April 24, 2007

OLAS busts some moves at Mandel

“I’m on Latina time,” the character Reina said, explaining her tardiness during Saturday’s Entre el Amor y el Dinero: Between Love and Money. Presented by the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS), the show itself seemed to be running on Latina time—the performance started 20 minutes late. This did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the 300-odd students who packed Mandel Hall after polishing off the entire catered dinner of tortillas and single-serve flan.

OLAS introduced Entre el Amor y el Dinero as a telenovela. Fortunately, it wasn’t. The audience member who yelled “Sabado Gigante!” as the curtain opened told it better. A romantic comedy–cum–variety show, Entre el Amor y el Dinero used a standard wrong-side-of-the-tracks romantic storyline to connect the various performing acts, which included a dubiously Latin American fashion show, a dance-fight among the members of the RSO Gigarte Capoeira, and a slew of other impressive dance numbers.

It’s fair to assume that people go to cultural shows mainly for the food and the dancing, and OLAS delivered on the latter particularly well. Dances constituted much of the program and added weight to every positive stereotype about Hispanics having rhythm. A variety of traditional and contemporary styles were on display, including salsa, cueca, merengue, bachata, and hip-hop. One of the most interesting acts was choreographed in a style called rueda de casino, a folk version of salsa with Cuban origins. The form incorporates a circular chain dance, which for the purposes of the show helped break down the monotony of acts in which multiple pairs danced in synchrony for most of the song. The dance started off in a traditional salsa, switched to a more contemporary club style, broke into a conga line, and then reunited the dancers in a circle in which the guys at one point lifted their partners impressively over their linked arms.

The dancers in all acts performed with admirable skill and energy. One requisite for the success of any dance performance is that the dancers have to look like they’re having fun. OLAS certainly pulled that off—after the curtain call, the performers kept on dancing, just for the hell of it, long after the seats began to empty out.

The telenovela storyline was unnecessary and, therefore the weak point of the show. Musical segues could have linked each performing act as well or better than dialogue; instead, OLAS came up with a script that seemed to exist mainly for the purpose of connecting each performance, and perhaps the secondary motive of providing comic relief.

The script centered around the romance between the spoiled Argentinean princess Juliana and the Mexican American–from-the-block Uriel. It seemed a little strange that out of all the issues Hispanics face, OLAS chose to focus on a fairly minor one—the “old world racism” of upper-class South Americans to poor Latinos in the U.S.

Interestingly, the expendability of the dramatic element made its flaws completely excusable. Stammering delivery and out-of-character giggles were at once forgiven and forgotten. Easy jokes based around words like “bitch” and “skank” got the laughs they were supposed to.

One part of the drama that met with great audience approval was the transvestite role of fourth-year Roger Fierro, who played Reina—the Spanish word for queen. The transvestite character was a leftover role from a circus theme OLAS toyed with for the culture show at the beginning of the year.

Described as “Juliana’s fabulous gal pal in the program,” Fierro pulled off a spot-on performance of a ditzy fashionista. He walked in high heels as well as any of the trained salsa dancers.