When I say “Switzerland”, you probably have such associative things pop into your head as ‘cheese’, ‘watches’, ‘chocolate’, ‘alps’, bank accounts’ and, especially if you’d been there before, ‘everything is way too freaking expensive!!!’. In other words, ‘dancing’ would not be very likely to show up on that list. I, however, already have very fond memories of the Zurich Salsa Congress a few years ago, where the quality of dancing, organization, shows and workshops was absolutely superb. This time it was time to test the quality of a Zouk event. I did not expect to go to this congress and am incredibly happy that I ended up there because it gets an ‘A’!
I had just arrived back from Croatia Salsa Beach Splash festival and expected to unwind at home for a few days. A friend of mine who could potentially let me stay over was planning to leave for that weekend and I didn’t even consider trying to find a hotel for the festival, for it would have eaten up my upcoming month’s budget. Then there was an unexpected change of my friend’s departure plans and here I was after less than a day back in Prague getting onto the Student Agency bus to Zurich…
I have missed the Thursday pre-party, which I heard was great, but here comes the Friday night one. The event is not huge, but the atmosphere is great, the music is just right (Nyx gets special brownie points for managing to mix in “Sexy and I know it” and make it work in a zouk set – woooooot!) and pretty much everyone I get to dance with is awesome – what more to wish for? :).
I end up wishing for a muffin…
Okay, backtrack: end of the Friday night party (aka Saturday morning), the teachers and DJs plan to go have a drink, Aline and I get invited to join in. We get to the Mariott Courtyard hotel lobby and sit there waiting for Nyx who promised to be back with some special potion. In the meantime, British Airways staff seems to be checking out. There is a small table with muffins and croissants and other stuff set out for them, since it’s well before the hotel official breakfast time. Most of the snacks remain untouched when they leave, including some magnetically beautiful muffins… A man shows up eventually and drives the table away around the corner. As he does that, I say “can we get a muffin?”, partially at him and partially simply because we’ve been discussing the mutual desire to eat a few with Aline. The man doesn’t react. When he comes back from around the corner, however, I ask again “so what about those muffins?”. He didn’t hear me well but this time reacted and had me repeat what I said. I tell him we were wondering if we could get our hands onto those muffins and he says “sure, go ahead”!!! Yee-haaah! That’s an unexpected stroke of good luck – we get to the table, pick out a muffin each, I also grab a croissant and a piece of cheese and our breakfast is sorted :D.
Nyx finally shows up – with a bottle of coffee tequila :). Except the hotel receptionist lets us know that drinking our own alcoholic beverages isn’t allowed in the lobby. Only reasonable alternative is suggested by Aline, so we all go to where she is staying and end up listening to the music, watching youtube videos and slowly working on that tequila until way too late in the morning. Just a couple of hours of sleep after, we go for breakfast, then I finally make it back to my friend’s place and pass out until further notice…
Let me insert here a few things (not necessarily related to the Zurich congress, just general stuff) I got from behind the scenes that are, for our mutual satisfaction’s sake, important to spread:
1. Dear congress organizers (of any congresses), please do not expect DJs to magically know how to operate all equipment at every location, especially if that equipment is something unrelated completely to what they normally do (like lights). It is, apparently, extremely stressful to be put on the spot and expected to somehow be able to voodoo up special (or not so special) effects on demand. If you wish to have DJs work the lights, say, during the show, then have a technical meeting with them way before the party, show them what to do, tell them what buttons to press and don’t throw extra demands at them on the spot. Better yet, have an independent lights person deal with it.
2. If possible, try to have the DJ equipment properly set up ahead of time at each location. When someone arrives and wants some time to rest before playing, but instead ends up without any warning having to spend 4 hours untangling and connecting all the cables at the venue, it is unacceptable. If you have no one to help you out ahead of time to make sure everything is properly set, then again make sure to set time apart for a technical set-up and let the DJs know about it in advance.
3. If you think that making out-of-the-blue requests to the DJs is okay – think again. Example I had heard was “hey, DJ, go ahead play some funny music!” request by the organizer, who wanted to do some animation stuff of a sorts… Reality check: wtf? What IS ‘funny music’? How is the DJ supposed to guess what you mean and actually have it at hand? If you think there is a remote chance you may need something like this, give the DJs the music with marked tracks for just those purposes in advance and let them know when you are likely to need them to be played!
