By ALEJANDRO CANO
Published: Thursday, August 25, 2011 10:08 AM PDT
For two nights, Center Stage Theatre became the temple of Latin passion through sensual and rhythmic moves that mesmerized and captivated the audience during the “Latin Dance Fire” shows.
Produced by professional dancers Josie Neglia and Jared Marquez, “Latin Dance Fire” offered breathtaking performances on Aug. 19 and 20 at Fontana’s glamorous downtown venue.
The astonished attendees reveled in the hot sensual Caribbean dances of Salsa, Cha-Cha, Bachata, and Argentine Tango in addition to the spectacular Samba from Brazil and the dazzling Argentine “bombos” and “boleadoras.”
With intense body movements that required each muscle to project, Katia Vaz performed the Brazilian dance that originated in Bahia, one of the 26 states of Brazil: Samba. Paying tribute to its African roots, Vaz twisted her hips, shook her shoulders, and stretched her arms at an incredible speed to perform the icon of Brazilian national identity.
Charlene Rose and David Nieto followed Vaz with an impressive execution of a Salsa song called “Gitana” (Gypsy Woman), written by the great Willie Colon. The dancers respected the fixed tempo of ballroom Latin dancing to differentiate it from street dancing. The acrobats and well-executed spotting and “Allongés” (stretching of arms and legs) gave the dance a vivid, elegant, and natural feeling.
The couple used the same techniques to execute “Quimbara,” made famous by the popular Celia Cruz; and “Mi Bongo,” a dance that required lots of stamina and endurance generated by an excellent breathing technique.
Neglia and Marquez demonstrated why they are a renowned Salsa dance couple, executing the Colombian rhythm of Bachata with plenty of sensuality, the Argentine Tango with extreme passionate moves, and “Merecumbe” by Nuyorican Willie Colon, who paid tribute to Francisco “Pacho” Galan, creator of Merecumbe rhythm — a mix of Merengue and Cumbia.
Just when audience members thought the dancers needed a break, Esti Ashkanazi and Rodrigo Guzman delivered the Cha-Cha, a ballroom version of the Cuban rhythm Cha-cha-cha created by violinist Enrique Jorrin in 1953. Ashkanazi and Guzman, world-renowned Salsa champions, performed a sensual dance called Latin Burlesque.
The erotic couple also performed “El Yoyo,” made famous by the great “timbalero” Tito Puente, a song that requires a perfect ear in order to offer a synchronized execution. The sound of piano, bells and trumpets, in addition to the congas, bass and trombones, made people’s hearts beat faster as the couple performed each acrobatic move with elegance and gusto.
Energy abounded with a performance by Mario Marine, who displayed his talent with the “bombos” and “boleadoras.” The “bombos,” a type of drum, and “boleadoras” or “bolas” (balls), are throwing weapons superficially similar to the surujin (a Japanese weapon), made of weights on the ends of interconnected cords, designed to capture animals by entangling their legs.
Marine, however, used the “boleadoras” to produce music that, synchronized with the “bombos” and “zapateo” (gaucho’s tap dance), became an exhilarating performance. To demonstrate his ability with the “boleadoras,” Marine blew a candle off a woman’s head and even slapped a cigarette off the same woman’s lips — a dramatic performance considering his “boleadoras” are made of hard plastic.
Michelle “Star” LaVon, who has performed on many TV shows and movies, turned in a spectacular version of the Fire Dance. She swirled around with fire and even swallowed fire in front of the spellbound audience members, including actor and comedian Tommy Chong.
With music by Michael Battista and first-class choreography by Neglia and Marquez, the “Latin Dance Fire” show provided Fontanans with a highly entertaining virtual tour of the Caribbean and South American countries.