On any single day, in any single weekend, there are salsa festivals and dance festivals taking place all over the world. As an organizer or attendee there are some very important things to keep in mind to having a successful salsa festival experience.What is a Salsa Festiva? Much like a salsa congress, as defined by Wikipedia, it’s “mainly a meeting of professional and amateur salsa dancers to enjoy salsa”. Perhaps an oversimplification, but generally, a salsa festival is designed to bring people together to enjoy salsa dance, salsa music, and to some extent professional shows and competition. For the purposes of this article, we’ll use the terms festival and congress interchangeably, with the caveat that a festival is generally more open and beginner friendly.Being open and beginner friendly seems like a great place to start. Often lost site of, is the festivals job (yes, job), to grow and benefit the salsa community as a whole. More than just a meeting of those already passionate about the music and the dance, this point is paramount.
1. So, first and foremost, a festival must welcome beginners to salsa dance and music. All festivals should have beginning lessons, on every day, that are strong marketed. In addition, a festival should have a track for these beginners to follow, so they can continue learning, and enjoy the entire length of the festivities.2. Second, a salsa festival should be locally inclusive! A difficult thought in our divided communities but a festival should go out of its way to invite all the local teachers, DJs and bands. There’s no way this is possible, but a standard should be set that leaders in your community are invited as VIPs to attend the event, and share it with their students.3. Third, and the lifeblood of any event, is marketing and promotion. Most festivals rely solely on their local community. It’s a rare festival or congress indeed that is trying to attract a mainstream dance audience, and yet, that’s exactly what will guarantee its long term survival. With a solid beginning set of classes taught, you can attract a wide audience of dancers, that will further serve to grow the existing salsa community.4. Fourth, adequate space! Now that you have the people, you need a good space. It should be in the center of town, very safe, and show off your city. People travel all over the world to attend a great festival, and you need to show off your city with a great hotel, great ballrooms, great surrounding area, and central location. Don’t hold your event at the airport hotel. This isn’t a business conference.5. Fifth, and final, the music. You have the dancers, you have the locals, you’ve invited people from near and far, you now need to get the music in order. Of course, we discussed local DJs, and you’ll have celebrity DJs from abroad as well, but you also need live music. It’s not a necessity, especially if there’s none available in your area, but it adds so much to the experience.
In summary, these five elements are exactly what every salsa festival should have. As an example when we organized the San Francisco salsa festival we utilized all five of these things, to their greatest benefit. The San Francisco salsa festival is welcoming to beginners, and has a complete set of lessons geared towards them. All of the local salsa teachers and performers are taking part, and the marketing and promotion starts a full six months prior to the event taking place. The event itself is at the largest hotel in San Francisco, located in the center of the city, and finally, the huge ballroom are filled with the best live musical acts that the Bay Area has to offer.Any salsa festival can be wildly successful if it follows these five simple principles.