Cuban Salsa is amazing isn’t it? Apart from being just plain brilliant, fun and infectious, it has managed to work its magic upon so many individuals all across the globe and has changed so many people’s lives for the better. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, Salsa calls to many many people.
So what is this special magical ingredient that Cuban Salsa has? What exactly is it that makes it so universally adored by millions of people worldwide? Now, I know a man who’s making it his mission to find the answer to that very question. His name is Ryan Dreher and along with his fantastic team he is making a fabulous Cuban Salsa documentary film called ‘Por Dentro y Por Fuera‘ (Cuban Salsa Inside and Out). They need a little of your help to help them make this happen, but more on that later…
Today we have a chat to this man with a plan and discover more about ‘Por Dentro y Por Fuera‘, the beauty of Cuban Salsa and the lovely message that they hope to convey to the world.
To get started, can you tell me briefly what ‘Por Dentro y Por Fuera’ is about?
The film is completely dedicated to the Cuban Salsa scene, both on the island and also off the island throughout the entire world. We follow dancers in Cuba and also outside of Cuba in different countries and cities worldwide.
There are lots of Salsa films out there. How will yours be different?
Ours is a film that concentrates solely on Cuban Salsa which within the entire spectrum of styles is very unique. It has a particular tie to Cuban culture and to devotees of a culture that other styles don’t have. So whereas many styles of Salsa elevate Latin culture generally, Cuban Salsa promotes Cuban culture- there’s a very patriotic flavour there.
Consider too the different dance crazes that have come from Cuba or that Cuba has generated and think of the effect that it has had on the world, from mambo and chachacha to Salsa to name but a few. There’s a kind of culture of festivity and freedom and sensuality that seems to be unique to Cuba and that Cuba seems to be in a unique position to produce. Our film aims to investigate and explain this global cult of culture that Cuban Salsa expresses.
Salsa is life- changing for many people. Have you experienced this yourself? How did you start dancing?
Yes I have. I first went to Cuba in 2004, when I was in college (university). New York University had an exchange programme in Havana and I was lucky enough to take part. Before that trip I was more of an intellectual, I was more of a cerebral kind of person and I’d certainly never danced Salsa before.
When I was there and was exposed to casino, to Cuban Salsa, I was awed-by and also awe-struck by the way that people danced there. It’s a kind of micro muscular control that they have over their bodies and they have a deep connection to music and musicality. They were so forgiving. This gave me permission to dance and to express myself in a way that I had never experienced before that trip. It was also a pivotal year because the Cuba policy (for US citizens to travel to Cuba) changed. There were certain strictures imposed on academic travel and things of that nature so it was a great time to go. Reggaeton the rhythm was just arriving in Cuba at that time so there was a lot of musical activity going on.
It must have been quite an experience to visit Cuba as an American at that time. Do you think the US and UK public will be receptive to a film about Cuban salsa?
Depite the embargo and the economic isolation of the island, I think North Americans and Cubans still share an affinity and a cultural understanding. Americans crave and are attracted and drawn to Cuba. Illegal American tourism has continued despite the travel ban.
I think people in the UK and American want to see the current output of Cuba- both musically and choreographically. The Buena Vista Social Club film and later album that came out in 1996/97 is a testiment to that, I think. The film and album had a huge success over here in the US as it did in the UK and demonstrates an ongoing curiosity about all things Cuban. I think a lot of people went to Cuba in the wake of that film, attracted to that very traditional music and classic sound. But then what they discovered when they arrived was the contemporary music and dance of the island. I think that has played a huge role in generating these Cuban Salsa communities around the world.
What is your ‘take-away’ message with this film?
There’s so much upheaval and strain and there’s all kinds of ugliness in the world right now. For one thing, it’s great to make a film that reaffirms humanity and our shared love of art and music and dance and of course our pleasure-seeking impulses. I think that this love affair with Cuba and with Cuban Salsa is a great way to celebrate that. That’s our primary reason for creating this film.
We are kind of investigating how this culture that so open and freeing and liberating people can thrive in places that are commonly thought of as being socially conservative or politically conservative and enclosed in some way. A number of the Salsa scenes that we will be looking at will be especially interesting, for example the one in China and the possible one in Lebanon. Salsa seems to attract people who crave that kind of release and that kind of expressive freedom. Even in Cuba itself there’s a kind of counterpoint there. I think that is also another thing that we’d like to impart through this movie.
What is next on the cards?
I have to tell you that we’ve been following the British scene too and the Cuban Salsa luminaries there like Osbanis who is a fantastic dancer based in the UK. We would love to include some footage and some of the Salsa scenery there in our film but nothing has been organised as yet.
First we need to get back to Cuba to finish our shooting there, then we need to get to China to see David Huo who is a bit of a Salsa celebrity. Then we have some other dancers that we’re reaching out to so we can organise shoots. But we really have to do this piece-by-piece and I think that it’s going to be a long process making the movie and doing it well, which is the most important thing.
David Huo in a now iconic clip from Cuban TV dancing show ‘Para Bailar Casino’
How much money do you still have to raise? As of this moment, Wednesday 13th August 2014?
We’re in the vicinity of $10,000 and we’d like to raise $10-15,000 more if we can. If we don’t reach the target we’ll do what we have to do to get this film made. We’ll still make the film. We’re gonna find it (said with determination) one way or the other. We’ll raise the money, even if it means doing it as ‘lean as possible’ in the beginning. We’re going to make it.
What can we do to help your film get made?
Please share, donate or do whatever you can. We’ve got a Facebook page now which will be a cornerstone of the campaign-we will be issuing all kinds of announcements and things from there. It’d also be fantastic if people could help somehow with travel as it will be one of the most important expenses of the project, perhaps by donating Airmiles or doing whatever they can-we’d really appreciate it. At the moment we are in the very beginnings of lifting this off the ground.
Please look at the campaign, look at our Facebook page, and get it our to members of other Salsa styles, because even though we are working on a movie about a specific style, this is really about our shared love of dance and of course the broader world and cosmos of Salsa dancing. We’ve got 12 more day to go of the indiegogo campaign- help us make it happen!
Best of luck with everything and thanks for talking to SalsaHackers!
Here is the campaign video for Por Dentro y Por Fuera. Please donate if you can.