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In concert: La Excelencia at Artisphere

eLa Excelencia provided a political soundtrack to salsa night at Rosslyn's new Artisphere. (All photos by Josh Sisk/FTWP)

By Mark Jenkins

On the dance card Tuesday evening at Rosslyn's brand new Artisphere: Salsa lessons. A hot multi-ethnic band from the Bronx. And a hint of la revolucion.

The music and the politics came from La Excelencia, a 10-piece combo that headlined the first "Salsa Tuesday" at the new venue, a remake of the former Newseum. The 10-piece group relied on the style's customary ingredients: rippling piano, chattering polyrhythms, call-and-response vocals and a horn section that punctuated the music with brief unison fanfares or pithy individual solos. As the tunes swirled vigorously, both veteran dancers and first-timers were moved to spin their partners.

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When he wasn't simply encouraging the crowd to try out its newly learned moves, vocalist Edwin Perez explained the themes of a few of the band's songs, including "La Lucha" ("The Struggle") and "American Sueno" ("American Dream"). The latter cleared the dance floor, but that wasn't due to its pro-immigrant message; it was just because it was the evening's slowest number. Whenever La Excelencia picked up the pace, the audience was ready to dance -- whether in solidarity with the message or merely the beat.

The dance showcased Artisphere's new ballroom, whose contrast of wood surfaces with white industrial details suggests a cross between Strathmore's concert hall and an iPod assembly plant. A few tweaks could make future shows more congenial: turning off the room's bright white fluorescent tubes and getting a bigger temporary stage. The exuberant Perez, who had to sing from the dance floor, might have been even livelier if he'd able to fit on stage with the other performers.

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By Click Track  | October 13, 2010; 1:00 PM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags:  La Excelencia  
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