Let's travel back in time for about six months. It was a dark & cold evening at the end of December when I was packing my bags, once again. I hate packing - somehow during the past years I've learned to hate it with a passion. But this night I didn't really mind: I was heading to Brazil, to Porto Seguro for the 2015 Berg's Congress.
Held during a 10 day-stretch around the New Year at the beautiful Praia Taperapuan on the coast of Bahia, is one of the most amazing zouk congresses in the world. Hundreds of zoukers, dancing under the Brazilian sun, the stars and the palm trees, enjoying fresh fruits, cold caipirinhas and the warm blue sea... No need to tempt me more, I was hooked!
This time it was the 6th Berg's Congress but it had also been 10 years since their first zouk event. So the organisers, Berg Dias and his team, had made sure this anniversary event was going to be big and beautiful. I had received an invitation from Berg to bring a group of my readers for a fun zouk holiday in Porto Seguro - and (spoiler alert!) boy did we succeed in that!
Read also the post from my first visit to Porto Seguro in 2013:
Berg's Congress - every zoukers dream holiday
WHAT, WHEN, WHERE?
Event: 2015 Berg's Congress (6th edition).
Time: 30 Dec 2014 - 8 Jan 2015.
Duration: 7 days and 7+3 nights.
Dance styles: All styles of Brazilian zouk with a focus on lambazouk.
The event and schedule
Berg's Congress is a ten day Brazilian zouk spectacle right smack in the home of lambada, Porto Seguro, Brazil. At a luxurious & lush venue you'll find 7 days of zouk workshops and 10 nights of parties. The congress also hosts the bi-annual International Zouk-Lambada Championships.
2015 Berg's Congress schedule
Pre-parties: 30 Dec 2014 - 1 Jan 2015; including a special New Year's party on 31 Dec.
Workshops and parties: 2-8 Jan 2015.
Welcome to the tropics! Just a couple hundred meters from the never-ending Bahian beaches, at the back of a small dirt road lined with lush trees is the venue: the beautiful Berg's house. Once you’ll hear the sweet zouk tunes you know you’re walking in the right direction... towards a piece of paradise - zouk paradise! (Scroll down to Location where you'll find detailed directions)
The Berg's house is in fact a group of buildings with two open-air dance floors, garden, swimming pool, drink & snack bars, a clothes shop, restrooms, cloak room… you name it, they have it. There are two dance floors and both of them serve as party and workshop spaces. The spaces are fitted with fans; no walls, no air-con. It does get hot during the day and night, but it's the summer time in Brazil so would you expect anything else? Pack light clothes! As there are no walls enclosing the dance floors and the open space gives a pleasant atmosphere and a nice breath of fresh air. During the night the dance floors are beautifully decorated and the lush park-like walks around the house are fitted with strands of lights. It's definitely not too bad too lounge under the palm trees or by the pool in between workshops during the day and between dances during the night.
All I can say is so far I've not come across a venue like this in the zouk congress world. Everybody loves the Berg's house, and once you see it you’ll understand why. You could actually live at the house; they do rent out rooms for the congress attendants and the bar serves meals (salads, burgers, sandwiches, pastels.....) as well as fresh fruit juices, water, soft drinks, chilled coconuts, cocktails and of course açaí. There's a couple caixa booths were you'll need to change your reais to "Berg's money" (that's what we called it); square casino chips of some sorts which you use to buy drinks and food. The clothes shop accepts credit card payments as well and they sell really nice dance clothes, party tops, dance shoes of all sorts and the congress t-shits. In addition to the shop, during the days there are a few vendors days selling more cool dance clothes, DVDs and CDs, local crafts and hand-made jewelry.
About the dance floor; it is in ok condition but some parts will be soon in need of repair, it's getting a bit uneven in some areas. The open space also means some dust does travel to the dance floor; the beach is couple hundred meters away and there's a dirt road behind the venue. When it rains the areas outside the dance floor will get wet (which happened only about 2-3 times during the 10 days on both years I've been there, so not too often). I wouldn't bring my fanciest, newest dance shoes there, but I did dance in my normal leather soled dance heels all night every night and enjoyed it - so it's completely fine. Pick a couple pairs of shoes that you enjoy & feel comfortable wearing, since you'll be dancing 7 days and 10 nights, remember! Guys are ok with sneakers during the nights and some just dance in their Havaianas during the days - very casual!