4. Dear everyone who thinks they know how to operate DJ equipment… If it isn’t your set – don’t bloody touch anything. Don’t disconnect or re-connect anything in a different way. If one DJ set things up in a specific way and you know they will be playing later on – leave it be. Sure, you may have your own ways of doing stuff. But guess what? The crowd doesn’t care. The crowd doesn’t care about your cable preferences if there are gaps in music caused by your spontaneous need to rearrange stuff without letting anyone else, who is meant to come play afterwards, know that you did it and what you did. Oh, and stay away from knobs and controls unless you’re the one playing the set, too.
5. Dear everyone… :). Apparently, everyone loves you and all, but could you please be so kind as to refrain from starting a party or a social hub at the DJ booth? You can talk, take pictures and say hi to whomever you want to before or after their set. Really. Otherwise you end up distracting them from making sure we are all happy out there on the dance floor. I finally discovered the secret to why some sets the same DJs play are less than exciting while others may be great: when DJs are stressed out, pissed off or distracted – the music is likely to be crap. If you don’t want that to happen, make them happy, comfortable and bother them other times than during the sets.
So you probably guessed that I wasn’t particularly thrilled about the music between after the shows and about 4am… :). But at least now there is a rational explanation to why this may happen – and it turns out it is absolutely preventable!
Speaking of the shows… Great numbers, great emotions and absolute beauty – from everyone! It was a pleasure to watch every single number on both nights!
Music got better towards the morning. I needed to leave for a while, but then I got back. It’s still all going on, but I missed some of the best tracks… I naively hope to go back to sleep early after the party, but this simply is not meant to be. Instead, crashing the Swiss Hotel swimming pool is on the agenda. That some of us don’t have swim suits at hand is of little concern… We arrive there early and sit there talking, but finally the pool is opened and we can get it. It is a medium size pool on 32nd floor with glass walls, overlooking Zurich. The water is pleasantly warm, and the Jacuzzi tub is just what is needed after a whole week of dancing!
So there are us, laptop with music and a bottle of Rum… A few hotel guests pop in in between, but we scare them away. Roughly an hour or so into the whole madness a manager type of a guy shows up and lets us know that having drinks at the pool is a no-no, we should shut the music and also put our street clothes in a more orderly manner :). We do all that minus the music request, since by then all non-dancers are gone anyway. Around 10am we slowly wind the session off and I somehow make it back to my friend’s, into the shower and onto the bed :).
Someone told me the plan was to advance to the party venue, which is totally elsewhere today from the other two nights (oh, and the other two nights were conveniently mega-close by and easy to get to from where I was staying 🙂 ) around 6pm. Of course that workshops go on till 7:45 or so should have tipped me off on the proposed timeline validity… I hang around then, go for dinner after the workshops, then discover close to the 10pm meeting time that the person who initially promised to give me a ride got someone else to go with in the car. Luckily, we find some fun girls who know where to go, so we take the train and then hold hostage a random passer-by with an iPhone for a few minutes to double check on a map that we’re going the right direction :).
Luckily, we make it there pretty easily. It is HOT!!! As in, it’s hot inside. We can’t open the windows or the ‘we are in bed at 9pm’ Swiss folk threaten to call the police… It is yet another great party with the most memorable Mr+Mrs Zouk competition (Lud’ek and Nyx – you guys go down in history for this one!!!). I am incredibly lucky to get a ride back to the house because I have no clue whatsoever how to otherwise get there from the venue…
Thus for me finishes an amazing weekend of great fun and great dancing, great people and unexpected after-parties :). I am certainly going to forget about half of everyone, but I’d like to take this opportunity to thank, once again, for absolutely outer-space amazing dances the following great Zoukeiros (in random order):
Kamacho – you’re CRAZY! Hope to catch you again, it was great to meet you!
Aline Groeneveld – LOVE you, girl!
Antonio Sanchez – hope to be seeing you at many more congresses, love your style!
Nyx – great music, great personality and stellar dancing! Looking forward for more 🙂
Luděk Lužný – please next time warn me ahead of time when you decide to clean the floor with my butt :D.
Lucia Kubasova – you’re awesome 🙂
Roger – always a pleasure to end up ‘tossed around’ by you :). See you soon for some more!
Marko Faas – we FINALLY did it! And it was awesome 🙂