I often take days off from work for long weekends. My colleagues are asking “what are you doing for the week end?” and the answer is often “on my way to dance in Belgium / Netherland / Portugal / England / Ireland/ somewhere lost in France”. Quite difficult for some people to understand why i am going, and why it always seems so difficult to get back to normal life after 4 days away.
As a matter of fact, since I started festivals, the number of countries I visited increased dramatically from 1 to approximately 3 to 5 per year. Even if it’s just for a week end.
Focus on a date and leave
I always wanted to discover the world of course but most of my projects were staying as dreams. Because time runs so fast and I am a damn procrastinator. Festivals gives me an opportunity, it chooses a date for me. Dancing friends, teachers and bands add a new motivation for my going. Sometimes the dates are not quite the best to visit a country (if you expect a good weather to visit Prague in early february for example) but i’ve never been disappointed by any of my travels. It even gives me ideas for future visits.
Dance, dance, dance
I heard quite often “in festivals your dancing level is at its best”. For sure dancing 6 to 10 hours per day for 3 days is a great help. Following workshops and dance with all sorts of new dancers of all levels is also a great benefit, and I think you are just more energetic and open in a festival because contrary to work, you are very happy to be there. You attend to workshops AND you apply your new knowledge straightaway, it’s much more efficient than taking workshops or classes for months in your usual dancing community.
Upgrade language and social ability
Like a lot of french people, my english was awful after high school. Traveling and meeting new people made me realize
everybody speaks english so much better than us . My english is not perfect, but for sure it improved a lot. Now I have so many foreign friends, I am practising my english everyday to stay in touch with all these lovely people. It’s not only english you will improve but other languages as well, starting with how to say hello/thanks/cheers/do you want to dance in all the languages of Europe. Thanks to dance, you don’t actually need to speak the local language to spend a good moment.
You will meet new people, that’s for sure. Most of the time I travel with friends, to really enjoy à festival I need a mate to share basic things like breakfast, beers, last crêpe at 3am, best dancers plans… that’s for me and everyone is different of course, but it made my bonds with my friends tighter because of it. But some people are travelling alone and probably interact more with people they meet on the spot, living in total immersion.
Discover amazing spots
Usually when I visit a new place, I try to come at least one day before and one day after the festival so I can enjoy the entire dancing AND visit the city. For some events you can just buy tickets for the evenings and visit the surroundings during the day. I tried evening pass only, but I am not very convinced yet because doing the daily activities makes you meet more people who will easily invite you at night.
Spend all your money
Let’s be honest, all of this cost really a big deal. That’s a choice of life I probably can’t keep up for eternity – between transport hosting, food, festival, visits… But there are several ways to reduce the cost of these events :
- Carpooling : it may take time to go to far events but very often it’s cheaper than train and you meet new people
- Stay at locals : great way to meet new people. Dancing hosts are always amazing people.
- Camping : in balfolk, organisers always plan a festival camping official or unofficial somewhere
- Volunteering : helping the organisers will often reduce your ticket, enter for free and sometimes have food and drinks offered. It may mean less dancing or not so fun activities but usually organisers take care of your well-being and you can discover another side of the festival, more “social”
- Ask locals to take you to cheap restaurants and visit the town like a local. It’s a great way to visit a city and make friends,
- Ask your work to pay the bill : my company reimburse some costs linked to sport activities every year. Thank god, dancing is a sport !!
Prepare your body and respect it
Some festivals last a week. At first I was afraid to go because i thought my body, legs and back mostly, would not bear a full week of dancing. And that’s partly true. I found out that « strangely » sleeping in good conditions is important for a good rest. So even in camping, make sure you have a good mattress for your back.
I try to attend to qi gong or yoga workshops if I can, and do warmups and stretching before and after bals to condition my body at it’s best. I always wear dancing shoes that will keep my feet and my knees safe for dancing all night.
During the day, I find impossible to attend the workshops of the morning, afternoon’s workshops, night bals and Jam sessions until 5 am, and again every day for a weekend or for a week. So prepare yourself, look at the program and choose wisely what you are ready to miss or not.
Amazing festivals around Europe
I want to go back to
- Andancas – august – Portugal [multidanses]
- Nuit du folk de Chatillon en diois – mai – France [bal folk]
- Fair city blues – march – Ireland [blues dancing]
- Crash blues – february – Netherland [blues dancing]
- Candansa – october – Netherland [bal folk]
- Blues Baby blues – november – Uk [blues dancing]
- Raiz d’Aldeia – june – Portugal [bal folk]
- Gennetines, le Grand Bal de l’Europe – july – France [bal folk]
I dream to go
- Vialfre – june – Italy [bal folk]
- Tango marathon, Warsaw, Poland [tango]
- Forro Copenhague [forro]
- Berlin Blues Explosion [blues dancing]
- Moose Blues, Oslo, Norway [blues dancing]
- Bergueda, Spain [bal folk]
- Atlantic Blues Festival, Portugal [blues dancing]
- Hummingbird Blues, Poland [blues dancing]
- Drag the Blues, Barcelona, Spain [blues dancing]
- The Spoonful, Edinburgh, Scottland [blues dancing]
- Espanish blues festival, Madrid, Spain [blues dancing]