BY REBECCA GALLERY, PHOTOS BY KERRI REDDING
Thanks to the recent relaxation of travel restrictions between the United States and Cuba, Takoma’s snow-filled March got a tropical injection of Cuban delights this past Saturday night, March 7.Busboys and Poets at 325 Carroll St NW hosted a Cuban Fiesta, bringing Cuban dancers, performers, artists and musicians together for a night of festivity, mojitos and breathtaking dance performances to a completely packed house.
Doors opened at 8:00 sharp with a line out the door. The moment the crowds entered Busboys the dancing began.
Santos muddles a mojito.
Busboys staff members Shanice, Monty and Santos delighted the crowd with expertly muddled mojitoes complete with fresh mint and sugar cane. The televisions and theater screen projected beautiful and moving images of Cuban people, culture and landscapes. Raffle tickets were available for prizes such as Cuban drinks and cigars, a delightful treat thanks to the lightened restrictions.
Busboys owner Andy Shallal; decked out in a sharp fedora and giant unlit Cuban cigar dangling from his lips, greeted every guest with a welcoming and warm hello while escorting many to the dance floor for a twirl and a spin.
The evening’s headlining act was DJ Reyna Morales. She moved the crowds to their feet and inspired them to begin dancing their hearts out with Cuban timba music. Timba music is also known as salsa Cubana; driving an intense and infectious beat. The songs burst with innovation and intensity which lasted from the beginning to the very end of the party. “I love timba music! I love playing it for the people and watching them dance” exclaimed Morales. Reyna is considered the sole female timba DJ in the United States. Based in Washington DC, Morales has a strong hold in the Cuban music scene of DC, bringing great pride and enthusiasm to her profession and passion.
Rueda All Stars: Jorge Bieidon, Yuneidis Berjerano, Naiviv Plutin & Leoxandri (Leo)
The Reuda All Stars dance troupe delighted the party with a Cuban ballroom dancing performance hosted by the DC Casineros; a world-renowned Cuban dance company located in washington DC. Co-Founders of DC Casineros Amanda Gill and Adrian Valdivia proudly supported the dancers at their Busboys premier. The Reuda All Star dancers Jorge Bieidon, Leoxandri, Yuneidis Berjerano and Naiviv Plutin burst into explosive and perfectly timed exotic dance moves right in the middle of the crowd. They invited and encouraged all spectators to join them in the festivity; which did not take much convincing! Within moments the entire floor was filled with smiling faces and wiggling bodies.
The Reuda All Stars paired with DC Reyna Morales brought a unique and spicy flair to Carroll Ave.The Cuban infusion continued, welcoming yoga instructor Sarah Shellow to the event. Sarah is deeply involved in the yoga culture of Cuba. She is currently working with many people in the yoga community in Cuba to create a connection between the United States and Cuba. Shellow has many plans for bringing Cuban yoga to Takoma stating “Right now, there is interest to do an event featuring yoga in Cuba. I would do a presentation much like the one I did for the Arts and Culture Panel, and I would be joined by Mercedes Garcia, who is a Cuban yoga teacher in New Jersey”
Shellow continues to expand on this Cuban/American yoga connection “Both of us (Shellow and Garcia) have different experiences trying to help build a bridge between the people of our countries using yoga and meditation. My hope is that the event would be informational and experiential and it would include a yoga for those who would like to try it out. It would be a fundraiser to raise money for the studio that the community wants to create in Havana and for props for the people in Santiago (mats, blocks, belts).”
The crowd enjoys timba dancing.
A common theme through the evening consisted of melting away any remaining separation between the Cuban and American arts. Jay. J. Levy, chair of The Nuclear Free Takoma Park Committee was present at the event. Levy has visited the island of Cuba twice and states” Cuba is one of the most beautiful countries on the earth, I recommend everyone see it at least once in their life.” Levy has been in the works for many years to spearhead the development of a sister city in within Cuba.
This event was more than just a party with a theme. It aided in breaking down remaining barriers that linger after the last fifty three years of the U.S. Cuba embargo. The embargo prevents Americans from visiting Cuba or spending money there as tourists, restricting US access to Cuban culture. As a result of the U.S. easing travel restrictions to Cuba, the American and Cuban people may soon participate in more cultural exchanges with no fear or persecution. The arts and culture of Cuba was clearly welcomed with open arms by the Takoma Community at this invigorating event.
Photographer Kerri Redding is a native Washingtonian who is thrilled to be a volunteer photographer for the Takoma Park Voice. Kerri is the Artistic Director of Brown Girl Breathing Media which is home to keredding photography. Kerri lives in the Takoma Park area with her partner, three cats and turtle.