Princeton Salsa Dancing

A few weeks ago, the Scarlet Mambo Team and friends attended a music festival to support a performance by Swing Sabroso in Princeton. We all were lucky to be featured in a series of three stories printed on The Princeton Summer Journal.

It seems that everyone got a mention, a quote, or a picture. Let’s see… Carenina, Lyne, Felisa, Mary, Tee, Camila, Ray (Swing Sabroso), Mike (Swing Sabroso), and yours truly.

Below are both, the text and scan, versions of the articles. So pick one to read. I will stop now because I don’t want to spoil the three articles.

Scarlet Mambo on the Princeton Summer Journal

Scarlet Mambo on the Princeton Summer Journal

Community enjoys ‘Power of Percussion’
By Krystal Valentin
Jersey City, N.J.

The muggy air and the scorching sun didn’t deter attendees young and old from learning about the magic of music at the third annual West Windsor Music Festival on July 28 at the Nassau Park Pavilion.

This year’s festival, titled “The Power of Percussion,” was sponsored by the West Windsor Arts Council to provide a showcase for local music groups. For West Windsor resident Lyne Simpson, 31, the day presented an opportunity to share her love for salsa and merengue music with her twin daughters, Felisa and Mary, 9. Simpson, who learned to dance while attending Rutgers University, has both daughters enrolled in salsa and merengue dance classes. She said she feels it is important to give her kids the same exposure to the arts that she had as a child.

Click here for the rest of the stories.

Simpson said that music “lifts up your spirit” and in reference to her two young children said, “it’s good for them and helps to raise their cognition.” The girls, in response, with smiling faces, said that they had been dancing for as long as they could remember.

College of New Jersey music professor Ralph Russell said he wishes that more people would proactively seek out music and art in their communities and suggested having more multicultural and community-sponsored events. He called music “the universal language.”

“The arts are a good way to help teach kids to grow intellectually and emotionally,” he said. “It gives them outlets to express themselves.”

This concept of spreading music appreciation is nothing new for the Modern Improvisational Music Appreciation organization, which is the brainchild of Christoph Geiseler ’04.

Founded in 2004, MIMA seeks to provide free music lessons to children of all ages both in the United States and abroad.

Currently, MIMA has affiliations with several cities such as Princeton, Trenton, Harlem and Newark and abroad in places such as China, Spain, Brazil and Croatia. This marked MIMA’s first year of participation with the West Windsor Music Festival.

MIMA employee Marek Sulzynski said the festival is a perfect fit for his organization. He said he believes “kids should have exposure to music,” which “develops the brain” and helps them reap a multitude of benefits in life.

Playing the guitar, bass guitar and congas himself, Sulzynski credits his success to great mentors who taught him that music education is “a lifelong process.”

Scarlet Mambo on the Princeton Summer Journal

Serving Up Salsa on a Scorching Day
By Eileen Shim
Edison, N.J.

Across the board, the performers’ answer is the same. No matter how many times they are asked—“Why do you enjoy doing this?” “Aren’t you exhausted?”—their heads nod and their eyes fill with conviction. They all have different ages, nationalities, backgrounds and experiences. Standing under the same sweltering canopy, moving their bodies to the intoxicating beat of the drums, the performers were passionate about sharing their interest in Latin music.

The blasts of horns and the taps of shoes of the Latin jazz group Swing Sabroso filled the Nassau Park Pavilion, where the West Windsor Arts Council sponsored a concert titled “The Power of Percussion” on July 28. Local dancers who are fans of the band came from all over the Princeton area, brought together by their mutual love for Latin jazz. Waving aside the suffocating heat and the uninterested stares of passers-by, they let the beat carry their bodies and their souls.

None of them had any doubt about what Latin music means: It is the beat and the dance that help to convey emotions and bring people together.

For some, like 31-year-old Tee Diallo, that included “stumbling on mistakes, learning from them, and sharing that experience with others.” “Gathering to enjoy together,” said Carenina Garcia-Espendez, 25, another dancer. For 58-year-old Ray Rodriguez, the leader of Swing Sabroso, it’s all about the “heart and soul” of the music. “If you do not love it, you don’t love yourself,” said Mike Perez, 44, another band member.

Nine-year-old twins Mary and Felisa summarized it all as their mother Lyne Simpson, a dancer, smiled at them: “It’s something you can do together!”

As the twins twirled each other in their first public performance, the adults prepared to wow the audience. While Rodriguez and Perez thumped out the music, Diallo, Simpson, Garcia-Espendez and other dancers took to the floor for an impromptu presentation. People who were not familiar with Latin music “encountered a new experience,” Linda Barton, 51, said, as she watched the group improvise yet perform in sync. The performers were eager to expose their audience to the power of Latin music, a force that had shaped their own lives.

