Budapest Kizomba Connection – A festival heavily reliant on its venue location wow-factor and a history of successful editions.
BKC9 edition promised to continue a tradition of epic music, superb location, great vibe and an overall unique dancing experience. It succeeded on some fronts, however, in an over-saturated festival market, compromising on key elements, such as music, puts the, relatively expensive, festival, in the heart of Budapest, in a precarious position for future years.
Looking back at the weekend, I hope this edition was just the exception in, what has been reported to be, a great series of annual Kizomba rendezvous on the Danube.
If you don’t read until the end, here is what you need to know:
- High-quality artists and teachers
- Good quality workshops
- Live music performance
- Great venue
- White Party/Boat Cruise
- Budapest is a good city to visit
- Festival passes are relatively expensive
- Music quality in this edition suffered
- Attendance at the festival was low
- Unbalanced ratio of male to female teachers
- Mediocre execution of add-ons (such as Saturday dinner)
Without further ado, here is the breakdown of this year’s BKC:
Everything ran relatively smoothly, classes started and ended more or less on time, information was made available most of the time, however clarifications at the reception were hard to come by. Execution of the main night parties, performance, dinner and social were quite informal and laid back.
Location + Logistics
The festival takes place in Budapest – Hungary on a boat floating on a very picturesque section of the Danube in view of Parliament building and other iconic sights. A 30-ish minute trip from the airport by taxi costing round 30 euro. There are a few hotels in the area to choose from such as art’otel Budapest, Hotel Victoria, Hotel Clark, Novotel Budapest Danube.
While the options above are super convenient – they are fairly expensive due to the premium location and time of the year – so looking at some Airbnbs close by would help save on a bit of a pricey weekend.
Daytime + Workshops + Social
The festival opened with a relaxed friendly “dance tour” of the major sights in the city, which is included in some of the more comprehensive pass packages. So for anyone new to Budapest or the festival scene, this is a good way to see some sights and meet some of the other attendees.
The workshops throughout the weekend were not many but they were good quality and often high energy, with Dasmara and Iolanda, Bonifacio Aurio, Adilson Maiza, Arnold Bunda and Lisandra Lopez. The teacher line-up was good but limited, partially due to the festival taking place on a boat and there only being so many rooms. However it’s worth noting how light the festival was on female teachers this year – considering that the majority of attendees at a festival is always made up by women.
There was a friendly vibe that was mainly created by the artists and the usual suspects at festivals (you all know yourselves), however, oddly, this did not seem to translate very well to the atmosphere in the evenings.
The social, which takes place on the top deck of the boat, was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon/evening, although a bit too hot to dance if the sun is still out.
There was only one vendor, selling shoes, relegated to the *quiet section* of the boat (we’ll come back to this later).
Nights: Party + Cruise + Music + Dance
Parties: falling squarely into the “middle-of-the-road” category
The parties were unfortunately quite unexcitingly vanilla and the room was half empty most nights (especially at the far end, where the shoe vendors was serving out their sentence in almost uninterrupted solitude) and, while I enjoy having more than a A4-paper-sized floor surface to dance on, the festival attendee numbers clearly dwindled this year.
The ratio of men to women was not favourable but we have seen much worse – getting the ratio right is a difficult task for most festivals to achieve as women normally far outnumber men at such events. There seemed to be lots of ladies entertaining themselves dancing among their friend circles or the occasional all-ladies afro line-up.
Very brief mention that there was also a dinner – which was a bit of a buffet situation, which felt a bit like an afterthought and sort-of side note to the Saturday White Party & Cruise.
The music quality didn’t impress this year and the unfortunate absence of two members of the long-standing DJ trio at this festival was clearly felt. The famed quality of the music in previous BKC editions was one of the main reasons some of the returning and first-time attendees booked to come to BKC9 in the first place. While special mentions must be made for DJ Hugo Boss and Budapest-local DJ Liberty for doing their best to keep our musical journey sweet, the overall musical experience this year was simply not very smooth sailing at all (pun intended).
Good live music is always a plus at an event and Bonifacio loves putting on a show, so one of the highlights of BKC9 was his performance on Saturday night.
Undoubtably one of the most highlighted and dazzling features of BKC any year is the short cruise up and down the Danube while everyone is on top deck enjoying the city night lights. While this is great (once or twice), it certainly starts losing its pull factor for seasoned dancers.
Also to be noted, for those of you considering BKC10, is that the top deck is not appropriate for high heels, so, if you are a woman and intend on spending the ‘golden hour’ also dancing, bring wedges or flats.
The BKC’s beach party, for those who can stay an extra day, happens on the Monday and this year, unfortunately, the weather was not ideal so I cannot comment on how the party was, as I did not brave the periodic downpours to attend. It must be noted that the beach party is also not included in any of the passes (not even VIP) and must be purchased separately.
There is unfortunately not much more to say about BKC9. If we removed the advantageous location and the short-lived uniqueness of the cruise, this edition didn’t really have what it takes to stand out in the ever-expanding festival calendar and many attendees who shared their views in dicsussions over the weekend, noted that they would be unlikely to return in 2020.
Here, at MeuSemba we appreciate substance and it is my hope that for next year, the focus will return on the core elements that truly matter rather than the social-media-friendly add-ons.