Thursday, April 11, 2013

Prague zouk congress lives up to the hype!

The Prague zouk congress came to its 4th year in 2013. Boldly dubbed by the organisers as "the most anticipated zouk congress of the year" I certainly booked my ticket early, back in last November(!!). This year the congress took place during the Easter holidays and the Prague - as pretty much all of Europe - was experiencing unseasonably cold weathers. But even the cold & grey Prague was as beautiful as ever with festive Easter decorations and people were enjoying the cheap but tasty food & drinks!

But we weren't feeling the cold as the temperatures climb in the zouk congress atmosphere. Right in the center of Prague Old Town – next to shopping center Palladium on the top floor of department store Kotva was the location of the Prague zouk congress.

View from the top floor of the congress site

The entire congress schedule was pretty brutal. During the days there were 2-4 workshops for every hour, for  4-7 hours (usually 11.30am-7.30pm). With the congress’ impressive line-up it was pretty hard to find an hour you felt you could miss. The workshops varied from relaxed & spacious to strenuous, steamy & crowded. The levels were open (mostly styling classes), intermediate or advanced - no beginners classes were offered.

Workhops after workshop with the pros
Room 1, main party & workshop space
Freddy & Andressa showing their moves
Lambazouk with Olaya & Papagaio
Warm atmosphere
Workshops with Xandy & Evelyn were popular (as with many others)
During the nights, from dusk ‘til dawn, we danced on one, sometimes on two dance floors. The parties were opened with shows around 10-11pm. The dancing started at around 11-12pm and went on until 4am the earliest -8.30am the latest. Plenty of time to burn your feet off! Every night had its own theme and those that were into dressing up in costumes could enter in a competition each night to win full passes to various zouk congresses around the world - pretty good if you're zouk congress junkie like the most of us there. On some nights there were also small live concerts from Paulo Mac, Kadu Pires and Carlos da Silva.

There were also some extra activities during the event.  On Saturday we took off on a boat cruise on the Vltava River, this was a free trip for the first 200 who bought a full pass. I enjoyed seeing the city from the river and dance a couple songs on the boat. The congress included other side-events and parties in addition to the main four zouk days (Thu-Sat), such as the ladies styling day before and other special workshops before & after the congress. You could also get massages (8-10€ / half an hour) on the congress site and buy lunch, drinks & snacks, dance clothes & apparels and music.

On the zouk boat

Some room for improvement

Every great event has its problems. Live concerts from Paulo, Kadu and Carlos were a nice change to the usual zouk DJs but unfortunately the sound system did very little to make them sound good. That's one area where they have a big room for improvement in general too, the sound was too often either too low or too loud or breaking.

The dance floor during the parties was also extremely crowded; the workshops were really hot in all but room 1. During the weekend they only rarely opened the second dance floor even though the main floor was impossibly packed some nights until 3am – hardly any room even to stand anywhere at times. Also the main dance floor had some dangerous cracks that could have been easily fixed before the event.

The bar at the congress site wasn’t too expensive but it was a bit annoying that you weren’t allowed to bring your water own bottles even during the day – or actually you could sneak them in during the day but if you left them anywhere visible they would be collected during the workshops.

Sometimes the schedules were also unclear, especially the evening program start and end times changed every night. Also the final workshop schedules were only announced on site. This a pretty common problem on zouk events though, as are the crowded dance floors so that's a general area of improvement for zouk events.

All these small things could be excused by the amazing dancers and parties that went on until the morning. Overall I left home as a most satisfied zoukeira!! But if they work on these for the next year I’m sure it will be even more a successful event (and if they don’t I’m sure that people will start migrating to other events).

What, where, who, how..?

The event is organised by Carlos da Silva and Fernanda Vitoria from Rio Dance Studio and their team. Carlos & Fernanda are very helpful and they do a big work to make an event of this size happen.

Artists included names such as Kadu & Larissa, Renata & Jorge, Alisson & Audrey, Freddy & Andressa, Gilson & Nathasha, Pasty & Josta, Dadinho & Janaina, Papagaio & Olaya, Daniel & Leticia, Adilio & Lucie, Mafie Zouker, Kamacho & Brigitte, Xandy & Evelyn and many more.

On the congress website you will find lots of information – it’s not as well organized as it could be but if you have the patience to click on all the pages you will find quite a lot! It’s good to book your travels, accommodation and congress ticket early, it will save you quite a lot of money (especially if the next year's event is again held during Easter). The workshops and main parties are held in the city at Palaca restaurant at Náměstí Republiky 8, Prague 1, 5th floor of the Kotva department store. Find a place to stay close to and it will save you precious sleep time – which you won’t have any extra to spare. Some of the pre and after parties take place in the Dancers Club making the congress a 7 day event.

More zouk events in the Czech Republic

On the congress scene the Czechs are quite active. In addition to this event there is also a Zouk and Samba Congress in Prague, now on its 6th year on 10-14 October, organised by Sofie da Silva.

The Brno zoukers with Luděk Lužný and Pavla Lužná organise the popular Zouktime! congress in September, this year it's the 4th event on Sep 13-15 (you can read my post from 2011 about this event). This year they also organise a combined west coast swing and zouk event, WestZoukTIME (previously Mini Zouktime), on April 12-14.

Prague Easter sightseeing - a nice place to visit even for non-dancers

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