Cuba Culture

Havana Cuba Tropicana nightclub toning down nudity

Posted November 16, 2004 by publisher in Cuba Culture.


Oozing sex appeal, Cuban women picked for their beauty and stature slink across the stage in elaborate headdresses and little else.

Singers, acrobats and dancers perform, too, but the showgirls are the main attraction of the revue that has lured hundreds of tourists nightly to the storied Tropicana nightclub for nearly a decade.

But the Tropicana is closing the racy show that has entertained foreigners since the communist government began courting tourists in the 1990s.

It will be replaced with ‘‘Tambores en Concierto’’—‘‘Drums in Concert’’—a spectacle that, while retaining the spirit of Cuban sensuality, will drop some of the more blatant skin-baring.

Reinvention not new to club

‘‘It’s time to make some changes,’’ says Tomas Morales, a dancer, choreographer and director who created the show that takes the stage in April.

His show will keep a live ensemble of Cuban musicians on one part of the multi-tiered stage, along with acrobats and some showgirls. But the similarities end there.

The new show will be more theatrical, with increased emphasis on stage sets and technology, Morales said. The show will guide the audience through different music and dance acts, ‘‘taking you to the roots of Cuba,’’ he said.

Reinvention is not new to the Tropicana.

In the 1940s and ‘50s, American tourists frequented the club, which was known for its casinos, all-night partying and visiting international stars such as Liberace, Nat King Cole and Carmen Miranda.

But Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution squelched the revelry. The casinos disappeared, as did the American mobsters who had a stake in them. A drop in the money coming in meant less extravagant shows and fewer performers from abroad. In 1968, the government shut the Tropicana and all other cabarets.

Foreign visitors welcomed

The Tropicana reopened in 1970. But without American tourists, the shows catered to Cuban audiences.

By the 1980s, tourists began trickling back to Cuba and, after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the government embraced tourism as a way to bring in revenue lost when aid from the Soviet bloc dried up.

Every night, 300 to 600 guests—mostly foreigners—fill the Tropicana.

Many visitors believe a Cuba trip isn’t complete without a visit to the Tropicana.

Says Juan Antonio Merino Ayllon, a 53-year-old businessman from Malaga, Spain: ‘It would be like going to Paris and not going to the Moulin Rouge.’’

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