Saturday, June 10, 2006


Anoche fui a ver La Universidad de la Salsa...el Gran Combo.

This is a band that was born into my blood. My father first's album to me was the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, but before I was even born the harmonies, horns, and percussion of el Gran Combo were playing in stereo, penetrating the walls of my mother's womb and indoctrinating my ears to salsa.

El Gran Combo consists of 10 men, 3 soneros, 4 horns, 2 percussionists, and a bajo (pass player). They're all around my dad's age (64), wearing the same guayaberas and they rock.

Rocapulco was raining sweat from the ceiling last night from all the dancing that was going on.

I did the latina preening last night. I spent most of the day lazy in bed, wondering what to wear and how to do my hair. I finally decided to spend 3 hours doing ringlets with about half a jar of gel. My hair felt CRUNCHY, but had an interesting Shirley Temple look to it.

I was lucky to have several dance partners, the first was well-versed in foot work, lead, and boogaloo. Totally fun to dance with, but became possessive. I took a break to marvel the band from the balcony, take off my taquitos, and let my feet dance barefoot on the carpet. I went back on the dance floor during a dj break and met a gentleman from Great Britain named Giffin who was hearing el Gran Combo for the first time. I gave him a mini run-down of how I had been schooled about these guys ever since I was a little girl. We danced a little. He went off for a drink and "No le pega la negra (Rebelion)" by Joe Arroyo came on. I went off, sort of.

Last night was the first night I tried to keep my shoes on all night while dancing.

And it felt a little disconnected.

I felt demure balancing heels along these little spikes. My heels are nothing to speak of. They top at 1.5 inches, I think. I don't like how my feet slide in them. I like to feel grounded as I dance, but I made due.

Vinadain was my third partner. Guatamalteco. We met when a merengue-reggaeton-song was on. He asked if I want to dance. I find reggaeton BORING, but I said sure, why not. Vinadain was an excellent and inuitive dancer. A lot of fun to dance with. The floor was crowded and I lost my footing a little, but we danced for the rest of the dj set and through most of the second el Gran Combo set. Great drapes and turns. Dancers like this make me feel like a princess and I can't help but keep a perma-smile on my face. Forget about anything else save for the dancefloor, the music in my ears and this partner who is leading me through this music. Live versions of these songs can last 12 - 15 minutes. And it's awesome.

We took a little break, I went upstairs and again watched from the balcony, dancing with my shoes off. "Chirilin" came on and coaxed me to the dance floor. As I walked forward, Vinadain was there and we started dancing again. Awesome.

The crowd was an interesting mix of more ballroom style dancers, novices, and the smooth style I am used to from the New York Salsa scene. Sometimes the floorspace was a little crowded, but Vinadain had an excellent sense of space and maneuvered me in between elbows and heels.

Muy bien.

He excused himself since he had to go to work early and I thanked him and I danced solo until my final partner of the evening picked me up. An older gentlemen in a black and red guayabera. He kept a wide grin as he effortlessly glided me in small circles. This is my father's style. It was wonderful.

My spirit was lifted.

The band left the stage and the crowd hesitated in requesting their encore.

Were they NUTS???

"Otra! Otra!" I shouted and stamped.

I joined other in the front. One gentleman asked me to teach him how to dance and grabbed me. This is the kind of partner I don't enjoy. I felt forced and pushed and I just stopped to marvel the band. No gracias.

I dialed my voice mail to capture a bit of "Para los Rumberos" that was infectious.

I heard classics like Brujeria and Chirilin, and Matrimonio, and 7 Vidas...two songs that have become favourites off their recent album.

And a new one comes out in July.

Oye, que placer ser boricua y tener estos musicos como tesoro de nuestra tierra!

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