A SIZZLING DANCE TRADITION INSPIRES A DIVERSE GROUP OF NEW YORKERS IN THE DOCUMENTARY EL ESPIRITU DE LA SALSA DEBUTING AUG. 9, EXCLUSIVELY ON HBO
A synthesis of mesmerizing Afro-Cuban beats and sultry Caribbean rhythms, salsa (Spanish for "sauce") has a wide-ranging appeal that extends far beyond the Latino community. The documentary EL ESPIRITU DE LA SALSA follows a diverse group of ten New Yorkers as they discover the transformative power of salsa dance when it debuts MONDAY, AUG. 9 (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO.
Other HBO playdates: Aug. 10 (10:30 a.m., 12:30 a.m.), 14 (11:00 a.m.), 20 (3:00 p.m.), 22 (4:30 p.m.)
HBO2 playdate: Aug. 11 (8:00 p.m.)
EL ESPIRITU DE LA SALSA concludes the HBO Documentary Films summer series. The other August presentation is "12th & Delaware" (debuting Aug. 2).
Academy Award(R)-nominated filmmakers Jon Alpert, Francisco Bello, Matthew O'Neill and Tim Sternberg follow ten amateur dancers who prepare for their first salsa performance with just six weeks of rehearsal under the tutelage of celebrated salsa dance instructor Tomas Guerrero of the Santo Rico Dance Company. Ranging from the Hudson River's revitalized waterfront to the streets of Spanish Harlem to the glamour of Times Square, the documentary spotlights people from all over New York City - including an E.R. doctor from Battery Park, a heartbroken Wall Street trader, a Midtown Manhattan policeman and a macho Queens construction contractor - who have just one thing in common: a desire to invigorate their lives through the magic of dance.
The dancers include:
Jessica Bennington, a pastry chef who left Colorado to start her own business in New York. She explains why she loves salsa, noting, "Besides the fact I love Latin men, the music got under my skin."
Rick Callahan, a building contractor and self-described "traditional guy," who ruefully endures good-natured teasing from friends and family about his newfound love of dancing.
David Cutie and Betty Perez Cutie, retired educators who have been dancing together for 33 years, and call their avocation "another area to disagree."
Luz Fontana (a.k.a. "Miss Attitude" to her teacher), a single parent whose spirited exchanges with her own 71-year-old mother about her dance outings prove you are never too old for mom to worry about you.
Lourdes Garcia, a colorful bodega owner who expresses her artistic streak in interior design as well as dance.
Angel Mendez, an NYPD lieutenant assigned to Manhattan's sometimes-chaotic Midtown South precinct, who uses the rhythms of salsa to clear his mind and keep himself focused.
Li Ouyang, a commodities trader recovering from a bad break-up, who seeks to mend her broken heart through salsa.
Michelle Quash, an emergency room doctor who races from bureau to bureau to make time in her hectic schedule for dance lessons.
Larry Spiegel, who suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome and says salsa makes him feel "the soul of the world pouring in."
Each week, Tomas Guerrero meets with the dancers in his Spanish Harlem dance studio, guiding them with the words "pride, power and perfection." Part demanding drill sergeant and part insightful psychologist, he challenges his students to stretch themselves physically and emotionally as he puts them through their paces. Guerrero's hands-on, sometimes-confrontational teaching style inspires his students to face their fears and challenge their limitations, and provokes a confrontation when one of his dancers boils over with emotion.
After two months of intense training, the day of the debut performance finally arrives. Facing a full house of family and friends, Guerrero's troupe thrills its supporters and wins over the doubters in a triumphant display of art, will and love, proving his assertion that everyone can learn to salsa.
EL ESPIRITU DE LA SALSA features a red-hot soundtrack of music from legendary salsa masters Tito Puente, Eddie Santiago and H�ctor Lavoe, as well as contemporary pop superstars such as Norah Jones.
Taking its name from two of salsa's creative centers, Santo Domingo and Puerto Rico, the Santo Rico Dance Company has influenced salsa style all over the world since 1995.
EL ESPIRITU DE LA SALSA was executive produced by Jon Alpert and Sheila Nevins; directed by Francisco Bello and Tim Sternberg; produced by Francisco Bello, Matthew O'Neill and Tim Sternberg; supervising producer, Sara Bernstein; editor, Paula Heredia; cinematographers, Jon Alpert, Francisco Bello and Matthew O'Neill; original music by Daniel Freiberg.