When Rene Gueits steps on a dance floor and spins with a partner, he feels alive.
"It's a feeling like when you buy your first car, and then you want to drive it everywhere and show it off," he says. "It's an amazing feeling."
Gueits will have plenty of opportunities to feel that way during the 13th edition of the Miami Salsa Congress, running from Wednesday through Sunday at the Eden Roc Miami Beach hotel. The event, for which Gueits works as executive producer, will include pool and evening parties, Latin music concerts, and workshops and showcases of salsa, bachata, zouk and other Latin rhythms.
Today, good salsa dancers can be found throughout South Florida, but Gueits says the dance wasn't so common in 1994, when he opened Salsa Lovers dance studio, at 9848 SW 40th St., in Miami.
"Before, it wasn't important to dance," he says. "Now, you see people at house parties and weddings who dance really well. Even if you go to Blue Martini, you see people dancing good salsa."
Gueits attributes salsa's growth to South Floridians' discovering its social nature.
"When people in their 60s and 70s divorce, the first thing they do is go dance salsa, and go meet people," he says.
Gueits says people often take their first salsa steps at the congress.
"The good thing about the congress is that we have boot camps, and they can come in knowing nothing, and they'll be able to go to a beginner's class," he says.
The event's concerts will include the Cuban band Timbalive on Friday night and the Legends Live Concert Event on Saturday night. The latter show will bring together more than 20 musicians who will mix several styles of salsa, including timba, charanga and Puerto Rican salsa.
"It's going to be a lot of fun to the public and especially for the dancers, because they're going to have different styles," says Mario Ortiz, trumpeter and arranger of the All Star Band, a Puerto Rican salsa orchestra that will be part of the show. "It's going to be a challenge for me."
Ortiz and his band will bring mambo and Puerto Rican salsa rhythms, which he says emphasizes the singer and features the cowbell. Flutist Eduardo Aguirre will offer charanga rhythms, which feature flute and violin solos. Percussionist Edwin Bonilla will perform timba, a freestyle form of salsa.
The Miami Salsa Congress will take place July 30 through Aug. 3. Ticket prices vary. Most events will be held at the Eden Roc, 4525 Collins Ave., in Miami Beach, but a couple of parties will take place elsewhere. Call 305-220-7115 or go to MiamiSalsaCongress.com.