A tribute to our inspiration – Celia Cruz

Today we debut a new section of this blog. In addition to news about our school, and dance tips and resources, we will aim to round out your knowledge of Latin dancing by giving you snippets of information about Latin music, culture and history, insofar as it relates to dancing. Knowing where a dance comes from can enhance not just your dancing, but your appreciation of its form, so read on every Wednesday for a new article in this section.

One of the most commonly asked questions about our school by both Spanish speakers and non-speakers alike, has been our name – azúcar (“sugar” in Spanish). So what does sugar have to do with a Latin dance school? What is its significance? Well, not only is the term “azúcar” culturally significant to the development of Latin music, it is our school’s way of paying respect to one of salsa’s brightest stars – Celia Cruz.

For the uninitiated, Celia Cruz is a famous Cuban-American salsa performer. She was so popular, that she was renowned across the world as the “Queen of Salsa”, and was believed to be one of the most influential female figures in the history of Cuban music. “Azúcar” was her catchphrase; a personal joke that eventually became a trademark in all her performances:

Once, she ordered cafe cubano (Cuban coffee) in a restaurant in Miami. The waiter asked her if she’d like sugar, and she replied that, since he was Cuban, he should know that you can’t drink Cuban coffee without it! After having told the joke so many times, Cruz eventually dropped the joke and greeted her audience at the start of her appearances with the punch line alone.

Source: Wikipedia

So, out of the many talented Latin singers to inspire our dance school, why Celia Cruz? There are so many musicians whose contribution to salsa music we admire, what makes her so special?

Celia Cruz grew up in poverty, living in one of the poor Havana neighborhoods. Her hardship continued with the change in political atmosphere in Cuba, leading to her decision to become a US citizen, forever barred from returning to her homeland. Despite all this, her songs are full of optimism and warmth; there is never a song about sadness, breakups, or despair. Celia Cruz’s music is about the celebration of life, the joy of a moment, and the value of a laugh.

It is our hope that Azúcar! Latin Dance Company can embody the spirit of Celiz Cruz; to respect fellow artists, to pass on the joy of dancing, and most important of all, to never forget that life is short, and we have to enjoy it while we can.

Anyone who thinks that life is unfair,
you must know that it is not.
That life is beautiful, you have to live it.
Anyone who thinks they are alone, that is wrong,
you must know that it is not
that in life no one is alone, you always have someone.

Ay, there’s no need to cry, because life is a carnival,
It’s more beautiful to live singing.
Oh, Ay, there’s no need to cry,
For life is a carnival
And your pains go away by singing.

Anyone thinking that life is cruel,
needs to know that’s not the case,
That there are just bad times, and they will pass.
Anyone thinking that things will never change,
needs to know that’s not the case,
smile to the hard times, and they will pass.

Ay, there’s no need to cry, because life is a carnival,
it’s more beautiful to live singing.
Oh, Ay, there’s no need to cry,
for life is a carnival
and your pains go away by singing. 

Partial translation of: La vida es un carnaval 

To introduce you to her music, here are two of our favourite songs that exhibit that joy of life and inspire us to enjoy every moment for what it is:

La vida es un carnaval (“Life is a carnival”):

 

Rie y llora (“Laugh and cry”):

 

For more information about Celia Cruz, please check out this very well made tribute by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

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