2nd Festival Internacional del Guaguancó Afro-Cubano, 24-26 June 2011, Barcelona

Friday, June 24

The crazy Salsa Manchester people begin their first Guaguanco festival, leaving Salsa and Bachata behind to begin a weekend of Cuban Rumba and Orishas!

The festival opened with a presentation of the artists, three languages were used for the introductions: Spanish; English and French. Commentary in English is invaluable at international festivals! It was great that English was initially used.

There were several opening shows. My favourite was performed by Daniel Pancerz from Poland. The choice of song was perfect and the use of body movement to the music was amazing.

There were great dancers at the party, and the choice of music was pleasing. Unfortunately the sound system was not very good; the music echoed somewhat, so it was hard to hear the beat; there was a different beat from one side of the room to another! The room also had a carpet; it was surprising to see this; one would expect a large hotel to have a room with a wooden floor for such occasions. Alternatively, the organizers could have chosen a venue with suitable flooring. In the end, however, the carpet was not that much of a problem and it was quite a relief to dance bare foot at the party after a full day of workshops! The party was also at this venue on Saturday night.

The dancers at the party were at a high level and I had some great dances!!

Saturday, June 25

The morning workshops were great. The basics of some of the orishas were explained. Body isolations for dancing the orishas were worked through. These classes were fantastic and such a welcome as they do not exist in Manchester!

Yeni Molinet is a fantastic teacher, who explains the basics wonderfully; her routines are brilliant and very useful for extracting certain moves for social Salsa dancing.

The Saturday night performances were great. The show performed by Calle Real was absolutely wonderful. Yeni was fantastic as Oya.

Sunday, June 26

The Sunday workshops were brilliant, except for two. The first class, by Jorge, the organizer of the festival, was spoken in Spanish; it seemed a really useful class regarding musicality, it is a shame that a limited portion of the audience could understand. He appeared to explain how to incorporate Rumba and Son into general Salsa dancing, with a great emphasis on timing; he was accompanied by a musician playing the congos to stress the beats.

Another class in the afternoon focusing on folk law songs was also in Spanish. It was disappointing that an English translation was not given, as it appeared to be a fascinating class too, people were even taking notes!

Havana D’Primera was awesome. The range of instruments they used was vast; they put on a great show. It was particularly amazing how they improvised a song. Alexander Abreu Manresa (the lead singer) has great charisma; he is like a conductor with his band. The crowd were really fun and they sang along to all the songs; the atmosphere was fantastic. It is a shame the venue was so small, as we could not dance, which was a great pity.

The after party took place in Mojito; after a pre-party at a bus stop! Great dancers were there and we got to dance a little bachata.

Walking through the streets of Barcelona, as the city was beginning a new day, was a wonderful end to a great festival!

The crazy Salsa Manchester crew prepared to return to the UK with a greater knowledge and understanding of these awesome Cuban dances.