Hello! This blog is not about us, it is about a unique event that opened our 2019 – Hot Winter in Siberia!

We received a lot of questions before and after attending this non-conventional dance festival in Russia, so we decided to answer all your questions here. This blog is also our credit to the organizers, artists, guests and everyone who makes this event happen, for twelve years now.

A little bit of prehistory of how we made it to … Siberia! Curious if you have ever been in that part of the planet …

It all started in a much warmer place than Siberia, just above a year ago when we visited a city of Sochi. If you follow the Olympic Games, the name Sochi should definitely ring a bell: winter Olympic Games 2014 took place there. Another unique spot in “mother Russia”. Snowy mountain peaks next to evergreen palm trees along the coastline – views worth of checking.
So what does a Siberian festival have to do with the Olympic Games city? Passion for dance! Sochi Dance Forum is another project of Andrey Korzun, the founder and main organizer of both festivals.

Breathtaking views of Krasnaya Polyana, Sochi

We met Andrey at Sochi Dance Forum 2017 where we were given a few hours of kizomba workshops. Andrey instantly made a very good impression on us. Not only as a warm and friendly person, but also as a passionate dancer and a talented organizer. A businessman with a kind heart, strong values and clear vision. We believe that festivals always show true nature of the organizers. That’s why an idea of making it once to Andrey’s main project – Hot Winter in Siberia (HWS) – was thrilling for us. Yes, our expectations for this festival were high, based on everything we had seen in Sochi and heard from friends.

Well, some dreams materialize sooner than others. We were honoured with the invitation to join HWS very shortly. Travel arrangements made, a new programme for 8 hours of kizomba classes prepared, we couldn’t wait to land in the city of Krasnoyarsk!

Arrived in Krasnoyarsk!

Ok, the first question that might pop into your head now is about weather. We might disappoint you here, but we were spared typical winter Siberian frost and minus 40C. Not because we wanted to (piles of woolen sweaters and thermo clothes were sitting in the suitcases waiting for the test-drive) but because nature just decided to be nice to us. As a result, minus 20C instead of minus 40C, no thermo clothes needed, Kevin even made it without a proper winter hat.

An all-in-one-venue concept of the festival is always a good solution, particularly if it is a 4-star modern business hotel like the hotel Siberia where HWS 2019 took place. A beautiful complex with very friendly personnel and all the services one might need (Olga even made use of the post office on the ground floor of the hotel).

A warm welcome at Hotel Siberia

After a short arrival night we were all ready to kick off our classes next morning. Our first impressions of the venue getting ready to receive the guests, were very positive. Walking through the freshly set up rooms, we could feel the energy building. People were openly smiling to each other sharing a contagious feeling of growing anticipation. We were warmly greeted and received by Andrey and the organization crew. All our needs were kindly taken care of, so we could fully focus on our work and the people around.

The man behind it all, Andrey Korzun

Artists of HWS 2019 deserve a separate credit: highly skilled, worldly renowned, with various strong backgrounds, and above all – genuinely warm, friendly and funny! You just want to stay connected with the people like this. We were tasked to prepare several artists presentations as a team together – a challenging task for a bunch of ambitious leaders? Not at all, quite the opposite: an explosion of brilliant ideas, smooth cooperation, lots of laughter and voila, mini-shows are ready! Respect, guys. Cheers!

After the kizomba Jack & Jill contest

A few words about our workshops. We were happy to get 8 hours of classes and plan them out as we saw fit. We structured the classes progressively to cover various “styles” under the modern kizomba umbrella. We started with kizomba, went through essential leading and following techniques, covered tarraxinha, and finished with urban kiz.

What were our biggest challenges during the workshops? Our top 3 challenges: a very mixed level of the participants each time, a need to scale down in the planned agenda and “hold our horses”, some technical issues like absence of microphones in the beginning or loud music from the workshops in adjacent areas. Challenges accepted, handled, the participants got what they came for!

What did we enjoy best at our workshops? Our top 3 pleasures: a very diligent Russian attitude, as Kevin calls it (there were no “random” people at our classes, all the participants came to learn and they did their best in it), a quick catch-up on the material and a visible growth within each class, gratitude and all the heart warming feedback we received after the classes. Feeling blessed with all the wonderful people we had honour to pass on our knowledge to!

One of our many beautiful groups!

Shows and performances are a distinctive feature of HWS. And by shows and performances we mean not only those of the artists (which would be a common thing in nowadays festivals pretty much everywhere) but also those of the students, the attendees of the classes! The organizers of HWS introduced 3 types of classes this year: regular workshops (1 hour long), seminars to go deeper into a specific topic (2 hours long) and bootcamps to prepare choreos and perform together with the students later on stage (2 hours + long). There were several bootcamps for different dance styles for the participants to choose from (salsa, bachata, kizomba). More than that, the stage was basically offered by the organizers to anyone who would have a show prepared and would want to perform. This unique “the stage is yours” concept was quite new to us as this is not something common or popular at the European festivals. However, we do see the undisputable advantages of such a concept which we actually consider taking on board to a certain extent: an extra boost and motivation for the students to get as much from the classes as possible, public recognition of the students’ and teachers’ efforts, growing a team spirit, connecting artists and the students on a higher level. Would we want to perform with our students on a HWS next time? By all means yes!

It’s SHOWTIMEEE!

Apart from ongoing classes during the day, rehearsals for the shows and presentations, there were night parties of course as well! A full programme, all in all. The parties as the rest of the festival had a very nice family vibe. Add to this good music, enjoyable dances, grateful dance partners, and your night is a success!

DJ and an amazing teacher Laurent Yishu

To summarize our first HWS experience – a festival by the people and for the people. Now we understand why they say that once you have been there, you would want to come back for more!

THANK YOU for making it this far. We hope you had an interesting read. Feel free to shoot us questions should you have any. What are we up to now? Check out our next event here!

Big hug,

Olga & Kevin – O&K Connection