Interview with Sky Blue, the latin-loving woman behind Byron Latin Fiesta

Byron Latin Fiesta, 1–4 November

The Byron Latin Fiesta is now in its 13th year. With a growing community of latin-loving folk.

the 13th event is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Festival director, the latin-loving woman behind it all, Sky Blue spoke with The Echo.

How did you get into latin dance? What’s your speciality?

I have been a dancer from an early age but I got into latin dance from the age of 18 when I travelled overseas for the first time and learnt from latin instructors. I was inspired with everything latin and I have never looked back. I have been teaching different styles for over 20 years now but my speciality is teaching authentic Bachata and educating people about where it comes from. I love to teach the fundamentals and for my students to get the techniques and feeling of the dance into their souls.

There seems to be a growing latin scene around here. Have you noticed an increase in the latin dance styles?

The scene has grown and changed over the years in the Byron Shire and as styles that are popular around the world gain momentum we see the influence here; however, Salsa is still the main style taught. I would like to see that change as there are so many other styles for example: Bachata, Kizomba, Zouk, and others.

Other than Salsa what is the most popular dance style at the moment? What’s driving that, do you think?

Kizomba is popular; it has exploded in Europe over recent years. Byron Latin Fiesta was a driving force for it here. We were the first event to bring Kizomba internationals to Australia but since then it’s grown all over Australia. Bachata is the other style that is very popular, more than Salsa, and many latin nights and events around the world.

How important is Latino music for latin dancing – who are the bands you have coming to the Byron Latin Fiesta? Tell me a little about them

Live music you mean? Very important! Many dancers are happy to just dance to DJ music but it’s so important for dancers to know what makes the music they dance to, and you can only see this by watching live musicians do what they do best. We have El Timbon for our 13th annual event this year; they are from Brisbane and play Cuban Salsa and Timba. We also have Gonzalo Porta, a solo artist from Sydney (originally from Uruguay) and his band, who’ll play classic Salsa, Bachata, Cha Cha Cha and more.

What is Afro-Caribbean? What will Sabhiha Bastide be showing us?

Afro-Caribbean refers to people who come from the Caribbean islands and whose ancestors came from Africa. Sabhiha Bastide will be teaching and performing Dominican Bachata, a style of music and dance that originates in the Dominican Republic.

Do you need a nice big booty for latin? There seems to be a lot of bum movement.

Not at all, but it sure looks sexy if you do! There is a lot of hip movement, but anyone can learn to move their hips!

What is your weekend offering to the more experienced dancers?

We have workshops for advanced level dancers and master workshops with our international artists that offer more in-depth knowledge. There is also plenty of social dancing!

What about a novice like myself? Would I get anything out of it?

Of course! We have plenty of workshops for beginners. In fact, we have a special Beginners Pass, which gives you access to all the Beginner and Open level workshops plus entry to the parties. You can learn many styles from scratch. You can also attend the parties, watch the performances, enjoy the bands, and try your hand at practising the steps you’ve learnt.

Can you tell me about the performances and showcases?

We have performances every night of the festival from our professional national and international artists as well as many student teams from supporting dance schools. You’ll see Samba, Salsa, Bachata, Kizomba, Tango, Reggaeton, and more.

When is the Byron Latin Fiesta – how can people register and get involved? What are the key venues and dates they should have on their calendar?

The event runs over four nights and two days, 1–4 November. Everyone is welcome to attend. We have a big variety of ticket options available: full passes, day passes, night passes etc. You can buy tickets online through our website prior to the event or at the event if not sold out prior. Our venues are Main Festival Hub: Byron Community Centre; Beginners Hub: Byron Bay English Language School; and Guzman y Gomez for the after parties.

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