February 20, 2008 § 2 Comments
Do you like to attend festivals? Do you like to meet all sorts of people, dancers and instructors? Have you ever thought about who’s behind the scenes of the organization of such an event? Read about the anecdotes that happen on such events! Find out, if that really is a dream job!
We have a special priviledge to hear it from first hand. Find out how one of the five most important Salsa Congresses in the world happens? Meet the owner and director of the Salsafestival Switzerland, which takes place this weekend in Zürich:
Thomas Stadler – Event promoter and Salsa instructor since 1991. President of the Salsa Association in Zürich for many years. Carrier of the West Coast Salsa Congress Award.
1. Thomas, tell us how you first met this dangerous girl, called Salsa?
In the 80’s my father left home to live in different places of Latin America. So my brothers and me spent much vacation time to see him in a number of Spanish speaking countries, including the Dominican Republic. It was exactly on the 4th of January 1988, when some girls from his neighborhood took me dancing Merengue and Salsa to a club nearby.
2. I guess she (salsa) really got under your skin, since you do so many different things for her: teaching, organizing, awarding, promoting etc. 😉 I was addicted from the first second. Watching people dance Salsa was a jaw-dropping experience for the pale young Swiss guy that I was then. When I returned, I went through a university career and I even worked in the industry, but Salsa never left my mind. I took the first available lessons in Zurich, went to clubs, started teaching, and there came a point where I was so absorbed that I decided to leave the ordinary life behind me and work exclusively for Salsa.
December 29, 2007 § 3 Comments
This may be the last post of this year, so it should be something special. 🙂 As you can see in the category section, I created a special new one called “Salsa stars”. There you’ll be able to read about our famous instructors and performers. You’ll get to know all their little secrets, from their childhood, how they first started dancing etc. It should be an interesting reading 😉
As a delight for last days of 2007 I had a privilege to interview the funky Moroccan/Belgian instructor Talal Benlahsen. He belongs to those people, with which you never get bored. At about 80% percent of the time you can either laugh with them or at them. As each moment with Talal can be special, so was this interview – we made it via MSN. 🙂 “It will be fun,” said Talal. And it was. Read about this hyperactive, ambitious and extra-talented salsa instructor, who you’ve already had a chance to meet on this year’s Salsa Adriatica and Salsa Power Festival.
Q: Talal, first let me wish you a very happy birthday, cause I know you’ve recently celebrated another year on this planet. 🙂 But we’re mostly gonna talk about salsa. Tell us, what’s the main reason you dance salsa or why you started dancing it?
A: The main reason was meeting people in a period of my life when I started a new life. I had no friends, so I had to meet people. This was an easy way to touch them.
Q: What do you mean by new period in your life?
A: That was the first year I arrived to Belgium and Europe in general. I was 19 years old and it was the first time I left my country.
Q: Where you scared?
A: Scared no, insecure yes. I arrived to Belgium in October 1999 and I had to start from nothing. The first year was horrible: I discovered a different country, different people and culture, something I wasn’t used to, but I had to resist and I couldn’t give up. I had to find a job to be able to pay my rent and food.
Q: What was your first plan of what you will do in Belgium? I know it wasn’t salsa …
A: The plan was to study. I went to the university in Brussels to study computer science. After that I went to an engineering high school but I couldn’t afford the expenses so I stopped. I finished studies this year.
Q: Congratulations! What did you finish?
Q: Which will it be in the future: salsa or commerce? Or to put it in more traditional, boring and typical job-seeking sentence: where do you see yourself in 5 years?
A: I still don’t know that. Right now, I’m experiencing this big salsa adventure, but I have to make my future a little bit sure and secure … by having diploma for example. I can use that in case I stop dancing.
Q: I know there’s a funny story connected with your first salsa steps. Can you share with us that rude-security-guy story?
