A little Cuba dances into Fairfield County
Published 6:20 pm, Thursday, October 6, 2011
Jon Lee was honest in his appraisal of his dancing skills, laughing as he recalled the moments he fell short when coming up against the masters.
"One of the unique things about Cuba is that music and dance is integral to their lives," Lee, the London-based producer of the music and dance show, "The Kings of Salsa," said of the country's residents.
"Anywhere you go, everyone can dance," he said, offering such examples as a grandmother in her 80s who danced the salsa and a man in his 60s who had lost none of his moves.
During the past dozen years or so, Lee has made multiple visits to Cuba to get the true flavor of the music and dance of this Caribbean country.
"I was always crazy about salsa music," said Lee, who was a professional trumpeter before he became a producer. "It's such infectious music."
Lee and accomplished choreographer Roclan Gonzalez Chavez took their shared love of the music, as well as classic Cuban dances, such as the mambo, cha-cha-cha and rumba, and other traditional Afro-Caribbean moves to put together a show that brings the energy of the streets of Cuba to stages around the world.
Gonzalez Chavez, who also serves as the show's artistic director and sings, graduated from Cuba's national school for the arts in 1996. Since then, he has become a sought-after choreographer and musician, working on several shows, including "Lady Salsa," also with Lee, which launched before "The Kings of Salsa" was born.
"Roclan is very good at mixing the traditional with the modern," Lee said, noting that audiences can expect to see a fusion of folkloric elements with modern hip hop and salsa.
"We wanted to put together a kind of cool, young modern version of what is happening in Cuba today," said Lee, noting that the show features some of the country's top young dancers and musicians. "But we also wanted to celebrate tradition."
On Friday, Oct. 7, area audiences will get a chance to see and experience that energy when "The Kings of Salsa" is staged at the Palace Theatre in Stamford.
Since its first big run in Germany four years ago, the two-hour show traveled around the world, but had yet to arrive in United States.
"We've always wanted to come over there," said Lee, adding that the logistics finally came together this year.
The lineup of dancers and musicians -- the nine-piece band Cuba Ashire -- has remained the same all these years, Lee said, though guest soloists also perform with the group.
"They all genuinely really love this show," he said, adding that it is hard not to become a fan, whether you are on stage or in the audience.
Even if he wasn't the producer, Lee said "The Kings of Salsa" is the kind of show one can watch repeatedly, since every evening reveals a little something different.
"We are always tinkering; it's constantly evolving," he said, adding that several new elements have been added for the U.S. tour. "It's just a lot of high energy, good fun."
He said he would be surprised if the audience did not feel compelled to rise to their feet and join in the dancing before the night came to a close.
"It's really kind of freeing," he said.