On the spur of the moment I booked tickets to Warsaw for the 2nd Zouk Libre Festival. From the looks of it, the event seemed like a nice zouk festival on the small side: five international teacher couples (Pasty & Josta, Alisson & Audrey, Daniel & Leticia, Freddy & Andressa and Xandy & Evelyn) and a rather new zouk nation, Poland.
Boy was I wrong.
Yes, it was nice. But it sure wasn't small! Zoukers from all over Poland and all over Europe found their way to Warsaw on this rather cold & dark mid-January weekend. Coupled with the central location (easy connections within Europe), good artist line-up and crazy cheap prices this was a win-win-win for many.
Poland is still quite a young member on the zouk world, in its toddler phase (less than three years old). But the scene is growing - strong! There's lots of great - even spectacular - dancers, groomed by a team of local talent as well as regular international visitors. I didn't get to go to any of the weekly regular parties but I would be surprised (after this) if they were anything but fantastic!
ZLF 2014 workshops
The workshops started on Friday Jan 17th with 4 hours of zouk with the local teachers and two hours of samba/afro with Xandy at the Salsa Libre dance studio, about 30 minute walk from the Warsaw old town.
On both Saturday and Sunday there were 6 hours of workshops on two separate locations. The bigger hall, sports arena WOSiR (Warszawski Ośrodek Sportu i Rekreacji) was about 2-3 blocks down the street from the smaller Salsa Libre studio. That meant walking 2-3 blocks in the freezing cold weather if you wanted to take part in workshops on both locations. Luckily 1) I had done my research on the event and was prepared for this and 2) the classes ran on time (unbelievable but true!) so this was not a big problem. But this is definitely an inconvenience in the workshop part of the festival. I sincerely hope they will find one location big enough for the whole festival for the next event.
The workshops were packed to the roof with people - especially mid-day and on the smaller Salsa Libre studio. Even the massive WOSiR sports arena was full of dancers, on the most crowded workshops I'd say there were easily 200 people. That's A LOT! I had it hard time to follow some of the classes - the echo of the space made it worse as it was hard to hear or understand what the teachers were saying. But all-in-all, it was alright.
There were workshops for beginners, intermediate and advanced dancers as well as open level classes. The level didn't vary that much (as tends to happen at festivals) but I was particularly happy that there was a pretty good variation of the types of classes, also plenty of styling/solo workshops.
ZLF 2014 parties
The main parties on Friday and Saturday were at restaurant Skwer in the heart of Warsaw, just around the corner from the old town. From the street it looks like the party place is a 20-seat café/bar. But below that - underground - is a big space with wood floor and a bar. Considering the number of people taking part in the event the space could have been even bigger (and they could have cleaned the floor in-between the nights) but I was quite the satisfied zouker!
On Thursday and Sunday the parties were at the Salsa Libre studio - which I'd say is way too small and way too hot for that amount of people. But nothing will stop the zoukers from having a good time! ...Just please get a bigger space for next year anyway? :)
If you're thinking about going to ZLF next year you have my thumbs up! I'd think, hope, the organisers can now be more prepared for the bigger crowds- And the level of dancing will surely rise to new heights by then - not that I was disappointed this year! In case I'm ever in Warsaw I'll be sure to check out the zouk parties... and if you're there you should too!
Stay in tune with all the zouk events around the world in the zouk calendars!