Amsterdam Salsa Zouk Congress 2012: mixed feelings

It may be that high expectations lead to disappointment or it may be that a few things made me consider that this ASZC might be the last one for me for a legitimately objective set of reasons, so I wonder: does anyone else share similar sentiments with me on this congress?

Where to begin… Probably with the good stuff: amazing dancers and great atmosphere are a hallmark of ASZC, of course. I had a wonderful time dancing with some of my all-time favorite partners and a few new people both on the Zouk and the Salsa floors.

Unfortunately, last year’s congress wasn’t matched – by a far margin. Not only that, but I think that a few things weren’t thought through very well by the organizers… These are the important details that make me strongly tempted to swap ASZC for a different event next year, as much as I was up to the past weekend a huge fan of this particular congress:

1. Shall we start at the price tag? Yes, early bird tickets are a steal, but not everyone has an opportunity to plan a year ahead. Especially so for a party pass alone (my case). So here is my grudge: last year the party pass price was something like 55 Euros at the door. The location rocked, the rooms were separated and there was no sound overlap. Albeit parties ended up a bit too early for my taste (even when I get and use full passes, I am one of those “keep it going till 7am!” people, but that’s just me 🙂 Three practically sleepless nights are usually well worth it! ).

This year it was a whooping 70 Euros for the party pass… For comparison, early bird full pass was 80… It simply isn’t conceptually correct, in my humble opinion, to offer a full pass at any stage for a price just a tenner over a simple party pass, sorry. Okay, fine, I understand (sort of) the different location rental, staffing prices and etc of it all, but guys seriously – you have lost a good deal of people who would have attended because you drove the prices up to a prohibitive at-the-door level. If I were from the Netherlands and didn’t specifically travel to another country to attend this congress, I would be very strongly inclined to instead of attending all 3 parties come to just one or skip the whole deal altogether. Yes, I know of some people who did just that – decided not to come. This may have been the reason why the floors were surprisingly uncrowded for one of the notoriously most revered events of the year…

My humble suggestion? Bet on the number of people to cover your costs – not on a price that would force so many of them to stay home instead of coming. Keep it reasonable, if possible. It would pay off for everyone. Many people decide that very weekend if they want to come at all – don’t settle on a price that would make them decide “meh, too expensive, I’m not going…” instead of “yay, it’s festival time!!!”.

2. My biggest problem with this congress is the fact that I start thinking it is intentionally misnamed. I suggest changing the name to “Amsterdam Salsa Kizomba Congress”, as this would at the very least accurately reflect the reality of music selection.

Nothing wrong with occasional few kizomba songs here and there, but I’m very sorry I didn’t pay the aforementioned 70 Euros for a salsa-kizomba party: I paid that ridiculous price for salsa-ZOUK party. Yes, there IS a difference. And very substantial. I can’t even begin to count how many people I spoke to were seriously pissed off at the nearly all-kizomba playlist!!! Sunday was probably the worst – I personally counted maybe 10 actual zouk songs in total! And who the hell had the ‘bright” idea of hiring the well-known almost exclusively all-kizomba DJ for the supposedly zouk party anyway?!?! For more than one night, too!

This is the MAIN reason why ASZC may be loosing me and a good deal of others in terms of attendance. If organizers wish so strongly to push through the kizomba alongside salsa – name the congress accordingly and don’t lie to people who are anything but interested in THAT specific musical and dance style. Let me repeat this: kizomba is NOT what we zukeiros pay for. Was that clear enough?

Here is a quick easy rule-of-thumb set to guide the DJ’s:

a) Think about it: can you imagine dancing Lamba-Zouk to, say, Mafie’s remixes? Nyx’s? Kadu’s? How about to R’n’B remixes? Oriental ones? Pop? No? Good: THAT is the ZOUK music that WE want and pay for.

b) If you throw in a Neo-Zouk song, for crying out loud don’t squeeze it between two Kizombas! Neo-philes will flock to the floor then you cut their groove right mid-way by immediately swapping the style right elsewhere? DO. NOT. DO. THAT. EVER. Just as bad music in general, style-swapping one song at a time way is a grand groove killer. Play 2-3-4 (depending on length) Neo-Zouk songs once you get into them, and try to get in and out of that style with something less ear-cutting of a switch than jumping to Kizomba-style stuff (easier yet: don’t play Kizomba at Zouk parties – simples! 😀 ). Instead, try Lambada, R’n’B, something more pop (even Nelson Freitas would do) for transition.

3. Saturday night and general sound issues… Not the hugest deal of it all, but guess what? If the salsa floor had their decibel levels just a nudge lower – both camps could enjoy their respective dances much more. Frankly, for 70 Euros I would actually expect a proper sound-check ahead of time, too. On BOTH floors, not just one.

