Calgary International Salsa Congress

Calgary International Salsa Congress
Calgary International Salsa Congress
World Class Dancing

Calgary International Salsa Congress

Dance the night away at the Calgary International Salsa Congress.

The Calgary International Salsa Congress is one of Canada’s premiere Latin dance events. Each spring, the three-day dance festival welcomes some of the world’s best salsa dancers to Calgary for a weekend of performances, workshops, and social dancing. Produced by So You Think You Can Dance CANADA choreographers Kelly Lannan and Eric Caty, nightly performances showcase world-class dancing, introductory salsa and bachata classes, and provide a fun, welcoming environment for everyone to learn. 

If you enjoy going to the theatre or watching TV shows like NBC’s World of Dance and Dancing with the Stars, then you’ll love the Calgary International Salsa Congress. It’s like going to a Broadway show, except more magical because of the event’s inviting atmosphere and infectious energy.

Dancers Harold and Regan at the Calgary International Salsa Congress

Dancers Harold and Regan at the Calgary International Salsa Congress.

When is it?

The entire dance festival takes place Friday, March 26 to Sunday, March 29, 2020, but the real highlight of the weekend is Saturday Gala Night event, which dazzles audiences each year with its incredible talent and variety of dance styles. Friday and Saturday evening shows begin at 8:30 p.m. Sunday’s show begins at 9:00 p.m. 

Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Calgary.

The Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Calgary.

Where is it?

The Congress is held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Calgary, just steps away from some of the city’s best dining and shopping. There’s a special hotel rate for Congress attendees if you mention the event when booking.

Pro Tip: Book a hotel room at the Hyatt Regency even if you’re a local Calgarian resident. Social dancing goes late and workshops start early, so staying at the hotel means you’ll be able to enjoy all of the Congress activities without worrying about transportation logistics.

Dancer Anya at the Calgary International Salsa Congress.

Dancer Anya at the Calgary International Salsa Congres.

How do I get tickets? 

Tickets are available online or at the door for a slightly higher price. A ticket for Saturday night’s Gala event is $59.00 for standard seating and $84.00 for VIP access. Saturday night sells out each year, so reserve your tickets as soon as possible.

Pro Tip: Seating in the ballroom is open, so arrive early or get VIP tickets, which are well worth it and will give you access to a set of reserved seats in the front.

Calgary International Salsa Congress.

Evening dance shows at the Calgary International Salsa Congress.

What to Do: Watch World Class Dancing

Evening dance shows are theatre-style productions that take place in the hotel ballroom on a beautifully lit, raised stage. The entire space feels sophisticated with small details, like luxury cars, that add flair and glitz to the overall environment. The ballroom’s lobby boasts a full bar, handpicked vendors, and several backdrops for snapping photos during what is sure to be a night to remember. 

Expect to feel inspired by the creative numbers from local dance groups and in awe of the artistic expression and unparalleled caliber of the professional dancers during the shows. While salsa, bachata, and other Latin dance styles like hustle, Kizomba, and Afro-Cuban are the most represented at the Calgary International Salsa Congress, you’ll get to witness a wide variety of dance styles like hip hop, modern, and jazz too.

After the shows, make your way into the lobby to enjoy a cocktail as the event staff turns the ballroom into a dance floor for you to enjoy the rest of the night. If you feel inspired, take the Introduction to Salsa and Bachata class taught by one of Calgary’s local professional dancers. Designed for beginners and those who have never taken a dance class, the instructor will break down the fundamentals of lead and follow and teach you a few easy moves you can try out on the dance floor that very same night! 

The night continues all the way until 3:00 a.m. with social dancing and socializing. There’s a salsa, bachata, and kizomba room each with a live DJ. You’ll find dancers of all levels and experiences on the dance floor, so don’t be shy asking someone to dance. If you’re lucky, you might even get to mingle with World Champion dancers like Harold and Regan from Winnipeg, and Jefferson y Adrianita from Colombia, and Anya Katsevman from New York City both on and off the dance floor.

Pro Tip: After the shows on Sunday night, there’s a Professional Jack and Jill Competition which begins at 11:00 p.m. Professional dancers are paired with random partners and asked to dance everything from salsa and bachata to hip hop and reggaetón. Things get rowdy quickly, props get involved, and dancing devolves into a full-on performance that’s bound to have you in fits of laughter. 

Pro Tip: Social dancing goes until 3:00 a.m. all three nights, but I suggest heading up to your hotel no later than 2:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday so that you have time to get to bed and get some rest if you’re planning on attending workshops in the morning. 

