WORK IT: Samba instructor Fabia Santiago at The Brewery, Byron Bay.
WORK IT: Samba instructor Fabia Santiago at The Brewery, Byron Bay. Patrick Gorbunovs

Latin Fiesta gets Byron shaking it

HOLA! Was the most common greeting heard in Byron Bay at the weekend when thousands of dancers met for the Byron Latin Fiesta 2012.

There were workshops for dancers of bachata, salsa, merengue and mambo.

Almost each Latin American country has its own dance, or its own version of many Latin dances.

Although Samba is originally from Brazil, there may be variations from other countries.

Fabia Santiago, from the town of Goiania, in Central West Brazil, is a samba teacher living on the Gold Coast.

This was her third year participating in the Latin Byron Fiesta.

"I teach a type of samba that comes from Rio de Janeiro, which is very elegant. It is basically what you see mulatas (Portuguese for dark-skinned young ladies) dance at the Rio de Janeiro carnival," Ms Santiago said.

"This is a trademark of the festival. They invite grassroots teachers to show people how we dance back in Latin America."

The workshops were complimented with the shows, with more than 40 troupes from all over Australia, New Zealand and Latin America showing off their skills in the new variations of the old dances.

Samba burlesque, conga line, zouk and kizomba are some of the less-orthodox variations performed at the weekend.

Kizomba is the latest dance style to break into mainstream Latin dancing.

Kizomba is a sexy partner dance with African and Portuguese influences.

Ms Santiago was very happy with her weekend experience.

"I love coming to Byron for this event; this is the most beautiful location to have a Festival.

"Byron Bay is so relaxing, casual, everyone is friendly, the environment the energy is very different to other festivals," Ms Santiago said.

As a teacher, she was very positive about the response from her dance students

"My workshops went very good. They were a bit surprised to see the style of samba I teach but they really got into it."

The main activities of the weekend are the big parties across Byron Bay when the dance couples and troupes unofficially challenge each other to a dance-off.

Tight short dresses, open shirts, lots of jewellery and plenty of rotating high hills were common each evening.

Three fiestas rocked the night on Friday and Saturday at the Great Northern and at the Buddha Bar yesterday.

Ms Santiago explained that, besides the showing off and the colourful outfits, "the festival is very important not only for students but also for us teachers".

"The only way to get better is to stay dancing. Every Festival is also a continued learning experience for us", the samba teacher said.

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