As someone once said, a Salsa Congress is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you gonna get…well you do, but at one and the same time, you don’t. If you see what I mean. Let me explain:

You get used to going to your regular classes, seeing your friends, being taught by your teachers. You get comfortable, you get confident; you get used to the teaching style. Sometimes new people come in, which is nice, and you dance with them. You know the rooms, the sticky bits on dance floor, and where to park.

But when you go to a new class with new teachers in a new venue, you feel like a beginner again. The knot in the stomach as you drive there, the racing heart as you walk through the door, the mild panic as you move from partner to partner in the class – hope they’re nice, hope I’m not rubbish. Then the standing awkwardly on the edge of the dance floor during free dancing hoping you get asked to dance, but hoping you don’t, thinking you should ask someone, but not sure who. You are back to the beginning, even for one night. You are the new kid in school. You are back in touch with your inner Salsa Child.

Imagine, then, the congresses – hundreds of people, sometimes thousands…..all new kids on the first day of a very short term.. Its exciting, its fun, its mildly disorientating and it’s a bit exhilarating, really.

However, during classes, beginners anxiety returns – is the next partner going to be better than me, can I do this, can they do this. (and, of course, standing on the toes of someone you know is bad enough, but accidentally crippling a complete stranger…) – I usually cover up nerves by laughing like a drain, but some people don’t think this is funny at all…the nagging worry that you may encounter the very rare but deadly Salsa Arse.

(How to deal with a salsa arse: firstly, detection – they could just be nervous like you, and not bad at all – so do not react after the first negative comment. However, three, and you’ve found one. Secondly, show no weakness – smile like Pollyanna throughout, giggle insanely at your own mistakes just to annoy them, and tell them they are doing very well all things considering. Thirdly, talk about the new shines you’ve learnt – the KerPlunk, the DooDah and Shagwells Theorum. Fourthly, tell your friends)

Never mind; by the second day you’ve settled in nicely. Then its time to go home. Exhausted. And not walking very elegantly at all as your feet are burning up to Hell after all that dancing.

How To Get a Dance

How to get a dance - Salsa DiariesIdentifying a spot which engenders both visibility and accessibility comes with experience. The first year I went Congressing I kept finding gaps in which to stand so passing potential partners (PPPs) could see me. However, I am a petite kind of gal, and I found that Much Taller Women of Five foot one or more would see the gap in front of me and stand there, there, there until I became invisible. So I’d move again, and it would happen again, and so forth and on and on and on….

There are ways around this – you could check old maps for Ley lines, for instance, see if they cross anywhere under the floor of the main venue and stand there hoping to benefit from their Magical properties. You could work it out mathematically: g + sh (~d x 8) – w = PPP, or you could just stand Not far from the door, near to the dance floor, but also close to the toilets, to catch maximum PPP traffic.

This is my preferred strategy, although I also now take up as much space as possible – with hands on hips, and elbows out (its not attractive, but it helps), and also wear Very Bright Clothes. I have stopped short of fluorescent, but perhaps flashing lights may be in order next year.


Every decreasing salsa circles………Congress Shoe Mountain - Salsa Diaries
  1. Get Congress Programme
  2. Examine carefully
  3. Make final decision
  4. Have cup of tea
  5. Discuss with friends
  6. Look at programme again
  7. Change mind and make different final decision
  8. Discuss with friends
  9. Congress Shoe MountainCongress Shoe Mountain
  10. Get confused
  11. Look again
  12. Have another cup of tea……………


Survival kit - Salsa Diaries

The Congress Survival Kit

  • Dance Shoes (three pairs)
  • Ordinary shoes for walking to lessons (1 pair)
  • Shoes for walking from accommodation to party and back (8 pairs)
  • 2 pair casual trousers
  • 4 tops (for day wear)
  • 8 sparkly outfits for the three evenings (just in case)




First Aid Kit:

  • 3 packets of plasters
  • Croissants, cakes biscuits, chocolates, a healthy Energy bar (with chocolate in it) – to give essential sugar content for energy during the day
  • crisps – essential salt content to prevent cramps and replenish lost salt during profuse sweating
  • Fizzy drinks – for energy
  • Paracetamol – not for hangovers, but for dehydration induced headaches
  • Spot cream (for after the croissants etc etc)
  • Shoe bag – for shoes, keys, money, hankies, paracetamols, plasters, biscuits, water
  • Money – for impulse buying DVDs and shoes, and chocolate éclairs in Costa’s After the workshops