Thursday, May 17, 2012

Enjoying the Sydney latin scene

Sydney is quite a good spot for us latin dancers and I had 10 days to check it out. The city is not known for its zouk scene (Brisbane is the Australian zouk capital) though you’ll find zoukers and some socials & parties there. But for salseros and bachateros there’s a lot of things happening, something every day of the week.

I happened to be in town for the Sydney International Bachata Festival! I didn’t want to tie myself to the festival schedule so I just decided to join a couple of the parties. First it was the pre-party at the Mediterranean restaurant on Oxford Street - cool location. When I walked in a zouk song was playing but only a few couples were on the dance floor. No reason to worry though, soon the floor was packed! They played mostly bachata with a couple salsas and zouks in between. I was happy I found some really good zouk dancers later on in the evening. And obviously tons of amazing bachateros. I had never danced bachata on that level before or Dominican style bachata ever!

I went to check out the Bachata Festival again on Saturday: the party (as the festival) was at the University of New South Wales Roundhouse. There were two dance floors – on the main dance floor they played mainly bachata and some salsas. On the smaller floor upstairs they played zouk and salsa with some odd samba de gafieiras as well. I felt like all the pros were a bit less keen to dance that night, I think I saw only a few of them on the floor the whole night. In the pre-party all the pros were dancing all night, I guess they were also more excited and energized and perhaps more keen to prove their skills. I did get some nice dances and that was definitely the place to be that night. And my feet were sore when I left the party so I guess that’s a good sign :)

There were some cool shows at both the pre-party and on the Saturday’s party. The dancers have tons of charisma and chemistry, the dance flows beautifully, the breaks are sharp and the styling is polished. Simply a pleasure to watch! My favourites (links to videos on Youtube):

Maybe the one that topped the chart for me was La Alemana and Ataca's new routine. They used a hit song as usual and you can feel their chemistry & passion all the way in the crowd:

A week after the festival I was back in town and the French couple Joanna and Fabrice had a special workshop that day with 1,5h of Dominican bachata and 1,5h of kizomba (60 AUD for the three hours). It was my first time doing Dominican bachata and second time doing kizomba classes so the “intermediate” workshops were a bit over my league. And they were one of the first really positively challenging dance classes I’ve had in a while! The bachata class focused on a couple sets of fast shines and the kizomba class on partner work with a few basic routines, plus we did get to practice one fun small acro! I really liked the classes, very warm people and the routines were clear despite the fact that they were challenging – something to work on after the class! 

Dominican bachata and kizomba by Joanna & Fabrice

Later that day I also went to bachata party at the Spanish club. It was one of the best dance nights I’ve had in a while. There were heaps of great dancers and I simply didn’t have a single break the entire night, always someone asking for a dance! I had to snag the bachata world champ Nestor for a zouk since I had seen him dance zouk in the parties earlier – and he certainly knew how to lead zouk too! I danced 8 hours that day and definitely could feel it in the soles of my feet when I crawled back home.

Dance festivals in and around Sydney

There’s loads of festivals for zouk and latin dancers in Sydney and all over Australia. The most famous festival is the Sydney Latin Festival, held at the end of January every year. On the zouk scene the biggest event is the Brazil Central, that's every October in Brisbane. Most latin dance congresses and festivals will feature zouk classes as well, perhaps not with the world’s top names outside Australia but even in that case there were several teachers to choose from as in the Bachata Festival.

In terms of prices the congresses in Australia are a bit more expensive than in Europe. The Sydney International Bachata Festival full pass was 299 AUD (just the parties were around 50 AUD each except for the pre-party, 15 AUD). But for bachateros this festival is a must! DouDouLe Latin Dance Camp where I'm going now in May on the Gold Coast is 329 AUD including the accommodation and food. Brazil Central will set you back 300-450 AUD and Sydney Latin Festival 320-415 AUD.

Social zouk & latin scene in Sydney

Obviously I went out to check out as many of the zouk and other latin nights I could while I was in Sydney. There’s zouk basically only on Wednesdays and every other Sunday, plus some occasional events. The Wednesday I was there the zouk party was cancelled due to the national holiday ANZAC day so I went to check out a salsa party in stead at the Spanish Club.

I made sure I wouldn’t miss Syndey zouk altogether and stayed for the Sunday social at the Step Up dance studio. There were around 60 zoukers that turned up that night, quite a lot! The studio space was beautiful though I have to say the floor was so slippery I had to give up on my dance heels after two songs – the sneakers were fine. There are dancers on all levels and I found some that I had a good connection with, really enjoyed the night altogether! They even have some snacks there. Note though that you might need to have a mobile with you when you go since the front door is locked and you have to call to get in (# is on the door).

Regular zouk parties

Wednesdays: Zouk @ City Tattersals (194-200 Pitt St), 9.00pm till 12am with dance classes before that starting at 6pm. Music: Room 1 has salsa and bachata and Room 2 has zouk. 10 AUD for entry (+ 20 AUD for each class). More info at

Sundays: Zouk @ Step Up / Rio Zouk (160 Castlereagh st), 8.00pm till 11.00pm. Music is 100% zouk and lambazouk. More info on their site – they also offer classes on several evenings. You can join their Facebook group as well.

Regular salsa and bachata parties

There’s some great salseros and bachateros in Sydney and the socials are packed with people. On one Wednesday night I went to the Spanish Club (Liverpool St – the same place where they had the bachata party a week after the festival) just by coincidence, since the zouk night had been cancelled, and had a fantastic time. They didn’t play any zouks (did try to request one) that night but found one really good dancer who knew zouk as well and threw in some zouk leads to the salsas and bachatas :) Lots of cool salsa and bachata dancers of all styles! To find out all of what’s happening in the Sydney salsa & latin dance scene go check out the Sydney Salsa Scene web site where you’ll find all the parties for every night of the week. I’ll leave it up to you to find the best one!

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