Pro Tip: Everyone feels nervous asking someone to dance, but that isn’t a reason not to do it! Regardless of whether you are a man or woman, follower or lead, beginner or expert, challenge yourself to ask at least five people to dance each night. If someone says no, don’t take it personally, just keep asking until someone says yes.

Calgary International Salsa Congress

Take a class and learn to dance from world class instructors and performers.

Calgary International Salsa Congress

Learn the basics from world classic dancers at the Calgary International Salsa Congress.

What to Do: Take Dance Classes

The Calgary International Congress offers more than 25 hours of dance instruction over the course of the weekend. Taught by some of the world’s most renowned instructors and performers, workshops cater to all dance experience levels. Whether you’re a performer, seasoned social dancer, or never taken a dance class before in your life, there’s a class perfectly suited for you and your goals. 

Workshops begin on Saturday and Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. and are scheduled all the way until 4:00 p.m. Each master class is an hour long and takes place in the hotel conference and ballroom areas. You can attend as many as your feet can handle. 

Pro Tip: While there is a short lunch break, it’s best to bring snacks likes fruit, nuts, and granola bars to munch on between sessions. It’s also a good idea to bring a water bottle. Staying hydrated is an important part of any dance event, especially if you’re visiting from out of town and not used to Calgary’s higher elevation.

Pro Tip: Private lessons are a great way to review material taught during a workshop or receive more personal guidance. To ask for a private lesson, simply approach the instructor after class and ask them about their weekend availability and rates.

Views of Banff National Park

Views of Banff National Park (Photo credit: Mike Seehagel). 

What to Do: Visit Banff National Park 

On Monday, you can join Congress attendees on an optional day trip to Banff National Park and Lake Louise. Just a short drive from Calgary, the views are breathtaking and the intimate setting allows you to get to know other guests, including the event producers and some of the professional dancers who performed and taught over the weekend. 

Spend the day skiing and snowboarding or relaxing in the comfort of the lodge. You’ll depart around 9:00 a.m. with a group of about 30 people and return around 10:00 p.m. in the evening.

Calgary International Salsa Congress dancers

Dress to impress at the Calgary International Salsa Congress.

What To Do: Enjoy Live Music

Each year some of Western Canada's most beloved musicians join the Congress party before and after the Friday and Saturday night shows. This year Chance Devlin and Oliver Miguel entertain guests as they mingled and shopped.

What To Do: Shop

Each year you’ll find a variety of local and international boutiques in the main lobby of the ballroom at the Calgary International Salsa Congress. Shop for exquisite jewelry and apparel you won’t find anywhere else before and after the shows. You can even pick up a pair of dance shoes if you’re thinking of stepping out onto the dance floor or feeling inspired to take a class at a local dance school after the event.


Most vendors bring a hand-picked collection of goods specifically for the event and sell out by the end of the weekend, so it’s best to make your purchase earlier in the evening.

What to Wear

For workshops, wear comfortable clothes you can move and sweat in. Most attendees wear workout attire (leggings, dance pants, etc.) or very stretchy jeans. 

For the evening shows, dress to impress! Most attendees wear cocktail dresses, dress pants, and suits but you can’t go wrong with a more formal evening gown either. Keep in mind that even if you aren’t a dancer, after watching the performances you will likely want to join the intro dance lesson and try a few moves out on the dancefloor, so wear something you can comfortably move in. 

Pro Tip: It’s cold in the ballroom, so bring a jacket or shawl to keep warm while you watch the shows. 

Pro Tip: Avoid tops and dresses that slip down or move in a way that make you feel uncomfortable or self-conscious. There’s nothing worse than worrying about your clothes when you’re social dancing. 

Most importantly, make sure you wear comfortable shoes you can dance in. Men generally sport sneakers during the day and dress shoes at night, while women wear flats or low heels that don’t slip off. Avoid shoes with very rubbery soles so you can spin and turn more easily on the dancefloor. 

Pro Tip: If you have dance shoes but you don’t want to wear them to and from the event, it’s perfectly acceptable to bring a bag with your shoes in them and then change into them after the shows and before the social dancing.

The Calgary International Salsa Congress comes to Calgary March 26 - 29, 2020. Purchase tickets to this world class dance event.

Brielle Friedman

Brielle Friedman is a professional dancer, writer, and marketing consultant based in New York City. When she’s not teaching or performing around the world, she writes for a variety of media outlets and shares her experiences as a dancer on her blog Vitamin b.