By Alix Norman
You’d be forgiven for thinking that our eastern shores are a bit of a dead zone at this time of year. It’s the end of March and, apart from the ubiquitous hardy Brits, you might safely assume that Protoras is not a hot spot for tourists on the proverbial party circuit. But you’d be wrong because from Thursday March until next Monday over 1,000 people will flock to the area for what is, quite possibly, the biggest dance event on the island’s calendar: the Cyprus Salsa Congress.
In its ninth year, the Cyprus Salsa Congress is an energetic, exciting event, a five-day happening which attracts visitors from both Cyprus and abroad. It’s a massive celebration of all things salsa, boasting a programme packed with workshops, classes and parties. And best of all, some of the world’s top salsa acts will be flying in to entertain and instruct the crowds. With more than 50 international performers, it’s an unmissable event for anyone with a passion, not just for salsa, but for anything dance. And it’s all happening at the Grecian Park Hotel on Cape Greco.
Who wouldn’t want the chance to see – and work with – some of the biggest salsa names in the world? There’s Yanet Fuentes Torres, for example, from Cuba – often seen on stage with Shakira; Luis Vasquez, from Mexico – pioneer of the LA style salsa; Chiquito from Italy, star of the film Street Dance 2. And, for the first time, Juan Matos (renowned around the world for the development of ‘Pechanga’, a style of mambo characterised by rapid foot movements and a smooth, classic style) of the Dominican Republic will be joining the line up.
While salsa may be the main reason behind this gathering of stars, there’s a great deal more going on. Over 60 workshops will be held during the five-day event, catering to everyone from total beginner to the seriously advanced, and each night will see no fewer than three parties running consecutively on the hotel premises. And that’s not forgetting the actual shows, happening both in the afternoons and the evenings.
“Each of the main performers will present at least one showcase over the duration of the congress, mostly during the evening performances,” says Christos Shakallis, one of the event organisers. “The afternoon showcases – for which entry is entirely free of charge,” he adds, “revolve, for the most part, around local dance schools, amateur performers and children’s groups, all of whom get the chance to try out their moves – sometimes for the first time – in front of an audience.”
With such an amazing, energy-filled atmosphere, it’s no wonder that both local and foreign attendees return time and again. “We have groups from Lebanon, the UK, the Americas who return each year,” says Christos. “People come from all over the world: singles who love salsa, couples with a passion for dance, groups who want to further their knowledge. Each year we have more and more guests, and I believe Cyprus is an ideal location for this type of event: the Congress is like a seminar, a party and a vacation all rolled into one!”
While the hotel itself opens especially each year just to accommodate the guests, the surrounding areas also benefit hugely from the influx of tourists, with apartment-owners, restaurants and transport services all revving up for the event. “The Grecian Park itself has been booked out for over a month,” says Christos, “but you can still buy a pass to attend all the events, workshops and parties on the agenda.”
Paragons of both enthusiasm and efficiency, Christos and his team ensure that the Congress is organised to perfection: there’s the option of choosing between a Full Pass (covering all performances, workshops and parties), a Beginners Full Pass (which includes all of the above but limits workshop entrance to classes of the appropriate level), a Single Day and Night Pass (allowing entrance to all the events for either Saturday or Sunday) or a Party & Shows Pass (which does what it says on the tin).
“It’s wonderful to be part of such an event,” says Christos. “I feel we’ve managed to put Cyprus on the salsa map, while at the same time lighting up the area during off-season.” So if you’re looking for some world-class excitement in the next few days, the chance to meet like-minded dance enthusiasts and learn something new, head down to Protoras. Salseros y salseras, the party is about to start…
9th Cyprus Salsa Congress
Taking place at The Grecian Park Hotel between March 27 and March 31. For more information, registration and costs, visit www.salsacyprus.com, email [email protected] or call 70000909