This year as well as in 2013, there were 7 full days of workshops. Zouk teachers from all around the world and from all zouk styles joined in on the event. Participating in the event this time were Rodrigo Delando, Renata Peçanha & Jorge Peres, Pablo Schmoller and Nadia, Mafie Zouker, Rodrigo Oliveira & Karina Carvalho, Ludek Luzny and Pavla Luzna, Adilio Porto, Dadinho, Didi Dos Santos & Patricia Gianocaro, Solange Dias, K-Yo Victor & Gabriela Póvoa, Mafie Zouker, Ricardo Ferrari, Shani Mayer & Ivo, Leo Fontes & Aline Lima, Felipe & Paty Lira, Renato Dias, Marcelo Bal, Jules Bertrand & Melodie, Hugo Nascimento & Carolina Parpinelli, Jemerson Silva & Olga Pernucci and many many others. And of course the organisers Berg Dias & Bella Fernandes!
The workshops run smoothly and fairly well on schedule. There are Portuguese-English translators equipped with microphones so, unlike in many other events in Brazil where the language is Portuguese only, you'll be able to follow the classes a bit better. Both halls are very spacious but every year some of the classes are really crowded and some not - depending on the artist, time of the day and what not.
As you could read from the venue description, there’s a snack bar where you can buy some food and drinks. There was also a small but tasty lunch buffet served during the workshops in addition to the all-day-all-night snack bar, so no need to go anywhere if you want to do a full workshop day.
What most people come for are the parties. 10 nights of zouking ’til dawn! This year all the parties were held at Berg's house. The lighting, stylish decorations, palm trees, starry skies and the tropical breeze give a great atmosphere. You'll be in party mood as soon as you walk close to the venue and you start hearing the sensuous zouk tunes.
The list of DJs is every year almost as long as the list of teachers, with names such as Kakah, Mané, Edu, Allan Z, Mafie Zouker, Nyx, and a dozen more from around the world. Paulo Mac also joined in on the fun, performing to the dancing crowd on two nights.
As I mentioned, there are two dance floors. Typically at the main room you’ll find mostly a bit more upbeat & fast lambazouk music. The other floor, called piscina (=pool) will offer a mix of other zouk styles (traditional/Rio style, black/hiphop zouk, Neo and other remixes). You can choose your floor depending the mood of the night or the moment! The dance floors get packed after midnight and the music doesn't stop until the morning. There are loads and loads of awesome dancers at the parties so you'll be sure to have a great time on the dance floors.
Here are some scenes from the parties:
When you want to rest your feet you can awe at the playful Brazilian social dancers that aren't shy about showing their skills (still give me goosebumps!). Or sit down in one of the many lounge areas around the dance floors and around the pool, have a fresh caipirinha or boost your energy levels with açaí. About half the party nights have themes: they are not compulsory but some do like to dress up - I hope you didn't miss Berg's superhero costume this year!
Every night there’s a break for shows and on three nights the International Zouk Championship stages (see below for more information about the competition). During the show times the other floor usually has music for those that prefer to dance in stead of watching the shows. But I do recommend to go see the shows at least one night, there's a fantastic mood and typically there's something that will blow you away! The competitions are held early in the evening so it won't eat up the valuable party hours too badly.
All in all, parties at Berg's house are really my version of zouk heaven. It's quite a feeling to dance in the tropical surroundings with all the amazing dancers. Around 5 am the day starts to dawn and you can stroll the couple hundred metres to the beach to see the sunrise. After the parties end, at around 6-7 am, the sun is already well up and the air is getting quite warm quite fast. Many people pack their swimming gear with them to the parties and walk straight to the beach for a refreshing morning swim.... Ready to start another crazy zouk day!!
Ready, set, go! The International zouk & lambada championships
Bi-annually Berg's Congress hosts the International zouk & lambada championships.
There are two categories in the competition; amateurs and professionals. On three nights the competitors take part in the three rounds: elimination, semi-final and final. The competitions are held at the start of the party nights, starting at around 10pm - if you come to the party at around midnight you will have missed the competition. But a lot of people won’t miss it for the world! The area around the stage gets very packed so come early if you want secure a good spot. The Brazilians love the competitions and many of the competitors have a dozen (or what seems like 10 dozen) friends cheering for them - very loudly. It’s something you need to see at least once!
If you're looking to compete read my previous post with all the details! The next International zouk & lambada championships will be held at the next Berg's Congress in January 2017.
The congress workshops and parties are held at "Berg's house" at Rua da Boemia, 8, Taperapuan beach, Porto Seguro, Bahia, Brazil (read more about the house and its facilities above in the Venue section). The house is about 5km north, up the coastline, from the Porto Seguro city. See the map at the start of this post!
