The Grand Opening of Santo Rico's new studio - An Interview with Thomas Guerrero
2403 2nd Avenue -2nd Floor between 123 & 124 street
New York, NY 10035
(Also see another interview with Thomas Guerrero)
(Also see Lisa Allen's photos from the Grand Opening of Santo Rico)
Andrea Dawn Clark
February 27, 2004
(For more of Andrea's writing, please see www.andreadawnclark.com.)
The Grand opening…
Andrea Dawn Clark: Let's talk about the social and the performance, the grand opening of the new Santo Rico.
Thomas Guerrero: It was fantastic. David Melendez, my master of ceremony, was fabulous. He always brings a very comforting ambiance. I've known David since I started dancing.
See more Santo Rico Grand Opening Photos, courtesy of Lisa Allen
ADC: How did you decide who was going to perform?
TG: You always want to pick people who are in demand. People who will put on a good show. Groups that people really enjoy. Like for example Griselle's group [Griselle Ponce, Director of Taima Las Hijas Del Trueno], forget it, they're very exciting! They bring in the crowd. And they're from New Jersey. I like the New Jersey people. [Laughs]
ADC: Griselle and her girls were amazing. Even when their sound system stopped, they knew exactly how to handle it. The music came back on and they just picked up where they left off. Their movements were so earthy, natural and graceful. It was like being in a trance watching them. They really show you the roots of the music. Tell me about the other acts.
TG: Well, we had Pupy come on first. I wanted him to perform because he teaches here and I wanted him to introduce himself to the crowd as one of the instructors here.
ADC: Tell me about his two performances.
TG: The first one was a very ceremonial thing. In Cuba you offer people of what you have and welcome them in. You give them candy. You give them drinks, stuff like that. That's what he was doing, throwing the candy out to the crowd. He was inviting the people in: "Hey, come join the party." It was very spiritual with the singing, inviting the gods to be with us. He showed the art in its truest form. That art of rumba and afro-Cuban dance always tells a story. Really there are two stories. The first being very macho, where the guy is trying to capture the girl or he injects her—it's like a sexual thing.
ADC: Huh? Okay. I'm going to go with capture.
TG: [laughs] Let's keep it rated G, right. But that's what it is. There's always a story behind it.
ADC: Was that the story he was telling? I didn't get that vibe.
TG: When he dances with the girl, that's what he's doing. Well, actually there are three different themes in rumba. One that's very slow—for the girls. One that's more fighting—guys dancing with knives, stuff like that. And then one with the guy and the girl—she teases him, he teases her. That's what he was doing. And the motions are all very spiritual—moving your arm away for the bad god to get away from you, motioning the good god to join you.
ADC: Tell me about your student group performance that night.
TG: It was an elegant, players-gangsters theme. We wanted to add a spin where the girls were picking up the guys to dance. We had a sign that said "SR PLAYER'S CLUB, WOMEN'S LIBERATION NIGHT." Very gangster with the cigars, slicked-back hair.
ADC: And your professional group performance?
TG: That performance is called Spin Mania.
ADC: Yeah, the girls' skirts never went down.
TG: Exactly! It's all about turn patterns and spinning. Just a lot of spinning, no storyline, just let's dance and let's spin.
ADC: Ever count how many spins are in that number?
TG: Never! I'm not even going to try. It's a lot of fun, but very tiring. The girls do a lot of spinning and the guys do a lot of rotating, a lot of moving back and forth. We even do a jamboree where the girls come under and come back in.
ADC: It was a lot of fun to watch. Actually, this was a lot of fun, talking with you. Thank you so much for your time.