3rd – 5th of April, 2008

The beautiful city of Melbourne was host to the inaugural Melbourne Latin Festival (MLF). Although only in its first year, this event was organised with such professionalism and attention to detail, and well exceeded the crowd’s expectations.

Natalie Montano, director of Synergy Salsa, was the brains behind this project. Natalie and her friendly and helpful team ensured that the event was of international standard.

Bachateros packed bachata workshopThe Darebin Arts and Convention Centre was the perfect venue for this occasion, as it offered 3 spacious workshop rooms, a common area for booth holders to promote their brands and participants to wind down, as well as a beautiful theatre that hosted the Saturday night performances. Coffee and snacks were also available and everyone could enjoy a cup of rich Italian hot chocolate, which well represented the “chocolate” theme of the event. This year’s venue was perfect in size for the number of attendees (approximately 500 participants at day, and a few more at night). We can’t help but to wonder, since the success and popularity of the event, if this venue would be big enough for next year’s edition.

The MLF offered a wide range of workshops, from beginners to advanced. Its main focus was on the 3 most popular Latin dance styles: Salsa, Bachata and Zouk. As the Bachata lovers that we are, we were very happy to see both Bachata workshops, taught by Bachateros and Modus Vivendi, jam packed with over 150 students eager to learn. Junior and Emily, Oliver and Luda, and Amy Mills were other very popular instructors with full workshops as well.

Most participants couldn’t tell that Junior and Emily flew in from California, USA, only for the weekend, on a gruelling 20 + hour flight, including an unexpected stop-over in Canberra, caused by a temporary storm in Melbourne. Despite their long flight, Junior and Emily displayed such a great attitude and good humour during their workshops, and a great energy for their performances.

Saturday night was the event’s main night. The performances were held at the venue’s theatre, which was a full capacity (not bad for an event in its first year!). The entire evening was presented as a very professional production, which included an opening act by Fabio Robles who educated and humoured the crowed with his “Gaucho” routine, as well as a closing act by Latitude Dance Co.

The organizers made sure that the crowd got more than they expected, as the evening was full of surprises. Luke and Luda, winners of the 2009 Dancing with the Stars showcased their winning Salsa routine. Name Lastname TAP dance group wowed the audience with their energetic display of dance skills and the young age of its members. Fabio and Ana Robles interpreted a beautiful tango piece played by a live guitarist on stage which left the audience speechless.

The Latin and Brazilian rhythms were very well represented by the local talent. The Melbourne teams not only displayed their Salsa and Zouk skills, but also incorporated drama and theatrical themes to their choreographies. The Motion Couture dance team, led by Oliver Pineda, exhibited such precision and technique that made their routine look so easy even though the song used for the choreography is one of the fastest Salsa songs ever used for a performance.

The parties at night offered a live band, and a good selection of national DJs that kept the dancers going ‘till late hours in the night. There was a good mix of Salsa, Bachata and Zouk played by the DJs, and the bands’ live performances ensured that the dancers got their Salsa fix.

The Melbourne Latin Festival is proof that the Latin community in Australia is growing strong, demonstrating that Sydney is not the only place to be for great salsa dancing in this country.

As a sponsor of the event, the Bachateros team is looking forward to keep supporting this event and to be present next year. We surely expect it to be even bigger and better!

Well done Natalie and the Synergy Salsa team! Two thumbs up!