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Getting into a true holiday spirit can be tough in South Florida, where palm trees, expansive beaches and balmy skies signal perpetual summer. Ever-earlier store décor and the incessant push to buy presents – more about commercialism than celebration – can make many of us feel more anxious than festive. Not to worry. Just squeeze in a trip to Miami’s Arsht Center, where City Theatre h..

One of the centerpieces of this year’s Art Week is not a static art work, and it is also one of the most sensuous and disorienting. Lebanese performance artist Tania El Khoury is producing her “Gardens Speak” for the week, courtesy of MDC Live Arts, a piece that has been applauded in cultural capitals throughout Europe and the United States. “It is a work,” she says, “that can only co..

Since its founding in 1996, City Theatre has been an important part of South Florida’s theatrical landscape, though the company’s visibility has always been highest in the month of June. That’s when its popular Summer Shorts festival takes place; for more than a decade, its high-profile venue has been the Carnival Studio Theater at Miami’s Arsht Center. Though the company founded by S..

If you were to predict who might become a nationally famous – OK, world-famous – multiplatform sex therapist, Dr. Ruth Westheimer would probably not be your first choice. Born in Germany in 1928 as Karola Ruth Siegel, the 4’7” Dr. Ruth seems more like the doting Jewish grandmother she is than a woman who used her nationally syndicated radio show, TV shows and 40-some books to help hun..

Actors’ Playhouse has been a musical powerhouse for much of its history. Launching its 30th anniversary season at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables, the company is revisiting some of that history with a new production of a made-for-South Florida favorite: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “Evita.” As it did in 2000 when recent Tony Award winner Rachel Bay Jones starred as Eva Duart..

Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks won the Pulitzer Prize for “Topdog/Underdog” in 2002. But as Zoetic Stage’s superb new production of the play at Miami’s Arsht Center demonstrates, her funny, shocking tale of two brothers struggling to survive is as potent today as it was 15 years ago. Maybe more so, given the country’s deepening divide. Parks’ harrowing drama examines the complex relation..

We are born. We live, have families, grow old. We die, leaving those who loved us to mourn. Playwright Thornton Wilder brilliantly captured the eternal verities of our journey through life in “Our Town,” his 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning play about life, love and death in a small New Hampshire town at the turn of the 20th century. If you’re at all drawn to theater, you’ve probably ..

“Miami Motel Stories: Little Havana” written by Juan C. Sanchez, directed by Tamilla Woodard, and produced by Juggerknot Theatre Company, is a site-specific, immersive theater experience that interweaves narrative, performance, history and architecture. Nine short plays take place in nine hotel rooms on the second floor of the Tower Hotel, right off Calle Ocho on Seventh Street. Sanchez, ..

Artistic director and founder of Juggerknot Theatre Company, Tanya Bravo, had her first brush with immersive theater in New York City when she met director Tamilla Woodard. Working on the play “Broken City,” Bravo and other actors led audience members on a theatrical journey through the streets of the Lower East Side. “I was so blown away by the concept and the lines that were crossed between ..

We humans do love our rituals. When an extended family gathers for the holidays, familiar traditions promise a comforting respite from an increasingly complex, chaotic world. Still, realistically, troubles and fears refuse to be left behind. They surface like unwelcome guests. So do resentments and stinging remarks born of deep knowledge. With Thanksgiving on the horizon, you wonder: ..

On Your Feet!’: The Rhythm of a Life


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Written by: Diana Dunbar
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The songs are familiar; the love story is also familiar but made fresh in “On Your Feet!,” the musical biography that comes to Miami this week. The narrative of Emilio and Gloria Estefan meeting, falling in love and creating a long-lasting partnership -- both professional and personal -- is told through the music and songs they created and successfully presented to the world.

“On Your Feet!” enthusiastically does what Broadway excels at, telling a good story, and one filled with the immigrant experience, adversity and conflicts, along with the musical movements of an era.

The exuberant piece is inherently about the music and dances of Cuba. Its upbeat choreography reaches back to the island and the story of salsa, which some say originated in the city of Santiago de Cuba, from Cuban son and other styles like cha-cha-cha and mambo. Salsa is a combination of Spanish and Afro-Cuban (and Afro-Caribbean) musical elements, both in terms of rhythm and the instruments used, such as the guitar and drums. Both the dance and music of salsa became wildly popular in New York starting in the 1970s. These dance floor hits and ballads made Gloria Estefan and the band Miami Sound Machine a radio and MTV favorite in the 1980s.

“There is a strong connection between music and dance in Cuba,” says Neri Torres, founder of Ife-Ile Afro-Cuban Dance & Music. Torres created choreography for the Estefans’ tours, which she says offered an opportunity to showcase Cuban dances, “which is embedded to our culture,” to an international stage.

The energizing choreography in this case for “On Your Feet!” is the work of Olivier-Award winner Sergio Trujillo, of “Jersey Boys” fame. It engages with its speed, turns, lifts and dips within the context of salsa. “On Your Feet!” is vibrant, riveting and uplifting – much needed these days when every morning seems bear more bad news.

“On Your Feet! also offers up a bio-drama surrounding the music industry and the obstacles the Estefans’ had to overcome in taking their music to a wider audience. It’s hard to understand now how such songs as “Rhythm is Gonna Get You,” “Don’t Wanna Lose You Now,” the iconic “Conga,” and so many others would not be considered cross-over hits at the time.

And then there were the personal obstacles. Miami and the rest of the world danced along with the Estefans until a tour bus accident almost silenced the music. A somber segment is poignantly shown by a dream ballet sequence to the song “Wrapped.” This falls into Broadway’s common use of dream ballets to bring gravity to a segment – for instance in “An American in Paris”and “Carousel.”

“On Your Feet!” is a musical that resonates with a generation and especially with Miami, its rhythms and dance evoking a nostalgia for a time and place, helped out nicely with sets that conjure images of an older Miami and even older Havana. Yep, it’s likely “gonna get you.”

“On Your Feet!”opens Thursday and runs through Oct. 15; Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Tickets start at $29. For various times and tickets, 305-949-6722; arshtcenter.org/broadway.

 


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