It may be only January, but this year’s opening act of the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts turned up the heat something huge! Latin music lovers were treated to two unique performances by Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band on Friday, January 18 and Saturday, January 19 at the Fairmont Southampton Resort, Bermuda.
Tickets to the highly-anticipated show sold quickly in November, and an empty seat was rare. Unfortunately my budget only allowed for attendance of the Friday show, which proved to be an excellent choice! Held in the elegant Mid Ocean Amphitheatre, there were two small dance floors which proved no match for our eager crew of salseros, who came prepared with shoe bags in hand. Of course, the instant yours truly learned that Poncho would be opening the Festival, I Facebooked and emailed everyone I knew would be interested…the result? An awesome group of twenty-plus local dancers that “set the room alight”.
Poncho opened with “El Conguero”, hands-down one of my top ten favourite songs (as is quitely playing at my desk at I write, and jiggling in my chair). And before the band even finished the fifth bar, I was on the floor doing what I do best, and completely oblivious to the confused stares from some audience members that didn’t understand that, when you are in the presence of a band so great as Poncho and his crew, you just HAVE to get up let the music take you!
The evening continued on with other classics like “Willy Bobo Medley”, “Mambo Inn/On Green Dolphin Street”, “Watermelon Man”, in addition to a bolero to slow the pace for the romantics in the audience. The band’s energy was palpable, their sound unbelievably crisp, clean and precise. I sensed an incredible comraderie, as evidenced by the jokes, anecdotes and general amusing banter between band members. It gave me the feeling that though this was a world-reknown and obviously well-practiced team, there was no “I”, but a humble respect for each other (and the audience) that pervaded the entire performance. They even showed their appreciation for us dancers several times throughout the show.
The two dance floors were filled the entire show, and eventually dancers spilled over onto the carpet. Several ladies quickly realized that the dance floor on the right was the place to be; they left their non-dancing dates sitting in the audience and gathered in hopes of grabbing a dance with one of the few men. Soon, the spectacle of the dancing captured just as much of the audience’s attention as the band itself!
My only gripe was that the show was way shorter than expected, since the programme announced a twenty-minute intermission). After about an hour and fifteen minutes, the band was playing its final number. After several light hearted protests from the dancers chanting “otra! otra!” they obliged with one final song. Of course, no concert would have been long enough to calm our insatiable appetite for good music.
The positive energy carried on to the after party at The Cellar, a nightclub in another section of the hotel, complete with a retro light-up dancefloor, a massive fish tank and two Latin and Top 40 DJs to keep the party going. The band arrived amid applause and cheers, and, rather than settling into a corner to themselves, they mingled and rubbed elbows and danced with the locals. It has always been my opinion that “salsa superstars” are often very humble, friendly and approachable. This is what I enjoyed most about the evening, the opportunity to make new friends, forge new connections, and create memories with one of the most amazing bands I have had the pleasure to dance to.