Save the date February 17th-20th, 2022
It feels amazing to attend again a Salsa congress in person. This time I was fully present with heart and mind at the 2021 Chicago International Salsa Congress or CISC. After a total shut down of most of the important Salsa events worldwide during 2020. In 2021, the US has reached 50% of herd immunity through vaccinations and strict protocols of social distancing as well as the use of masks inside venues. And it’s getting better….I look at the glass half full…which means that 2022 should be amazing.
I returned from Chicago more than four weeks ago and it’s safe to say I’m hooked on the idea of traveling again to other Salsa Congresses in other places of the planet. I believe that Salsa can be an intergalactic thing. Elon Musk, will there be Salsa in Mars? And I’m already planning on returning to Chicago in 2022 for the next Chicago International Salsa Congress.
Chicago. Chicago. Chicago. Need I say more? I visited Chicago for the first time on this trip and like many others, fell in love with this incredible city.
The magnificent mile for shopping, state of the art architecture? Check.
Museums, Soldier field Stadium, the Navy Pier looking at lake Michigan? Check.
Authentic Italian, Cuban, Mexican food in my stomach? Check.
I enjoyed exploring Chicago before and after the congress. It added extra flavor and adventure to the event.
Dancing is an “International” language…Parle vous Mambo?
You couldn’t help noticing hearing the sounds of other languages, Spanish, Romanian, French, Italian, German, etc. Yes, there were people from all over the world. I met a dancer from Russia who lives in Madison, Wisconsin and a couple made up of a Brazilian girl and Belgium guy who live in Milan, Italy. I ran into a friend from Peru, chatted with fellow Americans and danced with a woman from Cuba in an Afro Cuban workshop. That’s just a flavor of the mix. For me, this is the reason why I love salsa so much, the blend of cultures brought by the international language of Salsa.
Artists and Performances
The shows at the congress were on a league of their own, spectacular is the word that comes to mind. Talent at this level was top notch, made up entirely of professionals, the performances moved fast and kept the audience engaged and excited with a range of styles and clean, perfect execution. From gravity-defying stunts in Salsa routines to creative fusions of contemporary and Latin dance, each group was remarkable.
And the high caliber of instructor artists without a doubt led to great workshops. I attended a quite a few in-spite the time zone change and a little bit of jet lag, here are the few ones that I attended– ladies styling with Kimberly Rivera, partner-work with Del Dominguez on 2, Cha Cha Shines with Tito Ortos, Latin Fusion with Jorge & Blanca and Afro Cuban Moves with Chini & Hanna were excellent in providing the foundation of Salsa.
The Music, Live Bands and Social Dancing and Shazam
The lineup included at top DJs mostly from Chicago, and during the parties I’m happy some one invented Shazam between dancing and before the song ended I would try Shazam to locate the song. I now have a new collection of amazing songs to dance to. In addition, I did find most of the DJs mixes online. My friend Alberto from Peru also introduced me to Sound Hound, which is like Shazam but works faster, ideally when you are doing your solo shines and catching the name of the song.
Two nights of non-stop dancing on the spacious Grand Room’s dance floor until 3:00 AM to the new and classic and hottest music from yesterday and today.
The Chicago International Salsa Congress Concert Series is unmatched in celebrating Latin Music’s timeless presence in honoring the legendary pioneers while inviting a forward vision as new, young artists take up the torch and carry it forward.
Friday night Luisito Rosario from New York heated the dance floor, followed by Landy Cabrera featuring Caribe Project straight from Chicago.
Saturday night Moncho Rivera from Puerto Rico did some serious damage, Carlos Garcia also from Puerto Rico busted awesome grooves and a local legend, Angel Rodriguez and the Humboldt Park Orquestra put the happy salsa feet on the dance floor.
I stayed in the Grand Room room most of the time and bounced to the Bachata and Kizomba room every so often. The social dancing, like the performances, were a nice mix and creative with the attendance of people from all over. The majority of the people danced in the Grand Room where all the action was.
The CISC organizers clearly put a lot of work and dedication into all facets of the congress. With more than 30 years of experience, Cultural Expressions Productions, and the Chicago Intercultural Alliance founded by Rosita and Saladeen Alamin, have created and nurtured a multicultural and multi-generational community celebrating Afro-Latin music and dance. This group’s unwavering support of the community through consistent production of exceptional events that included fund raisers for children with HIV. To make this year’s festival extra special, co-founder Saladeen Alamin celebrated his 80th birthday at the festival, it was a truly a memorable event.
The workshops, performances and socials all ran pretty much like a Swiss watch and there were plenty of CISC staff on hand throughout the event to answer questions and guide you where you needed to go.
The festival used a simple colorful bracelet system for the days you were attending and a cash bar with a great choice of drinks. You could also purchase great merchandise. The Westin O’hare was the location for the event. Exactly, 2.5 miles from O’Hare International Airport with easy access including a shuttle to and from the hotel.
Plan in advance plus Salsa lives on…
Plan in advance and book your hotel months ahead if possible as the rooms for the event at the Westin O’Hare fill up pretty fast. I didn’t stay in the event hotel, but nearby because if you didn’t book your room in advance using the promotional code the rates for the hotel the same weekend were expensive. I met this nice girl from Ukraine, Natasha who was my Uber driver for the weekend only a mile away drive from and to the congress. She even showed up to the Saturday event and showed me her moves “I love salsa, it’s very popular in my country and I have my own style” she said.
People dressed to the max in Chicago. Bring your A game in dancing and dress to kill. For me it’s still work in progress as I’m learning and always start from zero, the thing is however, when you dance with someone better than you, you improve a ton. A piece of advice, pace yourself with energy snacks through out the two days as you will burn calories as fast as you can say Cha Cha. And remember to drink plenty of water, Chicago water from the tap is good and a well hydrated body will take you well into the late night.
Introducing the youth to the afro latin music, dance, culture and we have so much love for Combining Cultures
The young talent or the new generation of Salseros in Chicago is fresh and off the chain. I was happy to see that this amazing dance that we all love will continue for generations to come. Salsa lives on!
If you’ve been traveling on the international journey for Salsa congresses from all over the world, after vaccines and CPR tests, the best is yet to come. Don’t lose faith, the world is opening again, dust off those salsa dancing shoes, press those pants and join me. Azucar y Agggguuuaaaa!
Here is the link for the February 2022 International Salsa Congress https://chicagosalsacongress.com/