Stepping up the rhythm

‘Salsa Viva y Tango Vivo’ brings a taste of Columbian salsa to Suzanne Dellal.

Salsa Viva y Tango Vivo (photo credit: LEONARDO OROZCO)
Salsa Viva y Tango Vivo
(photo credit: LEONARDO OROZCO)
Years ago, friends took me to a salsa club in Brooklyn. Down a short set of metal stairs, tucked away from the bustling street, a whirlwind of movement, color and sound was revealed. At first, I hugged the wall, trying to make sense of the rhythm. But then a hand was outstretched to me and for what felt like hours, I was led around the dance floor, frantically yet happily trying to keep up with the crowd around me.
Had this happened in Cali, Colombia, I wouldn’t have stood a chance.
“In Colombia, we speed up the music, so our dancers’ feet move very fast,” explained artistic director of Salsa Viva y Tango Vivo Edwin Chica. A celebrated performer, educator and choreographer, Chica is an expert on Colombian salsa. He is a world champion in the form and is about to board a very long flight to present the fruits of his labor as part of the Suzanne Dellal Center’s International Season this weekend.
During our interview, Chica detailed what sets Colombian salsa apart from other strains of salsa and why audiences will be thunderstruck when they see what he has up his sleeve.
“Colombian salsa has special traits and differences from salsa around the world. Our Colombian style is well-known for the fast feet movement and the acrobatics done in every show. Our salsa is a style that wants to offer a wonderful performance, this kind of salsa is not used in social or family events, it is only done in performances and shows,” he said. “In Cali, unlike all the other cities and countries around the world, there are many dance festivals that are bigger than most in the world. We have the Worldwide Salsa Festival, Santiago de Cali, and there is the Salsodromo, a single file line, parade style, that is made up of 1,500 salsa dancers, in which I am the artistic director. This show is considered the biggest salsa show in the world. In this Salsa parade, Salsadromo, we have more than 40 salsa bands and more than 100 salsa schools dancing and competing.”
During this inaugural trip to Israel, the company will present a number of salsa experiences. The first, a custom for Chica, is an open class in the courtyard of Suzanne Dellal followed by a milonga (public dance). “In a class, we give a closer experience to not only be applauded but also to dance with others and share our culture. Of course, in the theaters, in our performances, it is shown, but the style is different. In these classes, salsa will be seen as a social dance and it will allow us to share closely with our guests and students on how important this is for us and for our culture,” Chica explained.
Beyond their time on stage, the members of Salsa Viva y Tango Vivo invest in passing on their knowledge to the next generation. “More and more Colombian dancers are performing and working abroad and meanwhile we are continuing with the process of forming new dancers here in Colombia to supply the international demand for our salsa dancers.”
The company’s stage performance, which will run three times over the weekend, is a smorgasbord of costumes, salsa rhythms and fabulous dancers. “I, as an artistic director, look for dancers with a lot of passion and also a lot a discipline. In Cali, our city, there are thousands of dancers, all of them have a lot of joy and almost all have been dancing salsa since the day they were born. We like to work with people who have talent, discipline, and passion. With people that want to be better every day and want to give the best in every performance, making people feel the same joy and happiness that the dancers feel.”
Salsa Viva y Tango Vivo will perform at the Suzanne Dellal Center on July 28, 29 and 30. The open class and milonga will take place on July 27 starting at 4:30 p.m. For more information, visit