Garcia-Espendez moved to New Brunswick from Texas a year-and-a-half ago, with no friends or acquaintances in New Jersey. The first thing she did was go to a music bar called Nova Terra, where she met people who were also interested in Latin music.

Building on a decade of dance experience, she befriended Dany Joshua, 28 and Camille Sanchez, 24, who were also dance teachers at Scarlet Mambo.

In addition to them, she met people who were not professional dancers, such as Diallo and Simpson, and now she privately teaches the Simpson twins. “Dancing is about interaction between people,” Garcia-Espendez said. “It definitely helps in making friends and appreciating something together.”

The dancers now regularly follow Swing Sabroso’s “danceable” beats and performances.

Such social interaction has pulled together several of the musicians. Rodriguez, Perez and their bandmates all used to play separately, some in high profile bands such as Dark Latin Groove. In 2001 the members took notice of each other at clubs and festivals.

After pulling together talented local musicians from other bands, they formed Swing Sabroso, and their close dynamic has contributed to their success. “It is passion and love,” said Rodriguez of the power of Latin music. “It’s a part of the culture.” Swing Sabroso’s first CD has garnered interest in countries including Spain and Italy, and the band is planning a world tour.

However, the enthusiasm of the band and its group of loyal followers was not always matched by the audience of about 70 people, who at times seemed disengaged. “I wish the community would dance with us,” Sanchez said. “Ray and his band play dancers’ music. It’d be fun.”

The performers were not satisfied with simply sharing the music among themselves; they also wanted to reach and educate the public and share their cultural experience—not only the music, but the intense emotions, social interaction and sense of community that come with it.

As the concert drew to a close, the audience became livelier. Elderly couples and young children began to join the performers on the dance floor. “Everyone should get involved,” Perez said. “Without music, there is nothing.”

Scarlet Mambo on the Princeton Summer Journal

Scarlet Mambo on the Princeton Summer Journal

Percussion Ensemble Brings Together Citizens of all Ages

By Pamela Chomba
Newark, N.J.

A toddler marches to the beat of the drums—one of many children enjoying the Latin rhythm. Meanwhile, a college student stands by, capturing every moment with his camera. And in the midst of all the commotion, an old lady is absorbed in her reading as music fills the air.

While their ages vary, there is one thing binding them together on this hot Saturday afternoon: salsa.

On July 28, the Nassau Park Pavilion hosted the third annual West Windsor Music Festival. Among other jazz and blues bands in attendance, Swing Sabroso and the Modern Improvisational Music Association performed for their audience, which included the young, the old and the dancers.

Swing Sabroso, a salsa band formed in 2001 by Ray Rodriguez, 58, got the audience members on their feet and their bodies in motion with its upbeat sound.

Eighteen-month-old Mathias Hermann was dancing, but it seemed more like a rhythmic stomp that responded only to the notes of the music; his blue shirt rose, exposing his stomach, as he moved his young—but not inexperienced—feet up and down.

“We’ve been making music together since he was six months old,” Hermann’s mother said as she picked him up off the floor. “He likes dancing.”

As Mathias joined the crowd of kids in their seemingly synchronized movements, Michael Staab, 19, snapped away with his camera. Staab, from southern New Jersey, is interning for MIMA and has been touring with the organization for several months.

An aspiring photojournalist, Staab is practicing his skills with the percussion group. He says it is a good experience working with the kids and loves the impact music has on children.

As Staab captured the children in their element, Gladys Bushel was engrossed in her book. One of the older people in attendance, she said she enjoys the festival’s atmosphere.

“I like the music playing while I read,” she said. “I enjoy the noise.” While Bushel read, the younger generations around her showed their appreciation for the music through dance.

One dancer, Danny Joshua, 28, teaches salsa classes at Rutgers University and has his own studio, Scarlet Mambo.

Joshua’s interest in salsa started when he developed a crush on a girl with whom he was taking dance lessons. They became romantically involved until the girl quit the lessons and broke up with him. But she never broke his heart, as it always belonged to salsa, he said.

Coming from Mexico where salsa was just becoming popular, he embraced the dance style here in the United States. Swing Sabroso, he said, is “very professional, and very precise.”

Joshua’s passion shined through as he grabbed a partner and moved to the beat of Swing Sabroso. His movements reflected his expertise, to the point that he did not care about the expensive glasses that slipped off his face and fell on the floor.

“I kept dancing,” he laughed as he cleaned the sweat off his face.



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