Whenever there's a zouk event closeby - I'm there. And so I was at the Baltic Sensual Weekend in Estonia last weekend! This was the second edition of the event that last year took place in Villa Andropoff, now in Hotel Lepanina in the area of Kabli, about half an hour drive south from the "summer capital of Estonia", Pärnu, and about 180 km from Tallinn. The idea seemed to be to gather Baltic & Northern European zouk & kizomba dancers under the same roof, learn some new moves & refresh on the fundamentals, leave the city for some nature & fresh air - and of course to party until early morning!
And what can I say? Mission accomplished!
On Friday night there was pre-party both in Tallinn and in Riga. A group of us Finnish dancers arrived to Tallinn just in time to have dinner and to get ready to the party. I wasn't expecting to dance a lot on the first night - I wasn't even sure if there would be a lot of zoukers there - but ended up rocking the party until the very end at 3 am. So not too much sleep for this zoukeira. While we were dancing the night away the Latvians pre-partied in Riga and the organisers had cleverly split the international guests to the two parties: In Riga there were e.g. Daniel and Leticia and in Tallinn Ennuel & Hakima - nice idea! The Tallinn party was at Copa Cabana Club and the Riga party at Casa de la Salsa.
On Saturday morning we hopped on our rides to Lepanina. After a quick sightseeing tour of Pärnu we arrived to Lepanina and enjoyed day of workshops & a bit of sun outside by the pool. After dinner it was time for main party! The party was held in the same restaurant space of the hotel as the dinner and the breakfast - and it was quite a nice space with a good parquet floor, ample space and high ceiling. From the supersize windows you could watch the sun set over the Baltic Sea. The party theme was colorful summer and though the air was a bit cold already people were happily dancing (and sweating for sure) in their summer outfits. The shows were after 11 pm - a couple groups and the professional shows. The party continued until 3 am and many of us continued in the lobby in the after party, which continued until 5 am.
The music, like on Friday, was mainly a nice mix of different zouk styles and kizomba, with short interludes of bachata, salsa and semba. Even though I mainly danced zouk (some bachata, salsa and kizomba too), I managed to spend pretty much the entire Friday and Saturday night on the dance floor. There was an equal number of guys and girls, and I mostly didn't have to go ask for dances. This a nowadays getting too rare in zouk congress scene, sadly, and was happy to be able to dance all night and not run after people for dances (which I don't do in any case - I just dance less in those kinds of events).
Workshops were in two rooms in at the same venue, on Saturday and Sunday. Teaching zouk were Daniel & Leticia from Spain (Mzouk) and Maxim & Anastasia from Russia. The kizomba workshops were by Ennuel & Hakima from France, Alex & Alex and Andrei & Kristina from Belarus. The schedule was complemented with a handful of Latvian zouk and kizomba teachers, as well as a bachata rueda class with Azael & Irina and an afro house wake-up session. Plenty to keep your days busy!
The workshop spaces worked pretty well. The zouk room downstairs could have been bigger (as zouk takes more space) but it felt like people managed to fit in the space. The amount of workshops was good (I didn't have the fortitude to attend all of them, so definitely enough). The workshop schedule was nicely planned so that the "star teachers" were not on at the same time. And top marks for the organisers for running the workshops on time!! I don't know if I've ever seen that happen before.
The full menu of the weekend:
21:30-03:00 Pre-party in Tallinn and in Riga - pick your starting point!
In the morning travel to Lepanina.
14:00-19:40 Workshops, with breaks for snacks.
19:40-21:30 Buffet dinner.
08:00-10:00 Buffet breakfast.
Departure to Tallinn.
After-party in Cubanita in Tallinn.
Accommodation in Lepanina (Saturday night) + the Sunday morning breakfast was included in the full pass, together with all the workshops and parties.
You could see this event has been created with a lot of love. The zouk & kizomba scene is still rather young in Estonia and in the Baltic States, and the organisers are working hard to offer something memorable for the dancers, to build the scene, to educate the dancers and bring smiles on people's faces. In these terms I think it was quite a success. The artists were happy to be there as were the dancers (which were 50%-50% leaders and followers!) and the whole weekend ran on schedule.
The location was nice and it's quite convenient to have everything (workshops, parties, meals, accommodation) in the same venue so people don't have to spend time in getting from one place to another, or carry with them everything for the entire day (similar events are e.g. on London Zouk Fest and Zouk Lambada Beach Festival in Spain). We were also lucky with the weather as we had lovely sunshine all through the weekend. During the breaks we were sun tanning by the pool or goofing around and stretching on the grass.
The accommodation in Lepanina was included in the ridiculously cheap full pass (as were Sunday morning breakfast, together with all the workshops and parties). Some of the participants were staying in the bungalows (small simple cottages with bunk beds) outside the hotel, and I heard it was quite cold in some of them, and you had to use the restrooms and showers in the hotel building. I was luckily staying in the double rooms, which were quite nice! The organisers tried to fit as much participants as possible to the double rooms by squeezing in extra beds and that worked out quite well after all. Just having only key per room made it a bit tricky - we managed though! In addition to the outdoor pool, in Lepanina you could also take advantage of the sauna and massages (not included in the full pass).
Though the organisers are now taking a moment to relax and "are not planning anything yet", I hear that they are looking to continue this lovely event and will seek ways to make it even better. Can't wait to see what they come up with :)
Pärnu - the summer capital of Estonia
Though we didn't have a lot time to visit Pärnu this time, I can fully recommend adding that to your holiday in Estonia. Located right on the shores of the Baltic Sea and the river Pärnu, this is a very popular summer destination in Northern Europe. Lined with miles of beaches, wooden villas, pine forests and home to many nice restaurants, you'll be sure the enjoy a weekend there. I even heard there's a beach just for ladies; no men allowed. Might have to check it out the next time I'm around!