A: I discovered salsa with my first job in the restaurant: I was on my way home from work and I passed by a Salsa Club in Brussels, which I didn’t know of course. While I was passing it, the security guard opened the door of the club to let somebody go in or out and I heard the Music. I always liked that music but never knew that the name was Salsa or that people could dance it. I went closer to watch what’s going on, but the security guard stopped me, he started looking at me in a very humiliating way because I had very cheap clothes and my pants were a bit dirty due to my work in the restaurant. I didn’t ask anything I even had no intention to go in, but he told me with an ugly voice: “IT’S NOT POSSIBLE TO GO IN!!” I answered: “I was just watching from outside sir!”
I don’t know why or how the guy told me: “Well!! I’ll let you go in this time, but next time try to put some correct clothes and shoes.” I was so happy, and when I was inside and I saw people dancing I was like: waaaaaaaaaaw!! How beautiful were the people!! And how beautiful they were dancing!! So I stood in my place and watched till the end.
Q: And then followed your first salsa steps? 🙂
A: The day after and every weekend, going to a salsa club was my place to be. I had no money to take classes, so I was watching people and I started dancing alone in the beginning. Then I started inviting girls, but I had to go easy … watching, copying and trying to do the same. After 6 weeks I was already making my first normal basic steps and some modest figures. A teacher saw me dancing and invited me to dance in his show group. During 2 years in that group, I improved, and I started performing in many national and international events with that group.
Q: And now you own a school?
A: I had a lot of ambitions, enough to quit my group and to start working on my own. In 2004 I established my own dance company “Salsa Sunrise”. Since then I’ve been working as a professional instructor, performer and choreographer.
Q: You were born in Morocco, How do you like it in the north, with bad weather in such a business oriented city?
A: Well in the beginning my dream was to finish my studies and turn back home to build my career over there. Yet year after year, this idea started leaving my mind. I’m so much influenced by the business orientation over here and my place is in Europe right now. I still have a dream to turn back to my country one day, I just can’t say when.
Q: What did you remember most from visiting, teaching and partying in Slovenia?
A: Most of all the hospitality. But the whole weekend was amazing for me. I liked teaching, performing, social dancing, meeting new people … everything.
Q: I noticed all instructors got along very good. How important is that for a salsa festival?
A: Yes we all know each other, because we see each other several times during the year. That way we build friendship you saw and felt on the festival.
Q: We went to Brussels and got a few impressions about salsa there. How would you describe salsa scene in Brussels – the people that dance it, the styles they dance, the parties and events you have there?
A: Well the salsa level started getting better these last days, thanks to all those local teachers and those invited teachers who came to show our dancers, what salsa is actually.
Q: But this wasn’t your first event with foreign teachers?
A: Of course not, it’s the 11th and thanks to my good relation with a lot of people all over Europe, I could bring people from more that 10 European countries to Brussels and that showed to Belgians, how people are dancing salsa abroad.
Q: Which is the hottest place to party in Brussels right now?
A: The Montecristo on Wednesdays and the YOU on Sundays.
Q: Yes, the YOU place. That was something special – salsa party in the afternoon (from 15.00 till 20.00). Were you surprised it got so popular?
A: It’s already popular in the world, like in in the US, a couple of years ago came to Paris and now Brussels.
Q: Do you have any idea why salsa is sooo popular?
A: Believe me, when I say, I don’t know. I always thought it’s going to die one day, like all fashion things do … but it’ s still growing!
Q: Yes… and people who swore they would never dance, now dance it. Maybe guys like the fact they get so many different girls in their arms? 😉 Because a loooot of man dance salsa.
A: Not as much as girls … believe me.
Q: Thanks Talal for all your answers. Do you perhaps have any special message for our salseros?
A: I expect Slovenian salsa dancers to surprise me each time I pass by Slovenia – in improving their dancing I mean.
Q: In the name of all Slovenian salseros let me we wish you all the best in the year 2008! Hope to see and surprise you a lot 😉
A: Happy New Year to you too and to all the people I know in Slovenia … and … well, to all the rest that I still don’t know 😉 😉 😉