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Posted February 03, 2005 by mattlawrence in Cuban Music

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Defectors will bring show to S. Florida

Performers of the Havana Night Club show caught the world’s attention by defecting from Cuba last year in Las Vegas. Their next stop will be South Florida.


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Just months after its members defected from Cuba in dramatic fashion, the Havana Night Club show will finally perform in its first U.S. venue outside Las Vegas.

Was there any question? It’ll be in South Florida, of course.

The show, which chronicles Cuban music from its African roots through mambo to modern-day reggaeton, will perform March 10 at the University of Miami’s Convocation Center.

Tickets go on sale Saturday.

‘‘Miami has a lot of family members of my cast,’’ the show’s director, Nicole Durr, told The Herald on Wednesday. ``When they will perform, they will perform like they’re in Havana. People will understand the culture. People will feel with them.

``It’s like a homecoming.’‘

The Havana Night Club show made headlines in November when more than 40 members defected in Las Vegas and began to perform in the Wayne Newton Theater at the Stardust Resort and Casino.

Their story was filled with international intrigue.

The show, which they had performed across Europe and Asia, was invited to play in Las Vegas, but troupe members couldn’t secure visas because of the recent chill in Cuban-U.S. relations.

Visas were finally granted after Durr proved to the State Department that the troupe operated independently of the Cuban government.

The Cuban government balked at letting them come. But amid international pressure—cast members even staged a protest in front of the Ministry of Culture, captured on tape by CNN—the government eventually relented.

Sensing that they would never be allowed to perform again if they returned to Cuba, 51 of 53 eventually defected.

In the months following their defection, their run in Las Vegas was extended into April. They are taking time off for the South Florida trip.

Gloria Estefan performed with the troupe in Las Vegas in December. Later, professional baseball pitcher Orlando ‘‘El Duque’’ Hernandez, who had defected with the help of the same immigration attorney as theirs, also visited the show—and teared up after seeing the performance.

Now Havana Night Club heads to the heart of the country’s Cuban exile community.

‘‘It’s a great show,’’ said Joe Garcia, former executive director of the Cuban American National Foundation, who lobbied for their visas. ``It’s a great story, and I think it’s also important because it continues the debate of artistic freedom and the issues surrounding it. It’s good that they’re coming, and I think they’re going to be received in a positive way.’‘

The show will be retooled to make it bigger and bolder for the Miami audience, said Durr, the German-born director affectionately known as ``N.D.’‘

Footage for a DVD documentary about the Havana Night Club show—which could on sale by April—will also be shot at the University of Miami performance, Durr said.

The excitement of the visit has rippled through the troupe.

Dreisy Figueroa, a dancer whose aunt and cousins live in Miami, admits that it will be quite different facing a largely Cuban crowd.

‘‘We care about their critique,’’ she said in Spanish. ``We want to know what they like and what they think we could improve. It’ll be a challenge.’‘

The visit will also mark a reunion for singer Mayelin Montes, who has many cousins ‘‘going crazy’’ waiting to see her in Miami.

There is another added benefit to finally visiting Florida.

The temperature in Las Vegas on Wednesday: about 50 degrees.

‘‘What I miss most about Cuba is the heat,’’ Montes said, giggling.

``I imagine Miami will feel a little bit more like Cuba.’‘


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