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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..

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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: ..

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It happens every year, right around Thanksgiving, productions of the Nutcracker pop up from coast to coast, marking the start of the holiday season. But on Saturday, Miami audiences have the ..

As Art Week approaches, Miami choreographer Marissa Alma Nick’s Alma Dance Theater is getting ready to add its distinctive voice, rehearsing for the upcoming performance of “Flowers” at the C..

Promising a night of airiness and ardor, Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami will bring “Ballet’s Pointe of Passion” to the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, where the company joins an att..

Great friendships can nurture and prod an artist to make greater work. Think Pablo Picasso and Wifredo Lam, James Baldwin and Toni Morrison, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Such is also the case fo..

It’s a tall order to present a season as surprising as it is moving, as disturbing as it is delightful. Miami-Dade College’s Live Arts 2017-2018 season -- Ojala/Inshallah: Wishes from the Mu..

It was only a few decades ago that finding a professional, locally produced performance was an aerobic dance in itself. But after the Miami City Ballet (established 1985), the New World Schoo..

A 50th anniversary calls for gold in celebration. But Balanchine’s “Jewels”­—a sublime marriage of music and choreography from 1967—brings Emeralds, Rubies,and Diamonds. Those pre..

When the Limon Dance Company returns to Miami-Dade this weekend, it brings with it the powerful vision of founder José Limon. He was a man deeply concerned about and connected to the humanity..

Gypsy Passion and a Salsa Soul in Diego El Cigala

Photo: Photo: Anya Bartels-Suermondt.
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Last year, Spanish singer Diego El Cigala performed at the Hollywood Bowl in L.A. in what should have been a memorable night. Professionally, it was. The flamenco star enthralled the audience, but never told those present that, just hours before the show, his wife had died of cancer.

Earlier this month, as the artist put the final touches on his upcoming U.S. tour – including an October 29 performance at the Fillmore Theater, Miami Beach, presented by The Rhythm Foundation – and readied himself for the launch of a new album, he received the news that his mother, Aurora, had passed away.

The title of that upcoming album, Indestructible (Sony Music Latin, to be released on October 28) is more than fitting; no matter the heartbreak in his gypsy soul, El Cigala soldiers on.

“Life throws punches at you that shape you. When these things happen, I find relief in music,” says El Cigala from Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic, where he’s lived since 2013. “It’s the only way to get through. Music makes you remember all those memories that you’ve had.”

Some 25 years of memories with his wife Amparo Fernández, the mother of his two children, ages 11 and 19. She was the love of his life, the rock of the family, and his manager as well, so everything he knew and cherished was changed forever when she died.

“The truth? I still don’t know how I did it,” says the Madrid-born singer. “When something like that hits you so suddenly, you don’t have much time to react. The only thing you want to do is go forward and take care of your kids.”

The show does go on with him

Indestructible, the album he’s promoting on this tour, takes the 47-year-old performer on a new and adventurous path, part of the musical journey of discovery that began in 2003 when he released Lágrimas Negras with legendary Cuban pianist, bandleader and composer Bebo Valdés.

Diego Ramón Jiménez Salazar, who had grown up singing in flamenco venues like peñas and tablaos, would go on to make a name for himself in the world of flamenco and perform with some of its key figures. But when Valdés introduced the man nicknamed after a popular crustacean in Spain to Cuban music, El Cigala’s musical world expanded.

“His collaborations and explorations push the boundaries of traditional flamenco, but always with great integrity and respect,” says Laura Quinlan, Rhythm Foundation programming director.

For Quinlan, who also brought El Cigala to South Florida two years ago, “flamenco is such a living style; it hasn’t become a dusty folklore music because the great artists like El Cigala keep evolving the art form. He is such a gitano, so Spanish, and also so much a man of the entire world.”

What the world had to offer him musically also brought El Cigala to tango and Argentine folk music in two albums, Cigala & Tango (2010) and Romance de la Luna Tucumana (2013), that won him Latin GRAMMY awards and broadened his audience appeal to make him a world music star.

With Indestructible (A documentary of the production is scheduled for release in December), El Cigaladelves into the genre of salsa, with the recordings taking place in San Juan, New York, Havana, Cali (Colombia), and Miami.

“These cities are the pillars, but Puerto Rico is the mecca,” says El Cigala, who included Puerto Rican salsa icons like Roberto Roena, Bobby Valentín, and Luis “Perico” Ortiz on some of the songs. “So I had to go there to share with all these musical geniuses.”

Cuba and Venezuela also in the mix

The result not only features his homage to Puerto Rican salsa, but also includes a tribute to Bebo Valdés himself and collaborations with GRAMMY-winning Afro-Cuban jazz pianist and composer Gonzalo Rubalcaba; Venezuelan salsa maestro Oscar D’ León; and Cuba’s Los Muñequitos de Matanzas rumba group.

“Although my father had worked with Diego, and both our families knew each other, this record marks my first professional collaboration with him,” says Rubalcaba from his home in Coral Springs. “We always had the willingness to do something together, but it didn’t happen until now.”

The challenge he and El Cigala faced was, he adds, how to perform classics of Latin music, recorded innumerable times, in an innovative way but without betraying their essence.

“With Diego, this has been a constant throughout his career. If we look closely, he’s restless, he’s daring. Diego is an artist with a capital A,” continues Rubalcaba.

“I like to say that Diego has created his own genre,” says Anthony González, A&R, Commercial Music for Sony Music Latin. “Tropical music obviously still exists, and it has gone through various stages, but he brings to this music his own very Spanish vocal style, and he has incorporated it ina way that is simply seamless.”

For González, what El Cigala creates has soul: “He’s certainly a romantic at heart, that comes across in his music, and that I think is also a great part of his ability to connect, not just musically, but emotionally as well.”

Diego El Cigala in concert, Saturday, October 29, 8:00 p.m.; The Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach.Tickets: $39 - $79 plus fees, on sale through LiveNation.com; http://www.rhythmfoundation.com/events/diego-el-cigala-2/

http://www.fillmoremb.com

 


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About The writer

Journalist, arts writer, instructor of English and Spanish

A bilingual journalist and writer for over 20 years, Juan Carlos studied Communications at Fordham University in New York. He holds a Master&rsquo..

About the Writer

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