In a tribute to the musical genre that gave the borough its popular nickname, “El Condado De La Salsa,” Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. will host the first-ever “Bronx SalsaFest” July 7 – 10, featuring outdoor and indoor concerts, special tours, a salsa trolley, and of course, dancing.
“The Bronx helped propel salsa into an international phenomenon, and we’re welcoming visitors and native New Yorkers to experience it here this weekend in what will become a new annual celebration,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “With the popularity of TV shows like ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ more people than ever are curious about this rich, rhythmic music. This weekend festival is a chance to put down the remote and put on your dancing shoes.”
SalsaFest, which is produced by the Bronx Tourism Council at BOEDC and funded in part by a grant from the NYC & Company Foundation, kicks off with a Warm-Up Party on Thursday, July 7, at 7 p.m. at Pregones Theater (571 Walton Avenue). The free evening starts with a screening of the award-winning documentary by City Lore, “From Mambo To Hip Hop, A South Bronx Tale” followed by a discussion on the history of salsa music by film co-producer Elena Martinez and multi-Grammy nominated percussionist Bobby Sanabria, who was inducted to the Bronx Walk of Fame in 2006 and appears in the film.
Afterwards, professional dancer and instructor Elvis Collado, winner of the 2010 New York/ New Jersey Salsa Open Championship, and his partner Melanie Castillo will lead a demonstration and group lesson to get salseros ready for Salsafest weekend.
On Friday, July 8, hop aboard the Bronx Salsa Trolley, departing from the New York Visitors Information Center at 11 a.m. (810 Seventh Avenue at 53rd Street). Enjoy live music and singing on board as you head uptown for a bilingual tour of Yankee Stadium, which will focus on the contributions of the team’s Latino players ($55). That evening from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., there’s more dancing as Van Cortlandt Park’s Barefoot Dancing series goes Latin with salsa dancing and lessons on the grass. Free, meet by the Van Cortlandt House Museum, Broadway at West 246th Street, rain or shine.
On Saturday, July 9, salsa lovers are invited to pay tribute to the “Queen of Salsa,” Celia Cruz, as part of a narrated tour that features musical greats interred at Woodlawn Cemetery, including Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton. The tour highlight is the rare opportunity to view Ms. Cruz’s open mausoleum and take part in a musical tribute as conga and bongo players play at her gravesite. Tours are free and begin at 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., rain or shine. Reservations recommended, 718-920-1469.
At 8 p.m. on the evening of Saturday, July 9, the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts presents two Latin music greats, produced by Lehman Center in collaboration with Los Canarios and West Side Beat Productions, Jose Alberto “El Canario,” one of the most successful and respected artists on the salsa music scene, celebrating his 35th anniversary and featuring Andy Montañez, “El Godfather de la Salsa,” former lead singer of the legendary El Gran Combo. Also performing will be Master Isidro Infante, Alfredo De La Fé, Luisito Quintero, and Dance-On-2 Dance Company for one exciting evening of music. Ticket information at lehmancenter.org.
On Sunday, July 10, there’s salsa on the sand as live music returns to Orchard Beach with Nelson Gonzalez and his All-Star Band performing at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. courtesy of Latino Sports, Bronx Lebanon Hospital and the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. Between sets, Zumba instructor Hilda Rosario will demonstrate how Latin rhythms are great for workouts, too.
Throughout SalsaFest, restaurants like Havana Café (3151 E. Tremont Avenue at LaSalle Avenue), PeaceLove Café (617 Melrose Avenue at 151 Street), Tosca (4038 E. Tremont Avenue at Miles Avenue) and the G-Bar (575 Grand Concourse at E. 150 Street) will offer live salsa music and great food.
Angel Rodriguez, percussionist, educator, cultural historian and tour guide who will direct some of the musical events taking place during SalsaFest, specializes in the evolution of Latin music in New York City. “The term salsa is an umbrella for a variety of Latin rhythms coming from the Caribbean,” he explains. “The word originated with musicians in the South Bronx, mostly Puerto Ricans, who would tell somebody whose playing was especially hot, ‘Brother, you played with salsa tonight!’ In other words, you were cooking.”
“Tourists are anxious to have an authentic salsa experience when they visit New York City,” said Bronx Tourism Council Executive Director Doris Quinones. “Starting this summer, Bronx SalsaFest will deliver just that.”
For information on more events taking place during Bronx SalsaFest, visit the Bronx Tourism Council website, ilovethebronx.com.