Latin clubs prepare for the Chicago International Salsa Congress


Alexis Ramirez

OLAS prepares for the 2016 Chicago Internation Salsa Congress

By Roman Treuthart and Kasia Blake

As International Days approach, club presidents are pushing their clubs to meet deadlines and perfect their dance. Stress levels are running high in the weeks leading up to I-Days, but these performances are not the only thing some clubs are preparing for.

While some clubs are finishing their routines the month before I-Days, many Latin clubs have had their dances finished for months. These clubs, including OLAS, Aspira, ABC, Colombian, Ecuadorian, Guatemalan and Salvadorian perform in the Chicago International Salsa Congress (CISC) a month before I-Days.

CISC is a four day festival where both professional and amateur dance groups perform. The event consists of performances and workshops hosted by renowned salsa dancers from all over the world.

Oscar Rodriguez, Div. 860, attended Congress last year. His club, OLAS, had the chance to perform and attend the salsa workshops at the festival.

“Workshops at Congress are basically dance classes taught by prestigious dancers around the world,” Rodriguez said. The Congress hosts over 70 workshops covering beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels of dance. This year world class salsa dancer, Eddie Torres, will be instructing workshops along with over 40 others.

However, the main focus of the Latin clubs from Lane is their performance. “Preparing for Congress is a lot of hard work,” Rodriguez said. “We started preparing in August of 2016.”

Preparing for this event puts a lot of pressure on club presidents. Jorge Ramirez, Div. 870, is one of the presidents of Aspira. He is in charge of preparing his club for Congress, along with his other presidential duties.

“Congress is very stressful because it is not a high school event, it is an event that professional salsa dancers around the world come to perform,” Ramirez said. “This does cause a lot of stress because it brings pressure to the presidents to do everything right and professionally.”

The dance routine is not the only thing that must be finished before Congress. Costumes are an important aspect of the performance. Clubs designing their own costumes must begin the process early to be ready for Congress.

“The process for designing a costume usually comes around October where we get a sense of the routine and see what type of costume would best suit it,” Ramirez said.

“Once we’ve made a design we find someone who can make it and from there we finish it with our own little details to the costumes.”

Once the dance routine and costumes are finished, it is finally time for CISC. Many club members choose to spend the weekend at the hotel with their club. A typical day consists of breakfast and hanging out with their club, workshops, and then the night consists of dancing at socials and performances.

Although preparing for the festival is a process that takes a lot of time and effort, the clubs participating are rewarded with opportunities to learn and gain experience. “Each year I hope that members of my club enjoy themselves and take advantage of the opportunities presented to them like taking workshops, watching professionals, practicing social dancing and performing themselves,” said Alex Gutierrez, a co-president of ABC.

Once the Salsa Congress has concluded, preparation for I-Days is much easier, according to Gutierrez.

“All the preparation does pay off when it comes I-Days practices,” said Gutierrez. “We don’t have to practice as long.”

The clubs who participate in Congress not only have their costumes and dance routine ready for I-Days, but also gain the experience of performing in front of a live audience. All their hard work pays off, and they are more than ready to perform in International Days and Nights.