Congratulations! You have just made a big decision to invest in your dance training. You have demonstrated your full commitment to expanding your dance repertoire in a big way. Congresses are amazing, potentially life-changing experiences, but it is very easy to get lose track of your goals and purpose in the midst of all the hoopla. Here are some surefire ways to make sure that doesn't happen:
1) Modulate your workshop and social activity schedule.
The schedules for each event are usually published a few weeks to a few months prior. Download the entire schedule and make a few notes, asking yourself questions like:
a. “What workshops are the most crucial to my learning?” You may want to focus on your weakest skillsets, or even try something new.
b. “Which instructors am I super excited to learn from?” You follow some of them on social media, love all their videos, so why not make time to learn from them?
By asking these types of questions, it will help you to prioritize and preserve energy for the workshops and/or social activities that matter to you the most. This way, if your body starts to fatigue, rest assured knowing that you devoted your energy to your biggest priorities.
2) Stay fresh!
Listen…sweaty crevices are a real thing, especially at a congress! We are in close quarters doing intensive workshops, it’s unavoidable. I have been to events that took place in the summertime, and I brought a complete change of clothes (including underwear!) No, it’s not sexy and we don’t like to admit when our hygiene isn’t on point…HOW-THE-EVER, we must do all we can so as to not offend others around us. Wipes, deodorant, change of clothes, underwear, etc. will enhance your experience…trust!
3) Bring plenty of water, snacks and meds.
This should go without saying, but you’d be amazed how many people I have seen almost faint because they’re dancing on an empty stomach or severely dehydrated. Keep in mind that your body is likely not accustomed to that much activity on a daily basis. Therefore, be sure to keep a gallon of water and snacks on hand at all times to help you stay focused and energized. The same goes for medication (OTC and prescription) that you should have just in case. I always keep a Ziploc bag of meds for pain, allergies, colds, and digestive issues (because who wants to spend half the weekend on the toilet?)
4) Schedule a private lesson with a master instructor (if your funds allow!)
Back in December 2018, I traveled to Lima, Peru to attend the “De la Habana a Peru” Congress. Many amazing instructors I have learned from in the past were there, but I was super stoked that Fredyclan Batista ("FClan") was one of the organizers. I met him at two prior events in Europe back in 2017, and I knew I wanted to take a private lesson with him in the future. So, when the opportunity to study with him in the same hemisphere arose, I jumped at the chance!
The point is, if you can spare the funds to study with someone you admire and respect, do it! It’s not cheap and requires some coordination, but it is well worth it in the end. Keep reading below for some additional info on how to do this right!
5) Give yourself permission to allot some quiet time to rest and reset.
There is so much going on at these events, it'll make your head spin. You’re moving constantly, you’re meeting new people, buying stuff at the vendors’ tables, going to socials, etc. It is A LOT! Now, as an introvert (ISFJ for you Myers-Briggs enthusiasts), quiet time is essential for my sanity. However, even extroverts can benefit from some moments of quiet. Take some time to reflect on your experience and give your body and mind a break. And don’t wait until your journey home to do this! Your body will thank you.
Bonus Tip #1—Tax Breaks! If you are a dance professional, you may be able to deduct certain expenses related to your travel, such transportation, lodging and entrance fees. Contact your tax preparer or the IRS website to learn more!
Bonus Tip #2—Experience the local flavor! If your schedule & body allow, don't miss out on the opportunity to explore the city! For instance, if traveling to the Baltimore Salsa Bachata Congress, ask the locals where their favorite hangouts are, and where you can find the best restaurant to try the local cuisine. You'll contribute to the local economy & you'll be able to confidently say you did something authentic. *Locals are the best when it comes to knowing areas that you may want to avoid for safety reasons, so hit them up if you have questions!*
*A Quick Note About Private Lessons: Master instructors have a very limited amount of time allotted for private lessons, so act fast if you want to secure one! Contact the instructor beforehand (via social media or email) to discuss what you hope to work on. Do this to get the most out of the 60 or less minutes you’ll have, because it goes by very quickly! Less talking, more dancing!
Again, if you have taken the plunge to attend a congress, BE PROUD OF YOURSELF! This is a big deal and don't forget that. The experience will aid in your growth as a dancer and connect you with others you didn’t know prior. Have a blast, but take care of yourself too!