High-octane dance party courtesy of Kings of Salsa
You don’t need to know a mambo from a rumba to enjoy Cuba’s Kings of Salsa, who opened a three-night run Thursday at Cutler Majestic Theatre as part of World Music/CRASHarts’ fall series. You don’t need to speak Spanish, either - the 2 1/2-hour evening is all body language, presented without texts, translations, or song titles. You do have to be able to move your hips as the Kings’ eight-piece band of trumpet, trombone, guitar, bass, keyboard, drums, congas, and percussion - Cuba meets Africa - provides the music for a high-octane dance party.
And the dance is more than just salsa - it includes hip-hop, Broadway, ballet (some eye-popping double tours, revoltades, and bounding jetés), and a lot of contemporary. At one point Thursday, the troupe’s artistic director, Roclan González Chávez, came down from the bandstand (he also sings) and, sporting a scally cap, led the four male dancers in a shuffling number that could have come from a Gene Kelly movie musical. Some of the best moves must have taken place offstage: In the course of some 20 numbers, the dancers hardly wore the same costume twice.
Fans might have been able to make out a few numbers (“Que Rico El Changüi,’’ “Ni Dices Dónde Hay’’) from the Kings’ one MP3 album, “Live in Hamburg,’’ through amplification that turned the music into a roar and rendered most of the singing unintelligible. The program listed eight dancers, but one of the women didn’t make the trip (visa problem); lead female singer Danais Menéndez Valdés took her place in one number, then sang “Mentiras’’ as two of the male dancers vied in vain to impress her with their sincerity.
Midway through the first half, González Chávez welcomed the audience to Cuba, thanked everyone for coming, and introduced the band. After an intermission (“Break for Cuban rum,’’ González Chávez explained), we got some party-piece solos for the dancers, and then the audience was invited to come up onstage and freestyle; about three-dozen brave (and in many cases accomplished) souls took up the challenge.
In place of an encore, there was a salsa lesson, with people dancing in the aisles. The evening was go-go-go from start to finish, and the dancers were superb throughout, but it was the salsa that shone.
Jeffrey Gantz can be reached at email@example.com.