment. I could tell by the massive applause from the audience! The "darling" of all the shows came from the Addie-Tude dance company. They performed as Toy soldiers, complete with Raggedie-Anne and a Fairytale Tinkerbell. All of the evening shows, including the concert with the Legendary Alfred de la Fey, were truly memorable.

    Albert and I were honored that night, and both of us couldn't speak highly enough of this event that we were both very proud to be a part of. I believe everyone, guests and artists included were very very impressed.

    On Sunday evening, the event promoters held a complimentary Crew and Artist dinner gala. Promoters Juan Carlos and Thomas announced, "We have been working hard for the last couple of weeks. Now we are very tired, and couldn't even enjoy the shows. We also lost some money, but STILL we feel VERY happy and proud of what we've all been able to create this weekend. Isn't that insane? We just organized our first Salsa Kongress, and you must have noticed that not everything was organized to perfection BUT, the amazing thing was that our Kongress guests didn't notice any of our imperfections. This is mainly due to your professionalism as Artists. At least we were professional enough to work with professionals like you. Thank you for coming to Switzerland!"

    Sunday night, when the performances and dancing were "officially" over, the promoters saw that everyone was having too good of a time to stop. So they decided to spend another thousand dollars to extend one more hour of dancing for their guests. They clearly went well above and beyond any of our expectations, and for that we are forever thankful.

    I decided to spend a few more days in Switzerland to wind down, relax, and do some site-seeing and dancing at some of the local Salsa clubs after the event was over (which is what I suggest EVERYONE should do while they're here!). We went to two nightclubs, _______ on Tuesday night and El Presidente on Wednesday. Both were entirely different, but very beautiful nightclub/restaurants that had great floors, and great dancers!

    I finally got a chance to dance with event promoters Juan Carlos, Thomas, and Stephan. Both Thomas and Stephan have a Cuban / Puerto Rican mix style, and Juan Carlos has more of a Puerto Rican style. I guess I would define LA and NY style much like Puerto Rican style, as compared to hardcore Cuban style, which is more of a man's dominion dance where the woman must have spaghetti arms and little to no styling to get through the moves, whereas Puerto Rican style highlights the woman a bit more, allowing both partners more spins and technical partnering patterns.


    Ueli, the DJ played awesome music at both places! I had an opportunity to get a first-hand look at his CD collection, and it literally could fill up an entire room! Thousands and thousands of CDs and Vinyl albums line the walls of a very long hallway at his office - I've never seen such an enormous collection in my life! Along the Zurich Kongress promoters, Ueli is now one of the official new World Correspondents for Salsaweb Switzerland, and am very proud to make him part of our Salsaweb family.

    Switzerland is by far, one of the most beautiful countries in the world. What's great about coming here is that everything is so close! Within 30 minutes to an hour of Zurch, you can visit virtually every tourist attraction there is. The drive getting to anywhere in Switzerland is peppered with snowy mountain peaks, rivers, waterfalls, lakes, country cottages, and deep green valley scenery from every angle.

    I got a chance to taste the finest of Swiss chocolates, try on some of Switzerland's famous Swiss Watches, bought a beautiful Swiss Knife, ate some Swiss Cheese, and meet with the company that developed the Swiss-based bar-coding technology called "Klicket" that rapidly registered in all the Kongress guests within a fraction of the time Congress Event registration normally takes. All the guests had to do was purchase a ticket online, print out the ticket that had a bar code on it, and present it for scanning at the registration desk. I was amazed at how simple, quick and easy it was.

    From chocolates to Kongresses, Everything the Swiss do is World Class. That's all I can say.

    I got a chance to experience not only the beauty of the old city of Zurich, but the cities of Zuch, and Lucerne as well. Thomas took me to a beautiful, white, castle-like five-star restaurant called Gutsch, located high on a hill overlooking the picturesque city of Lucern. This place is a MUST SEE when you come to the Kongress next year. The view is spectacular, and the food, impeccable.

    I would also highly suggest staying an extra few days after the event to experience world-class skiing at its best! In fact, Luis, from the Addie-Tude dance company from New York, took Sunday off to go skiing in the Alps! He easily found a way to get straight to the Alps from the hotel. I was in shock when I found out, considering that I knew for a fact that he partied at the event till five in the morning, ate a fabulous breakfast at the hotel with us, and then did a full day of skiing! Now that man has energy!

    You may even convince Thomas to take you for an airplane ride through the Alps... he's got his pilot's license and flies through the Alps FOR FUN.

    Thomas and I had many interesting conversations after the event. To quote him shaking his head, laughing, "Edie, here I am an organizer. You work your ass of, you lose money, and you're still very happy about the event! There is always the fear that something bad will happen at the event. But I'm very proud that the crowd was amazed with what we did. So many people shook my hands, and were telling me how great of an event this was, thanking me for all the hard work we put into it. The guests kept referring to an absolutely perfect organization. I told the Artists that this was due not only to our efforts, but to their professionalism as well. With a cheeful heart, many Artists would compensate for any minor mistakes or things we may have overlooked. Although behind the scenes there were many imperfections and few near catastrophes, we are very happy with the results. We are extremely motivated to create our next Kongress for 2003."

    There are so many more things to say about this incredible event and country. But the most important, is that the promoters were constantly thinking, and referring to everyone attending as their "Guests". Not only were Albert Torres and I the official "Guests of Honor", but I believe that everyone who attended felt like Guests of Honor as well.
    Thank you Thomas, Stephan, Juan Carlos, and Ueli for such an incredibly successful World Class Event. Like your watches, chocolates, and technology, the Swiss Zurich Salsa Kongess 2002 will go down in history as one of the Finest Salsa Congresses the world has ever known.

    For more information about next year's Salsa Kongress in Zurich, Switzerland, visit www.SalsaFestival.com

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