From Cebu to the world: The SBKZ Latin dance festival

From Cebu to the world: The SBKZ Latin dance festival

Travelers flock to Cebu in search of unforgettable memories. Steeped in history, blessed with pristine beaches and offering adrenaline-pumping activities, this prime destination whispers exploration. Amidst all these attractions, do people visit Cebu for something as unexpected as salsa?

Cebu SBKZ team and artists
Cebu SBKZ team and artists

In 2011, a group of friends launched a new pursuit with dreams as big as the island itself. It was the beginning of the Cebu Salsa Club. The first step in growing big was to inform and teach; this was what Coach Jilly Enriquez and John Monteith had in mind. Along with the rest of the Cebu Salsa Club, the mentors and coaches planned an international festival to signal to other countries that talents do exist in Cebu. These grand schemes weren’t about to let Cebu, their home, fade into the background; they wanted to host a dance festival and thrust Cebu’s wonders into the limelight.

Urban Kiz Workshop
Urban Kiz Workshop

“The whole idea when we started with this is that instead of going out to learn from these artists, why don’t we bring them here so that we could actually expand the ways we teach and share their knowledge with the community. We want Cebu to be a frontrunner of the Philippine social dances,” said Coach Barbie.

Festival

The founding group decided that the name would be “SBKZ,” an acronym for Salsa, Bachata, Kizomba, and Zouk. They had their first edition back in 2015 when it was called Cebu Beach Fiesta. It was then changed to Cebu Beach Festival in 2018. This time around, things were cranked up a notch, making it a mega event with more attendees than ever hitting the dance floor. From a humble start with 100 enthusiastic dancers, the newly named Cebu SBKZ International Festival exploded into a gathering of 300 delegates, all grooving under Cebu’s sun-soaked skies from April 18-21.

Ladies’ Style Workshop with Ilona Koch
Ladies’ Style Workshop with Ilona Koch

The four days hosted at Solea Mactan Resort in Cordova were an absolute blast. From social dancing and workshops to poolside bashes, yacht adventures, foam-filled fiestas, top-notch master classes and intense DJ boot camps, every moment was filled to the brim with non-stop action. The only things attendees had to worry about were their sunscreen and the endurance to sustain their energy during those days.

The lineup of international talent was off the charts. DJ Mosti from Germany and DJ Sohel from Australia got the party started with an epic all-night set in Cebu on the first day. Attendees were treated to incredible dance experiences from a variety of coaches, including Bachata masters Alex Alberola and Ilona Koch from Spain, Meyer Stansberry showcasing Kizomba all the way from California, Singapore’s Jean Goh bringing Brazilian Zouk vibes, Seoul’s Terence Kim heating up the dance floor with Zouk, and the dynamic South Korean duo Nari and Garion lighting it up in Mambo, among many others. Additionally, the beats from 12 DJs, such as DJ Papi Ruso and DJ El Camino, elevated Cebu’s social hub to new heights.

The Cebu Salsa Club has turned their dreams into reality, knitting a kaleidoscope of cultures in Cebu. Latin dances unite people not just to move but to mingle, forging friendships and reveling in the rhythm of dance and music.

Foam party dance
Foam party dance

Dances

The festival welcomed everyone, regardless of their dance experience. Learning SKBZ wasn’t as daunting as anticipated, thanks to the efforts of the Cebu Salsa Club. They made workshops beginner-friendly, yet still valuable for seasoned dancers to gain insights.

“Always go beyond your skill level; whether a beginner or a dancer for 14 years, you should always dance with each other. In this way, you’re not only encouraging those who are just getting started, but you also get to meet people who learned from other dance schools and disciplines,” said Coach Kevin.

Coach Jilly emphasized that the art of Latin dancing varies for each individual. She highlighted that it’s natural for the body to need time to grasp the movements, reassuring beginners that it’s perfectly okay to start at their own pace.

Latin dances are characterized by “sensual” dancing due to their rhythmic movements, close contact between partners and expressive choreography. While they may seem intimidating at first, once immersed in the art of these dance styles, it becomes a new form of release one never realized they needed.

“I would like to add that if you have the ability to walk and exchange weight then you can dance. The biggest challenge for us is that we don’t want to embarrass ourselves,” said Coach Meyer.

“Anything can be learned. If the dedication is there and you have the right mindset you will get it,” said Coach Aileen.

For a cause

The Cebu Salsa Club is committed to continually diversifying their offerings, introducing various disciplines of Latin dances to the local community. With a deep connection to their hometown, they ensure that locals from Bantayan receive a portion of the proceeds from the festival’s activities.

“One of our follow-up plans is that, after the festival, a part of our proceeds will go to the Bantayan Special Education Center, as we plan to create a music section for them,” said Coach Kevin.

Coach Jilly also mentioned their free workshops for children at Ibabao, Cordova school, where they introduced them to SBKZ as part of their group’s purpose.

The Cebu Salsa Club boosted tourism in Cebu through an international festival that showcased the island’s beauty. Activities like yacht cruises and “Suroy-suroy Cordova’’ introduced guests from over 20 countries to Cebu’s stunning destinations. Keep an eye out for SBKZ’s return in 2025 by checking their page and website for updates.

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