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November 9, 2010 / HJD

Frankie Martinez’s Afro-Latin Funk Heats Up Brooklyn School

Abakuá dancers Keren Ashri, John Piazza and Lori Ana Perez

Originally published here in

Despite the November chill, an Afro-Latin dance troupe called Abakuá made a Prospect Heights school stage sizzle last night.

Free tickets were available and students, parents, administrators and local residents filled much of the beautiful auditorium at The International High School at Prospect Heights. The performance was part of Abakuá’s Tour of Schools, an effort to inject arts education in underserved schools in New York City. It was the first show in Brooklyn.

“You don’t expect a performance like this at a local high school. They’ve perform at Lincoln Center,” said Marlene Veras, 27, a local resident and a salsa dance instructor in Brooklyn. “It’s a gift.”

The first piece, “Children of the Groove,” opened gently with the theme of birthing, then revved into explosive roar of salsa music. Sharp, heavy angles broke into quick-stepping, twirling partner work, mid-air corkscrew spins and jazzy footwork.

“The Life and Death of Suzy Q” was infused with boogaloo – a dance and music style that was popular in the 1960s considered a fusion of Puerto Rican and Cuban mambo with African American doo-wop.  In bright costumes that flared at the leg, the dancers recreated the ambiance and vibe of night clubs, and contrasted a flurry of salsa dance with the body waves, and accented lyrically complex, genre-straddling rhythms.

Frankie Martinez, the founder and artistic director, leads the troupe in exploring salsa and Afro-Latin dance, with adding narrative aspects to it. Martinez is one of the most sought-after instructors in salsa dance worldwide, and teaches at You Should Be Dancing in New York City.

The performance coincided with the unveiling of a new dance studio at The International School @ Prospect Heights. Abakuá was one of the groups that offered dance education in the funding proposal.


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