New York Salsa Congress : The Best Salsa Congress in the World – The Event Begins, Recap and Review

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And so it begins, and then it ends! It always seems to hapeen just that fast. Thursday night, opening, of the New York Salsa Congress to Sunday nights' closing party. I am not going to actually give a day by day recounting of the Congress. Frankly, too much happened, there were too many good salsa dance shows and dance troupes and musicians to be named and noted. I will, however, make this bold statement:

The New York Salsa Congress, 2008, is the world's best salsa dance congress.

Uh oh, can of worms probably with that one, but I have every intention of backing it up.  I think the "crown" can change from year to year, as congresses ebb and flow, but this year, there's little doubt. The New York Salsa Congress delivers, and Choco is the man for making it happen, taking it to a new level, and producing a world class event.

As I intimated in my earlier video podcast (the next podcast will be coming out in early-ish September), there was a lot of hooplah and anticipation for this year's event. It was very well promoted, and there was a lot riding on it's success. After this years  presentatio of the Los Angeles Salsa Congress, the field was wide open for a defining congress for the United States. How fitting that it should be in New York, and boy, did New York deliver. Choco seems to not only have risen to the challenge of producing a world class congress, but pretty much over-delivered in every aspect. 

So, let me go through the criteria I use when evaluating a salsa congress, so you can see how I arrived at the big award decision.

Location: This plays a huge part! Not only the city, but also the location in the city, the hotel, the surroundings (including the necessity of good late night food).  This is a world class city, and it was held directly in the center of things. A rarity to be sure…

The New York Salsa Congress overdelivered by holding the Congress at the Hilton hotel, directly in Midtown, blocks away from Central park and in the center of the city, with great accomodation for dancing, eating, touring, and of course, staying. A world class city, with great, central, accomodation (and for a very reasonable price).  Absoultey stellar locaion, hotel, and enough of a reason to visit almost entirely on its own.

Hotel and Ballrooms: As part of above, the event is held in a lavish ballroom, with an expansive balcony which was largely empty (and I love balconies). Great stage, lighting, viewing, relaxing. Plenty of seating! Great dance floors, good sound and not too hot (yes, it was still hot, but not TOO hot). :)   The hotel is a standard, large, Hilton. No elevator lines (let me repeat that for you regular congress go-ers – there were NO elevator lines).

Social Dancing, Shows and Workshops: This could easily be three different topics, and in truth, it is, but  lest' my hands fall off, I decided to group them together. The social dancing was expansive! Many hours of quality social dancing. Many congresses die on this one, but NYSC delivered! Huge dance floors provided ample space, even for the wall to wall crowd. I always had room to dance.

Best of all, New York is (for the most part) about tight and controlled dancing, so rarely were you stepped on, brushed, or knocked into – even on the crowded floors. Loved that part! Really exceptional array of social dancers present, and a very multinational crowd (more on that below).

Well run, expertly MC'd, totally organized, and off the wall fantastic dance shows!  Not everyone attends Congress to see the shows, but those that do, were treated to ample seating, good lighting, and good views. While there good have been huge video monitors on the sides, I did not miss their absence, as the raised stage seemed to do the trick.

Music, Sound, DJs and Bands: Again, a topic that can easily be broken up into individual subsections. However, again, the New York Salsa Congress delivered on all levels.  While, at times – as most salsa congress music does, there was little variety, and many fast tunes, overall, the DJs were quite good. The music outside the congress (in the Vendors area) was often fantastic – better for some than the music inside the venue (as evidenced by the crowds of people dancing outside). However, the Dj's, one and all,  did a great job – and the dancing rarely stopped.

The bands were, one and all, fantastic – but NOT necessarily for dancing as much as listening. I truly enjoyed the bands an enormous amount – they were stellar. With Saturday night's bands being the best for dancing (shorter, more danceable songs), and Sunday nights being off the wall fantastic musically. The bands all had stellar energy and musicianship. Of course, any songs over 10 minutes (or even over 6 minutes) are not ideal social dance songs, limiting your partners, and whom you choose, I enjoyed watching and listening to the bands so much that I'm not sure it mattered much to me. The DJ's, for the most part, seemed understanding of their ROLE to provide shorter, danceable, tunes – so it was a good balance.

The Crowd, the Promotion, the Attendance
: This was a well promoted Congress, and again, Choco seems to  have bridged many communities, and gotten not only the blessing of the city of New York (evidenced by the banners hanging from street lights around the hotel, and the Mayor's approval), but also the dance community locally and internationally. Attendance was strong, which provided a great crowd, both diverse in dance level and residence.

However, it should be noted that the dance level in New York is quite high. The floor was filled with fantastic dancers, and it was a blast for more advanced dancers specifically. I would not likely have relished being a beginner at this Congress. If you were one, and attended, let's hear from you? The beginner's I saw on the floor were having a helluva good time!  My dances were exceptional, every single one.

The Vendors: Great list of vendors, with good merchandise and brisk sales through the event. Good for everyone. Nuff' said.

The Overall Professionalism: From the check in, to the timeliness of schedulue, to the smooth execution from the first day, this was a professional event which left everyone happy.  No long lines, no crazy restrictions, no ludicrous rules or secret-police like security (except the video tape police, whom were a bit crazy), and no … long lines – did I already say that?! ;) Well run.

The Fun Factor: ok, so this is a slightly more vague guage – for just how much fun you have at a Salsa Congress. My high point being the 2nd Annual Puerto Rico Salsa Congress (the most fun I've ever had at a salsa event). New York, well… it's New York. It's a fantastic place to be, Congress or not. For me, social dancing is the key to a Congress. That is why I typically go (although the right bands can be a key draw). This congress delivered, with friendly and varied crowds of dancers, great dance floors, good music, and a lot of energy! 

And, for those who have followed my reviews for ten or more years, as always I'll note if I was ever turned down for a dance (hey, it's a fair gauge of friendliness right?). The answer is no. Not even once – and I was asked to dance on multiple occassions.

Tonight, it's Jimmy Bosch at Taj! Only in New York eh? Love it!  Would love to hear your feedback about the event and what you thought too – leave it below – and share this review with your friends.

Congratulations to Choco and New York – world class all the way!

(SC) SalsaCrazy, Reporting live from New York City…We'll see you next year.

Ok, just two quick PS's, the first is:

We just released our SalsaCrazy Advanced Salsa Dance Mastery System, fun stuff.

We have a Salsa Dance Cruise to the Mexican Riviera coming up, live with Chino Espinoza! We have salsa cruises every year, so join the email list.


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