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Slater really clicked with Jennings, and saw he had an indefatigable work ethic and drive. which just might take them all the way to victory. They put in 362 hours of rehearsals, the most of any contestants on the show so far. “My first impression of Rashad was that he has everything it takes to be a champion,” Slater says. “He knows how to work hard; he was very open and willing and accepting, and he’s got a lovable personality. So I definitely knew he had a good shot at winning. It was just whether I was able to get him there. Being an athlete, he was really good at understanding and controlling his body, and being very visual. If I showed him something, he would understand how it works and be able to mimic my movements.”.

Slater’s fiance and castmate, Sasha Farber (who proposed to her on the TV show last year), is also in womens ballet slippers the tour, This season Farber was partnered with Olympic gold medalist gymnast Simone Biles, a front-runner in the competition until her surprise elimination the week before the finals, The touring cast is a mixture of the professional dance partners (who train celebrities in the competition — Sharna Burgess, Artem Chigvintsev, Lindsay Arnold, Gleb Savchenko, Keo Motsepe) and members of the TV show’s dance troupe (who haven’t yet been paired with celebrity partners — Hayley Erbert, Alan Bersten and Britt Stewart), The celebs, of course, are not tagging along..

“The touring show is very different from the TV show,” says Slater says. “There’s a lot of humor in it. You really get to see a lot of our personalities when you come to the live show. We have sections that highlight each and every one of us, and it’s very high-energy and really full-on. Of course there are no celebrities, so it’s not structured as a competition. We’re all dancing with each other, which is exactly what we’ve been trained to do, so we feel like we have the power and the energy to really let loose.”.

As a music-obsessed girl growing up in the West African nation of Benin, Angélique Kidjo will never forget the electrifying feeling of seeing Celia Cruz for the first time, Cruz performed as part of a talent-laden tour with the pioneering womens ballet slippers salsa collective known as the Fania All-Stars, who went to the continent in 1974 for a concert held in conjunction with the Muhammad Ali/George Foreman heavyweight bout (a performance released as an album and DVD), With incandescent artists like Héctor Lavoe, Ismael Miranda, Ismael Quintana and Johnny Pacheco, there was no lack of star power, but it was Cruz who made a dazzling impression on the 14-year-old Kidjo..

“When she walked in with the Fania All Stars, I was thinking who is this lady?!,” says Kidjo, 57, from her home in Brooklyn. “She’s so flamboyant, and makes everything seem effortless. I was thinking, this cannot be that easy.”. The three-time Grammy Award-winner presents the Bay Area premiere of her tribute to Cruz on Saturday as part of San Jose Jazz’s Summer Fest. The project is a collaboration with Cuban conga master Pedrito Martinez (who performs with his own band earlier in the day at the Hammer Theatre).

Kidjo is hardly the first womens ballet slippers African-born musician to find inspiration in Afro-Cuban music, Rhythms, religious rituals and instrumental practices have flowed back and forth between the old and new worlds for centuries, but Cuban son found particularly fertile soil in Africa in the 1940s, followed by the styles son gave birth to, like salsa, Growing up in the 1960s and ’70s, Kidjo recalls that “there was no party without salsa, Salsa and rumba was always part of our musical background, When Celia started singing with that 6/8 feel, that’s West African music, too — that’s the basis of salsa, I’m recording an album to bring salsa back to its origins in Africa.”..

It’s hard to think of a non-Latin American artist better equipped to summon Cruz’s spirit than Kidjo. Like Cruz she’s a fireball, a barely contained force of nature on the bandstand. And also like Cruz, who fled to the United State in 1961 to avoid increasing political repression following the Cuban revolution, Kidjo was forced to leave her homeland in 1983 when the Communist government made it impossible to pursue a recording career. Kidjo moved to Paris, planning to study law and become a human rights lawyer. But instead she got swept up in the city’s vibrant jazz scene, a pursuit that made it all but inevitable for the creatively ambitious singer to try her luck in New York City.

“The funny thing is when I arrived in America I lived on 50th Street in Hell’s Kitchen,” Kidjo says, “I found out later that’s the same block where Celia lived when she arrived in America, Singing her songs, what’s really fantastic is that we have the same range, I don’t change a key.”, Kidjo credits jazz singers Dianne Reeves and Lizz Wright with encouraging her to pursue the Cruz tribute, The three women spent a good deal of time on the road together, first in “Sing the Truth,” a project celebrating three prophetic, recently departed women (Miriam Makeba, Abbey Lincoln and Odetta), and later celebrating womens ballet slippers the legacy of Nina Simone..



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