Franco Sparfeld; the one and only man behind the Berlin Salsa Congress

Who is Franco Sparfeld outside Salsa?

My life indeed is Salsa and in fact there is not much I do which is not related to Salsa. I go to the gym daily, so that does count I guess as activity outside of Salsa. I am German, divorced. I have a lovely girlfriend who of course is from Salsa. I have no profession as it is usually defined.

I worked for many years for a stage & light design company, building stage scenery and directing projects until finaly I was CEO of the company. We – our company – build 16 pavillions at the Expo 2000 in Hannover. Then I quit and started my own dance studio. And the event. I gave up the dance studio a few years ago in order to focus on the event.

Why did you decide to set up a Salsa congress in Berlin 16 years ago, and what vision did you have at the time?

Went to another congress in that time, Haarlem Salsacongress, saw what they were doing and thought we needed that in Berlin. So we decided to bring it to Berlin.

It takes an entire year to organize this event. 360 days.

At that time, there was only Cuban Salsa in Berlin and it was one of the main goals to change that and give people an idea that there is more in dancing than a di-le-que-no. The vision was to change that and bring dancing to a higher level in Berlin. And yes, we did. We started with approximately 500 attendees and in 2016 we had more than 2000.

What does it take to set up such a significant event?

It takes an entire year to organize this event. 360 days. I only have some days off during Christmas. During most of the year it is only me doing everything. (Until April of 2015, I also had an assistant but she moved to Dubai now) Only during the event we have a bigger team. Some long-time friends of mine and volunteers. So well, it is me behind BSC.

What’s the best and the worst when it comes to organising the BSC?

The highlight is to see the vision coming alive. I prepare for one year, I know one year before how I want it to look like. And then to see it become reality.

If people from Israel dance with people from the UAE, then we have already contributed a bit to a more peaceful world. 

The most stressful part is dealing with people who think that all can be done last minute. They do not care about deadlines and the event only show up on their screen one week before. And then they start to message, email and call like crazy because they didn’t get it done before. They stress 🙂

When did you decide to add Kizomba to the BSC mix? It is, after all, the Berlin Salsa Congress. Do you think Kizomba is here to stay, or just a passer-by?

Kizomba has been added three years ago. I think it is a nice add up. In general, we do not follow the supermarket theory meaning that you add as many different items as possible in order to attract as many different groups of people. I do not believe in this. We specialize rather and try to make this as good as possible. However I believe Kizomba is gonna stay.

How much power do you think events like yours have in setting trends in the Afro-Latin dance community?

I believe we can set standards. But no – we can‘t set trends in dancing. So my focus is in raising the standards in our industry the way events are done.

Do you feel that the BSC plays a larger politico-cultural role, perhaps building bridges between communities?

Our goal always has been to bring people together from different countries. If people from Israel dance with people from the UAE, then we have already contributed a bit to a more peaceful world.  So yes, we do but in a very small scale 🙂

How do you want to improve the congress in the years to come? What is the next step?

We are never at the end of the road. The journey is the goal. We can always do better. But I am close to what I was wishing for 10 years ago 🙂

Farah Hesdin

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