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Salsa & Mambo Video Reviews


Frankie Martinez

Exploring the Afro-Latin Funk

Level: Beg-Intermediate

Style: Across all styles

Content: 1) Class featuring interviews with Frankie Martinez, members of his entourage and Jimmy Bosch. This first feature is a comprehensive look at Frankie as an artist and his sharing the development of his approach to dance. From Frankie's website: "Understanding the motivation behind Frankie's method is an integral part of understanding what Frankie is trying to achieve in teaching these isolations. It was artistic as well as strategic decision to present the class material in this fashion in order to give students a richer understanding of movement in the context of expression."

2. Complete Body Movement Class. This feature shows an entire class without interuption so for the viewer it is as if you were taking part in one of his classes with a series of isolations and rhythmic patterns designed to develop musicality and flexibility within the body. The camera moves around showing Frankie and his students from different angles and perspectives.

3. Interviews Only. The people interviewed talk about Frankie, the experience of working, dancing and studying with him and his emphasis on artistic expression. Frankie is also interviewed. The interviews address how different types of movement have begun to alter the course of Frankie's style of dance, reaching beyond the borders of modern salsa/mambo.

General Comment: I started watching this DVD with the interview section which was probably not the best place to start as I really didn't want to know about Frankie's philosophy of dance and to hear all the accolades from his adoring fans - I just want to see the man dance!! The interviews seemed to me as choreographed as his dancing. I would have preferred something more authentic. The body movement class has been filmed in a cool and artistic manner which captures the mood of being in one of Frankie's classes and I'm sure that the exercises would be useful to loosen up the body and enable a version of the style for which Frankie is famous. However, it is not much more than an exercise class and that is disappointing. There are no clips of Frankie dancing either alone or with a partner. I expected more from this long awaited and much anticipated DVD.

Reviewed by Ally - Good

General Comment: You may have come across in the past some documentaries on the mythical characters who made crucial contributions to today’s culture: Chaplin, Hemingway, maybe even Tito Puente. Well, this DVD is the analogue, but on Frankie. There are two puzzling differences though. First, this documentary on Frankie has been produced by Frankie! Second, Frankie is not dead yet (thankfully). So it turns out kind of bizarre to see this emphatic production about somehow who, until a short while ago at least, you could have met on the dance floor. And this is even weirder for someone like me, who had the luck to hang around with Frankie for a (very short) while. It makes me wonder whether I live in the present or in some kind of make-wish (for Frankie) future.

In this DVD Frankie attempts what effectively is an intellectualisation of salsa; first it takes it away from the dance floor and into the stage. Then goes further still and brings it into a sort of abstract mental laboratory, where you (or maybe he) can experiment with its conceptual limits by ‘asking how much you can push the envelope before it becomes something else’ (to use his Frankie’s words). If this sounds somehow disconnected from salsa, it may be because Frankie may have ‘pushed the envelope’ past the edge already: as the title confirms this is not salsa anymore but Afro-Cuban funk, and surely we can not find any hint that we are talking about a partner based dance either.

There are many facets to this approach, some compelling, some I find contradictory; isn’t over-intellectualisation a European, not Afro-Caribbean, disease? Haven’t the Europeans already brought enough diseases into Afro-Caribbean culture? Is this really what you want to achieve Frankie? Is this what you want to do to the Afro-Caribbean roots you are justly proud of?

Maybe in 30 year time academics will lecture on this DVD at an advanced course in the history of art at Cambridge University and scholars will write books about it. But I think it is difficult today to project ourselves in the future and treat this contemporary self-myth-building work as if it was a piece of already-achieved art.

What remains for the mortals is a set of astonishing exercises, the inexhaustible admiration for ‘Frankie the dancer’, a few puzzles about ‘Frankie the person’ and a sadly intact desire to see Frankie’s first real DVD in the market.

On a lighter touch, waiting for the future, some legacy lives already, now, in the mushrooming of white dance shoes on dance floors all over the world. This part of the DVD is entertaining; what is the rationale of the white shoes? A spiritual link to African mythology, as Frankie told a friend of mine a while ago? The specific need for an artistic tool to focus the intensity of the dance on an otherwise transparent dimension, as Frankie explains in the DVD? Or the economic rationale of empty wallets, as Johnny implies? Like Che Guevara’s iconic image in the souvenir shops all other the world, this materialistic item does not do justice to the intellectual commitment of the source; still, in my bimboness, I find the white shoes irresistible, provided they match my top, that is!

BTW, I got carried away.. I suppose the only question you want addressed is “should I buy the DVD or not?”. Quick answer: ”Yes”, at least it will make you think.

Reviewed by : Fabio from SalsaIsGood - Good

General Comment: This DVD features exercises, performed by Frankie Martinez and his class, which aim to increase flexibility and achieve isolated body movements.The DVD does not include any explanations on the exercises, however if you invest some time exploring the movements, you will find the DVD very useful. I found some of the exercises quite challenging, so be prepared that it will take time and practice to be able to do them properly.

Overall, the DVD provides for an excellent and challenging workout.

Reviewed by Thea - Recommended









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