The city of Amsterdam is quite well known on the zouk world map - and likewise, Amsterdam Zouk Congress is one of the established events in the international zouk scene. Now on its fifth year the congress organisers faced an unfortunate challenge as just a couple months before the event was to take place, the congress venue went up in flames. But no fear - the Amsterdam Zouk Congress is alive and kicking, and Zouk The World was there to tell you all about it!
Event: 2015 Amsterdam Zouk Congress (5th edition)
Time: 28-30 Aug 2015
Duration: 2 days and 3 nights
Dance styles: Brazilian zouk, samba de gafieira
Styles and artists
Amsterdam Zouk Congress, or more familiarly AZC is a mixed event offering Brazilian zouk and samba de gafieira; the focus is clearly on the zouk part.
List of the international top artists included for zouk Kadu Pires & Larissa Thayane, Jorge Peres & Renata Peçanha, Freddy Marinho & Andressa Castelhano, Adilio Porto, Gilson Damasco and the organisers Mr. Dragon and Bruna Sousa.
On the samba side, the star artists included Jimmy de Oliveira, and Leo Fortes & Robertinha Stephanie.
The workshops were held on Saturday and Sunday at the new venue, Q Factory. See more about the venue & the location later in this post.
There were three workshop halls - one big (hall 1) and two smaller ones (halls 2 and 3) - with six one hour classes per day in each hall with a one-hour break for lunch in the middle of the day. The schedule included two zouk classes and one samba class for each hour; the biggest room always had a zouk class and one of the two smaller rooms had the samba class. The workshop days started at around noon and ended at 7 pm, the schedule running quite smoothly and on time throughout the event.
The zouk classes were mostly about traditional zouk or Rio style, with a few lambazouk workshops as well. There were a number of samba styles; traditional, fragmented and funkeado. Most of the classes were marked as intermediate or advanced, with a couple beginner workshops per day. There were quite a lot of beginner level student so perhaps it would have been useful to have more workshops on that level. It also never hurts to focus more on the technique topics than teach figures at these types of event - nobody can remember the ten new figures at the end of the event but the technique is something that can be built on.... Just my personal opinion.
In general the space worked quite well in the congress. The rooms did get quite packed though - especially the main hall that always had one of the start artist couples. Some of the workshops in the smaller rooms were very full, some not at all. The leader/follower ratio was quite even. In the beginning of the event it felt like there were a lot more ladies then men but towards then end it seemed to get more even; in some classes there were even less followers than leaders.
I found it a bit hard to follow the classes in the main room - the room was a bit too full to actually practice the moves and the teachers were mostly on the stage at the end of the room and it was hard to see them through the crowd. But this is a common problem at nearly all events around the world. I got more out of the classes in the smaller rooms!
I actually did go try out a few of the samba de gafieira classes. And it was just as fun as I remembered! The only thing we need now is to get the samba scene growing in Europe!?
Overall, there was a positive mood. The selection of workshops was varied and as the schedule was on time it was easy to change rooms during the breaks. The new venue was beautiful, all services were within easy reach - even a masseuse was on-site! More about the venue and the services below.
The parties were held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the same venue, Q Factory. The parties started on Fri at 9pm and on Sat & Sun at 10pm and ended at 3am - that's fairly short for a zouk congress party (most end at 5-7am) but on the positive side it did mean there was more time to sleep before the workshop days.
The mood in the parties was good and the main floor, that was open on Saturday and Sunday, was rather well suited for the event. There was a separate second room for samba de gafieira and forró - during the days this was the main workshop space. The main party hall was only open for the event during the evenings and it wasn't used for the workshops.
I have to say the Friday party was a bit of a disappointment: the actual main party room wasn't open then and the zouk dancers were squeezed to a way-too-small and hot lobby area. The sound system didn't suit that space and the music wasn't really up-to-par either, the DJs playing a long string of some fairly strange remixes. In the meanwhile, in the second room they started the evening with samba but at some point switched to zouk (with some salsas and bachatas thrown in the mix as well), as obviously the lobby zouk space was exceedingly small for the amount of people. I have to say the music in the second room was too loud on Friday. Luckily, the party arrangements were much improved on Sat & Sun when the main party room was available for us dancers. For those who only came & paid for the Friday party, I do feel sorry.
I did enjoy the Saturday and Sunday parties. The main party hall was quite big, the air was pretty good, the sound was ok and the floor was nice (quite slippery but works for me). On Saturday the floor was crowded but not too bad - Sunday night was the best as there were already a bit less people so there was ample room to dance! The music was much better than on Friday, too. There were lots of great dancers and the leader/follower ratio seemed pretty even. The mood was relaxed and you could quite easily catch a dance with anyone.
Besides the dancing, there was a bar serving all kinds of drinks and cocktail stand serving fresh caipirinhas and mojitos. On Saturday and Sunday the lounge chairs in the lobby were a welcome addition to the space, nice to rest your feet and catch up with your friends.
On Saturday and Sunday after midnight there were a few shows, about five shows on both nights. So the actual showtime didn't eat up too much of the limited number of party hours. The Sunday shows did drag on a bit with a few speeches in the end, but that seems to be the usual case. During the shows there was no music in the second room, so this was your time to either enjoy the shows, or enjoy a drink and put your feet up.
Venue and location
The new venue, Q Factory, is located in the lively area in East Amsterdam, Amsterdam Oost. After the unfortunate destruction of the previous (and rather historic venue in the zouk scene) Melody Line this summer, the organisers were left in a bit a trouble with the location of their event. But luckily the AZC found home at the beautiful Q Factory!
The entire event took place at the Q Factory, all the workshops and parties. Inside the venue, in the basement floor there was a small reception and a café. In the first floor you could find the party spaces and the main workshop hall as well as the bar (open Fri-Sun nights) and coat check (open Sat-Sun nights). On the third floor were the two smaller workshop rooms with a (very) small lobby where they sold dance clothes and açaí, and on that floor you could also find the massage therapist. I especially loved the airy first floor!
The venue is surrounded by a couple of pedestrian streets filled with shops of all kinds. Closeby you'll find a canal and lining that is a string of restaurants - a superb spot to have your lunch or dinner. The area is rather easily accessible, though there are not too many hotels close to the venue. We were lucky to find a nice apartment to rent about 10 minutes walk from the venue and I recommend others to group up and find apartments as well if the AZC is also held at Q Factory in the future. See a map of the location at the top of this post!
More about Amsterdam and zouk in the Netherlands
What made the 2015 Amsterdam Zouk Congress special for me was the small things - people's smiles at the workshops and the parties, special moments on the dance floor, pushing myself to a new level.. And just the simple, sunny afternoons and warm evenings with a group of friends in lively Amsterdam. I really liked the new location, a big plus for a zouk tourist like myself; the space was not only well-located in a buzzing neighborhood but it was also a cool modern venue. A minus goes for the cramped space & strange music of the Friday party but all was improved over the weekend. A job well done for the first AZC at the Q Factory!