Monday, February 6, 2012

Nashville Ballet Presents Salsa Dreams

by Cindy McCain

Like many-a-little-girl growing up around Nashville, I wore a size 3T tutu for my dancing debut.  As a teen, I traded in the toe shoes for some Fryes and boot scootin’ boogie.  Then came salsa.

Some of my friends did the same dances… in reverse order.

Celebrating the diversity that is Music City, Nashville Ballet presents Salsa Dreams at TPAC’s Polk Theater February 10-12.  The performance includes three pieces-- Salsa Dreams, Billy the Kid and Cryin’ Out.

In Paul Vasterling’s Salsa Dreams, a ballerina attempts to jump genres when salseros free her to take- a- spin with some new moves.  Revving her with Latin rhythms is live music played by local legend, Lalo Davila.  His band promises to not only propel the company onstage but also to reprise the reeling offstage.   The 2005 performance had the audience mamboing in the aisles.

Likewise, in Cryin’ Out, choreographed by Gina Patterson, the company will dance as Nashville icon Gary Nicholson croons his country hits recorded by stars such as Vince Gill and the Dixie Chicks.  Also in the roundup that spans decades and blends genres is the American masterpiece, Billy the Kid, choreographed by Eugene Loring, in 1938.

In Salsa Dreams north- meets- south. Paul Vasterling, CEO and Artistic Director of Nashville Ballet, received a Fulbright Scholarship in 2004 to study Latin music and work with dance groups in Argentina.  The result was Nashville Ballet touring South America and his bringing home Latin dance for Salsa Dreams.  Last Friday I took a sneak peek at a rehearsal fueled by hard work and high energy.  Under Vasterling’s direction, the dancers embodied his continued commitment to the art of dance, storytelling, and community.

The production’s natural is Augusto Cezar.  A native of Campinas, Brazil, he moved to Sao Paulo to continue his study of ballet.  From there he came to the US to compete, which resulted in joining Nashville Ballet in September 2011.  He explained:  "I was offered a contract from Paul Vasterling during my participation in the international Ballet competition in Jackson, Mississippi.  That was a great achievement for me."

I asked if salsa translates into ballet.  He responded:  "I actually didn't know that was possible, but Paul had a good idea to join these two techniques. Salsa and ballet are so different but together make a beautiful couple, a movement incredible!"

When I asked his favorite dance number and if he grew up dancing salsa or tango, he answered:

Not exactly!  Tango and salsa are most popular in Argentina, especially the Tango. But as Brazil is a country of many rhythms, we have the influences of salsa. I never had salsa class, but I grew up seeing my family dance at parties so I was exposed to dance and rhythm at an early age. But ballet -- yes! I started my study of ballet at seven years of age, which is not common in Brazil because all the boys play football at that age. Football is very important in Brazil.

My favorite dance number in Salsa Dreams is called ''Loco de la Salsa.'' It’s about a guy who cannot dance, and the girls mock him. But he starts to dance without worrying about winning the girls. They end up liking him and dancing together. The music makes me very excited!

I asked what advice/instruction he has given company members on Latin dancing for Salsa Dreams:

This is a very good question. When they ask me how to move their hips, coordinate their arms or move their legs, I always say, 'Don't think about it too much. Think about feeling the music and let your body do whatever you want. That’s what I do!'

 Nashville, an American mecca of music, is a town touting not only line dances at the Wildhorse but also salsa circles spreading from east (Mad Donna’s) to west (Global Education Center).  From Hard Rock to Mai to the Schermerhorn, salseros who’ve long danced at South Nashville’s Ibiza also spin on floors in the heart of town. Nashville Ballet is hoping that Salsa Dreams’ cowboys and claves have ballet lovers clamoring for “one more last dance.”  A ballerina swept away by salsa dancers is as sweet as Claire’s fantasy escape in The Nutcracker. But with a dash of more spice, this production is a melting pot of home cookin’.

Salsa Dreams dates:
Friday, February 10 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, February 11 at 7:30 p. m.
Sunday, February 12 at 2 p. m.

For tickets, go here.

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