From the main beach road Avenida Beira Mar turn to Rua da Taba - it’s approximately across the street from the beach kiosk/restaurant Malibu and about half-way between the beach party complexes Axé Moi and Toa Toa. From Rua da Taba turn left to the small dirt road Rua da Bohemia. Berg's house is at the end of that road. You can also access the house by foot from the so called 'jungle road' Rua do Telégrafo - the lighting is scarce/none on that road so take a small flashlight and for your safety don't walk alone during the night on unlit roads.
Near the venue
Plenty of restaurants can be found just a couple blocks from Berg's house: My favourites were, again, the Pizzeria Tropical at the closeby Rua da Canceira, and Churrascaria Beira Mar, which is about two blocks up the Avenida Beira Mar. Next to the Churrascaria you’ll find the gas station, where there’s also the closest ATM. A bit up the road from there you will also find a supermarket as well as the pharmacy (altogether about 1km from Berg's house). All along the beach there are many great beach bars and restaurants, where you can easily spend an entire day (or week) swimming, tanning and drinking beer together with the many Brazilian holiday makers.
Final thoughts on Berg's Congress 2015
In 2013 I made my first visit to Berg's Congress and Porto Seguro. After the congress was over I was definitely blown away, swept off my feet and in every way amazed about how fantastic a zouk event could be. And I immediately decided I would be back for 2015.
Fast forward about 1,5 years from the 2013 congress to mid 2014 - that’s when I really started to direct my thoughts on the 2015 Berg's congress. I had planned to take a group of my zouk friends with me, many of them had never set foot in Brazil. Exciting - but a lot of work and preparations were needed. At times I was asking myself is this really worth all the money, time and planning? Was the event really that awesome-extatic-amazeballs that I had the faint memory of it being? Did I really love Porto Seguro this much?
Well, on that December afternoon, sitting on the plane that was landing next an endless strand of sandy beaches, driving along a palm-tree-lined road facing the whispering Atlantic ocean and later making that first moonlit walk to Berg's house, hearing soft Brazilian Portuguese lyrics streaming from the dance floor... I had an instant rush of hot and cold all through my body. I’m back to where I belong.
Every one in our group really loved our Porto Seguro life; the random mix of lounging in the beach, an hour here and there of workshops, delicious meals of tasty barbecue food and sweet fruits, chilling in our hotel pool, drinking caipirinhas, swimming in the warm ocean at sunrise and sunset, and enjoying the delirious euphoria of all-night dance flow. Pure bliss.
So was it worth it? Yes, it was ----so---- worth it. I had the most amazing ten days and I wouldn't change one second. It was indeed hard to land back to normal life. But at least I know, there will be more Berg's Congresses - and I will be there.
Zouk events in Porto seguro - the winds of changes
Us zoukers have known Berg's house in Porto Seguro as 'the place to be' for New Year zouking. There have been glorious zouk events at around New Year in this beautiful Brazilian beach location for already one decade.
On odd years (such as ... 2013, 2015) there has been the Berg's Congress - Berg's main event with 10 days of zouk.
On even years (such as ... 2012, 2014) typically there has also been Berg's International Zouk Lambada Summer Festival - the smaller of the two Berg's events, a 6-day congress. While normally this would have been the next event, held in Jan 2016, now in the past month it was announced that the Berg's International Zouk Lambada Summer Festival has been cancelled!
But not to worry, zoukeiros and zoukeiras can still head to Porto Seguro this coming New Year. A completely new event has surfaced: Brazouka Beach Festival! On 31 Dec 2015 - 8 Jan 2016, Brazouka Beach Festival will be held in the same birthplace of lambada, Porto Seguro.
And Berg's Congress will be back! The next Berg's Congress will held 30 Dec 2016 - 8 Jan 2017.
Read a little bit more about the Brazouka Beach Festival and one of the organisers, Braz Dos Santos in my recent story;
Zouk The World interview
Braz Dos Santos: Dance is a massage to the spirit
Porto Seguro is a little piece of paradise located in the tropics, in the sunny state of Bahia approximately in the middle of the Brazilian coast line. The area is known - and marked in history books - already since the 16th century. This treasure chest of Brazilian culture is not only popular among zoukers, but brasileiros and internationals alike!
More about Porto Seguro, as well as some of the Bahian gems Salvador and Itacaré in the coming posts!