An ambitious salsa festival is coming to Cornwall, thanks to two ambitious teachers from St Austell. The Dança Bonita SBK Festival & Beach Party, from May 5 to 8 at Hotel Victoria in Newquay, offers a packed programme of classes and social events with high-profile teachers and DJs from across the UK. 

Organisers Jean Pryce and Hayley Newton have scheduled three days of workshops with three party nights, including a beach event. As well as salsa, dancers can enjoy bachata from the Dominican Republic, Angolan kizomba, and semba – again from Angola, and translating as “a touch of belly buttons” – one of the most recognisable and entertaining movements.  

If successful, Jean and Hayley hope the festival will become an annual fixture on the UK salsa calendar. 

“We want to put Cornwall on the salsa map and make it as much a destination for dancers as it is for surfers,” says Hayley. “We also want to encourage more people in Cornwall to take part.” 

These are ambitious plans for a pair who began teaching together in 2017; having met while travelling around salsa classes in Cornwall, they were determined to introduce their own to the town where they lived. “We’d go to Truro, Falmouth, Redruth, even Plymouth, and you’d always see 10 people from St Austell and no one else,” laughs Jean.  

The event was initially conceived just before lockdown, with the Salsa Bonita dance studio in St Austell and Par beach in mind. But, says Hayley, “there were limitations – space, no bar, having to go outside in our dancing shoes. A hotel was a far better option. You can stay and dance until late then fall into bed.” 

Hotel Victoria was chosen for many reasons, not least its beautiful ballroom and dance floor. 

“We dance in suede-soled shoes, so a proper dance floor was crucial, as was being able to get to rooms without going outside,” says Jean, who runs her own business selling affordable dance shoes (“It’s called Shimmy Shoes, like a pun on Jimmy Choos”).”

The impressive line-up includes experienced teachers, UK champions, up-and-coming young talent and DJs with delightful names – co-organiser Dennis the Chemist and Julian the Duke to name but two - specialising in particular dance styles or putting together mixed playlists for social sessions. 

No expense has been spared on sound and lighting technicians, and fans to moderate temperature. 

“Dancers expect high standards, and if you don’t give them that, they won’t come back,” says Hayley, who runs a computer shop in Trinity Street. 

While classes are clearly an attraction, the social side is where you get to improve your dance moves and comes with a whole host of other benefits. 

“You get to know people from all walks of life and culture,” says Jean. “Dance is good for your physical and mental health – it’s like mindfulness. When you’re dancing, that’s all you think about.”

“It’s a very safe environment,” adds Hayley. “It’s not like a club - no one is drunk or on the pull. It’s about dancing.”

This ain’t their first rodeo: the ladies have previously organised external events on beaches and meadows at Caerhays, and boat parties in Plymouth Sound. But block-booking a hotel for an extended weekend during a cost-of-living crisis is another level. The festival needs 200 paying guests, including passes and residential tickets. 

“It’s hugely ambitious,” says Jean. “We are terrified, but also determined. A lot of people have given us help and advice, and now we need the support of people coming and joining in. We are bringing something really good down for them. 

“It will be challenging – a labour of love,” adds Hayley. “We’re new to this, and we are aiming to make it a great weekend so people will book again and spread the word.” 

Find Salsa Bonita and Dança Bonita SBK Festival & Beach Party on Facebook.