Even if I had only come to the salsa half of the party (and I found myself on that floor often enough, compared to the previous combined congresses, to escape the worst of the kizomba playlist of each night) – I want the people who paid a high price for something to get their money’s worth in no manner less than myself for the same price. Yes, salsa is the ‘main’ focus of that congress – but then make separate zouk passes available with the “shitty sound” discount reflected in the price – that would at least be fair from a consumer treatment point of view.

4. The last song… I lost count of how many congresses (both salsa and zouk) I managed to go to in the past few years, although by far many hardcore addicts can beat my number (If I were a millionaire – I’d be jetsetting to a different congress every damn weekend :)), but I never, not once, experienced the ultimate faux pas of the most epic proportions that has happened on Sunday night at the zouk floor…

The kizomba DJ announced ‘the last song of the night’, after the usual ‘it was all so great this weekend’ parting speech. People coupled up to enjoy the last song of the evening, then 30 seconds into it some staff member walks up to the DJ and the song is cut off, followed by a lame “sorry we really need to finish right now”…

Let me try to get this one out without any swear words: no you do NOT actually HAVE to finish, like, right the effing NOW. Allowing the song to play till its end for the extra 2, 3 or even 5 minutes would REALLY not cause an effing apocalypse. Yes this message can (and SHOULD) be also clearly articulated to the venue management team: yes we get the “party is over” command, but we have to allow the last song (even though it was, yet again and sadly, no more zouk than anything else that night, but oh well, beggars who have nothing else to spend their hard earned money on can’t really be picky about music at the event they pay for, right?) to FINISH playing. To cut the song mid-way for any other than technical failure reasons is a congress crime. Especially the last song.

I’m not even mentioning the good old congress tradition of “the last song”: when ‘the last song’ is announced and finishes playing, people clap up the beat in ‘protest’ and get the really very last song from the DJs. The only city this tradition isn’t upheld is, curiously, Amsterdam (this is true for both ASZC and Amsterdam Zouk Congresses…). Hint: if you absolutely MUST time your end of the party to the exact bloody stroke of the clock, then tell your DJs who are playing the finishing sets to do the following: a) about 10 minutes before the official party end announce the ‘last song’. Get people to clap up the rhythm after it’s finished and play the really last song. Everyone’s happy AND you finish on time.

Most dancers don’t wear watches and even if they do – they don’t check them every 2 minutes to realize when the ticker of the official end of the party hits. It is the organizers’ responsibility to watch the clock – if the DJs keep playing 2 hours past the ‘deadline’, trust me not too many people would look at their watches and say “oh well, the party officially actually ended, so we can’t dance any more” – they WOULD just keep dancing till the music stops – deadline or not.

If, for any reason, the very last song runs a few bleeping seconds (or even a couple of minutes) past the ‘deadline’ – make sure the management is well aware that you simply can’t cut the song off mid-way (or, as it happened on Sunday, roughly 50 seconds into it…) unless they decide to use brute force, cut power supply, destroy the mixer with an ax or resort to a similarly radical tactic.This just is NOT something that is acceptable. EVER.

This blunder alone got everyone so outraged that it may be that very bitter last impression, the last memorable congress moment that would have enough of a lasting negative impact, however subconsciously, to combine with other factors in people’s heads (price, music, sound…) and become the proverbial straw the camel couldn’t handle. They might not gather up enough motivation to attend the next year. I certainly am very strongly inclined to not come again – even if for the sole reason alone that kizomba music is being forced down my throat at a zouk party in quantities that completely turn the congress name into a half lie.

Dear ASZC organizers, here is my personal plea to you backed up by many other people I have talked to: you’re losing attendance. If you can’t read this properly, allow me to explain in the language that may be more understandable to you: you are losing YOUR MONEY. Please play ZOUK at the ZOUK party. If you do, we may even forgive you the outrageous party pass prices, the bad sound in return for those outrageous prices and, if the music is really, REALLY good, we may EVEN forgive you cutting off the last song not even mid-way (maybe… Don’t count on it though… For the future – don’t flipping do it. Just don’t. It’s unheard of).

I do complain a fair share on my blogs, but I truly  hate to be so negative about something that is supposed to be one of the best things of my year and that so many people work hard to put together and look forward to enjoying. I was looking forward to writing about how much of a blast I had at this year’s congress, and instead I am forced to give up on it altogether… If you can promise to consider these points for 2013, I promise to consider giving you the benefit of the doubt and coming again. At this point, however, I’m afraid you lost me as a regular attendee.


About in shade

A cocktail of personality traits hard to digest for some but ultimately soothing for those who can. I observe, enjoy, travel, interact, photograph, dance, contemplate, write and love my way through this life's countless occurrences. This blog is a way to share with the world and its people some of the treasures they give me every day.
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One Response to Amsterdam Salsa Zouk Congress 2012: mixed feelings

  1. Pingback: New Year’s Eve Message to the World 2013: Fear of Success | Contemplating

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