This year's Caribbean Dancesport Classic is redefining the meaning of "classic Caribbean"! Adding to the vacation appeal dazzling, soft sand beaches, this year we are evoking the romance of the classic era of Spanish-influenced Caribbean nightlife. In the first half of the 20th C., Havana, Cuba, was the source of infectious and then-exotic Afro-Cuban music... what we today think of as rhumba, mambo, cha cha cha, and salsa. The musical and cultural cocktail resulting from the blending of the Spanish melodies with African rhythms was such a compelling draw that for well over a quarter of a century, this was the place to be for well-heeled Americans, creating a three-way cultural mix of music, dance, and romance fanned by tropical breezes - served up with more than a splash of Cuban rum - that is very much alive today.
Tailored to serve the affluent Americans who could fly down to Havana for even a weekend, glittering night clubs, hotels, and casinos - even some lush resort properties - featured evenings of dinner and tropical cocktails often with spectacular floor shows, as well as performances by headline entertainers such as Cuba's own Celia Cruz as well as mainland entertainers such as Nat "King" Cole and Frank Sinatra, and always with social dancing to legendary Afro-Cuban orchestras (Perez Prado, Orquestra Aragon, and Xavier Cugat). Of course, there was the signature look of the time and place - chic patrons dressed in understated elegance: Picture bare-shouldered, diamond-throated women - with perhaps the occasional exotic flower tucked in her well-coifed hair - accompanied by men in dinner suits, perhaps the stylish tropical version for that extra sense of flair.
San Juan, Puerto Rico, with European roots close to a century earlier than the English settlement in Jamestown (Virginia) was another key Spanish Caribbean port with trading and military significance, as can still be seen by visiting the very historic "Old San Juan" area (just a short taxi ride from our venue). Bringing to San Juan the tradition of the Havana nightlife heyday of the 1950's, the El Juan Resort & Casino, in exclusive Isla Verde, served visitors from up north who still craved this unforgettable, luxurious entertainment experience. In this same grand tradition, such luminaries as Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli came to perform at the El San Juan Resort & Casino. And the Latin music played on as San Juan donned the mantle as world-wide ambassador of Afro-Caribbean music, expanding and ever-updating salsa music and dance - still interchanging beats and rhythms with the mainland, as eventually so well-captured in the Latin pop hit "Livin' la Vida Loca."
Set in the lush tropical grounds of the El San Juan Hotel & Casino, the Caribbean Dancesport Classic maximizes use of the expansive, vintage property to provide the classic indoor/outdoor Caribbean resort experience. Besides the main ballroom, Caribbean Dancesport Classic-hosted events take place on the large veranda, and, in addition to the highly-prized Isla Verde shoreline, sometimes called the most beautiful beach in Puerto Rico, the centerpiece of the gardens is an Esther Williams-worthy fantasy pool area for aquatic socializing.
From old Havana to today's San Juan, Afro-Caribbean rhythms continue to form the centerpiece of Caribbean social life, and our 2016 Caribbean Dancesport Classic embraces not only these Afro-Caribbean (aka "Latin") rhythms but also the Caribbean sense of dancing as life itself - with a splash of rum to add just a touch of loca. And as part of redefining "classic," for our Caribbean Dancesport Classic Gala San Juan (Saturday evening's dinner and ball), we invite you to evoke it yourself by wearing your most luxurious tropical evening attire (men and women both), representing the best of the classic Caribbean resort and nightlife elegance of the 1940s-60s. Diamond-throated women welcome!