Have time of your life at salsa festival
Sensual dance unites people of all backgrounds
IF YOU’VE ever imagined yourself heating up the dance floor with sultry salsa moves like a scene out of Dirty Dancing, then there’s still a chance to learn from local and international experts at the Mzansi Cape Town Salsa Festival.
Hosted at the River Club conference centre, the four-day dance fest, the first international salsa fest for Cape Town, started on Thursday.
Also the country’s first national salsa convention, the festival was initiated as part of the annual International Salsa Congress held in different cities across the globe.
The salsa festival is hosted as a celebration of the dance bringing together people of all ages and backgrounds.
“Salsa is a social, fun, sexy and passionate dance that people from all walks of life can enjoy at any time, anywhere in the world,” said festival organiser Theo “Teddy” Mseka.
Ticket holders have access to more than 40 workshops, catering to the needs of different levels of dancers, whether an amateur dancer hoping to learn more intricate techniques, or a first-timer seeking a salsa crash course. Classes are open to the public for a fee, and run until 6 tonight. Workshops will continue tomorrow from 10am until 5pm.
“No matter your lifestyle, profession, or fitness level, salsa is for you. It’s easy to learn, too. Especially for those who have never danced before, there’s a beginner’s boot camp, with eight hours of special workshops to get everybody dancing by the end of the festival,” Mseka promised.
He said it was an opportunity for local and music lovers to not only train with, but also watch performances by some of the world’s best salsa dancers.
Lessons included different styles of salsa, such as Cuban, Bachata and Samba, and even a dose of Cape Jazz – a popular style on the local dance scene. Two Cape Town instructors, George Daniels and Marchant Birch, were thrilled to be invited to participate.
Originally from Somerset West, Daniels, 37, said: “It’s really good to give back and use my experience to teach and better other dancers’ salsa skills.”
Teaching his speciality, Bachata, Daniels said he now teaches various salsa styles in Norway and Europe.
After dancing Cape Jazz, he was introduced to salsa by a friend about 12 years ago. He then started dancing socially at popular Latin American city club Bossa Nova. He went on to teach salsa at the venue before leaving the country.
“I just fell in love with the music. It’s a very social dance and great way of meeting people and breaking away and just forgetting the stresses of life,” he said.
While salsa has proved a big hit abroad, he said the continent as a whole lagged behind. He believed the festival provided a huge platform to expose salsa as a dance form.
“Besides meeting new people, in Europe salsa is also popularly used as a form of exercise and losing weight,” he added.
A workshop pass can be purchased for those only wishing to grab some basic steps.
But with a full day or party pass, entry is assured to various themed parties each night. Thursday night saw party-goers don scary costumes and makeup for the Halloween party. Tonight’s theme is Mzansi Summer Chic, while an All White dress code is the theme for tomorrow’s closing party.
Celebrity actress and presenter Natalie Becker, who learnt to salsa in just a few weeks, will perform tonight.
“I love its vibrancy and strong rhythms, as well as its grace and sensuality, and the connection with other people through this wonderful form of expression,” said Becker.
About 15 youngsters from Khayelitsha dance group Shikila are also set to perform. Dance instructor Bheki Ndlovu said the festival provided muchneeded exposure to the dancers.
During a practice session in a leaking shack, which serves as a Makhaza church, Ndlovu said dance kept them out of trouble, while inspiring other children to follow their dreams.
● For more festival information visit: www.alloutsalsa.com.
ZEALOUS: Cape Town group Shikila will also perform at the festival.