People love salsa — and not because it’s a delicious condiment, and not because it’s a fun word to say (though it really is). No, at last night’s Tribeca Film Festival world premiere of the documentary El Espiritu de la Salsa (The Spirit of Salsa), it was abundantly clear that New Yorkers love themselves some salsa music and, more importantly, some salsa dancing. Big time.
The film — about a Harlem-based salsa instructor named Tomas Guerrero who prepares a rabble group of dancing novices for a public performance — opened a series of Tribeca Film Fest “Drive-In” movies being shown Thursday, April 22, through Saturday, April 24, on a behemoth outdoor screen at the World Financial Center plaza (Big screens tonight and The Birth of Big Air tomorrow night). And the pre-screening atmosphere was electric … one might even say spicy.
I’d like to preface this by saying that I’m not a film critic, so I won’t be commenting on how great the shot compositions were, or how they used this or that documentary technique really well.Â What I can comment on, however, is how inspirational El Espiritu de la Salsa was.Â This is one of those movies that can totally change your life if you just let it.
New York can be a lonely place, especially for new comers, professionals with long work hours and dangerous jobs, and people who are newly single.Â The towering skyscrapers cast a feeling of gloom and doom over the city, and unless you know where to look, it can be hard to find those patches of sunlight.Â This documentary follows New Yorkers from all walks of life as they come up to Harlem to find that sunlight at Tomas Guerrero’s Santo Rico Dance School.
Everyone is there for a different reason: a newly retired couple is looking to spice up their lives; a pastry chef seeks her next adventure; a newly single equities trader wants to learn how to be alone in the city after a three year relationship.Â Whatever problems these strangers are going through, they all hope the same thing-that salsa dancing will be the answer.
Slowly but surely, the spirit does its magic.Â You can tell just by watching them on their journey just how empowering salsa can be.Â There is something about the Latin music and the sultry moves that, according to one of the dancers, Jessica, allows girls to be sexy in an appropriate setting and manner.Â It also gave the men a way to be strong and manly, yet passionate at the same time.Â Sitting there in the audience amidst the cat calling and good cheer, you couldn’t help but smile at their transformations and tap your feet along to the music.
No matter who you are, there will be somebody in this documentary that you can relate to.Â And who knows, maybe one of them will inspire you to take up salsa classes or your own personal adventure.Â Tomas Guerrero ends the movie by claiming that he can teach anyone to salsa.Â My only question, where can I sign up?