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New Victory Blog

The New Victory Blog is a place to learn more about New York's theater for families and the shows we produce. Find out what we do and what we're passionate about—exploring the arts as a family.
Cirque Mechanics' Pedal Punk and its bevy of bicycles have rolled onto our stage! We checked in with Creative Director Chris Lashua to find out a little bit about how the show was developed. If you haven't seen Pedal Punk yet, take a look at this sneak peak of all the spinning things you'll see onstage, including the enormous Gantry—a 20-foot-high pedal-driven apparatus that frames the show's spectacular performances:
 

Like so many great ideas, every Cirque Mechanics production begins on the back of a napkin. Lashua starts by sketching an elaborate machine—a boiler-trolley, a trampoline-cart, a pedal-driven gantry—and a new show is born.

What exactly do you draw on the backs of napkins?

Yes, this really does happen, although we also draw on backs of receipts and business cards, too! Since inspiration can strike at any time, it really is important to capture ideas and concepts right away. I actually have several Southwest Airlines napkins with marker sketches of the first Gantry and our Trike Rover!

What was the inspiration for Pedal Punk?

We built the Gantry for an outdoor festival and knew right away we wanted to base our new show around it. We have always focused on showing off the relationships between our mechanical devices and the acrobats, and this device is our most ambitious apparatus so far.

What's your favorite part of developing a new show?

Oh, that's a tough one! Creation is the best. Sharing those napkin drawings with my design partner, Sean Riley, and brainstorming which elements to build is great. I also enjoy the fabrication. Prepping the materials at the fabrication shop, cutting and painting; and then introducing a new machine to an artist and watching them discover it and use it—that's fantastic.

The Cirque Mechanics ensemble strikes a pose with the Trike Rover. Chris Lashua just left of center, inbetween the spokes! Photo: Alban Rombaux


What makes the Cirque Mechanics ensemble special?

Our creative team is what makes it all work. This is our fourth production together and we have a range of opinions and approaches. My job is to distill the sometimes opposing views and find the right balance of ideas for the show. Having people on the team who approach the process differently is very important. We get much better results by having a team of individuals that are talented and who respect the other contributors' opinions.

What are your favorite things about performing at The New Victory?

Wow! We love coming here. It really is like coming home, from the moment our truck arrives and our team greets the New Victory crew in the loading dock. We first met many of those crew members when we came here with Birdhouse Factory in 2008. And, of course, being a block from Times Square is about as good as it gets.

All of that is great, but when the house lights dim and the show starts—that is when we really “experience” The New Victory. It's the amazing mix of giggles from young audience members with appreciative nods and cheers from adults, the standing ovations from audiences of children and their grandparents, the seasoned theatergoers alongside families who might be experiencing theater for the first time—all those things are what really make The New Victory our favorite place to perform.

What about Pedal Punk are you most proud of?

I started doing tricks on a BMX bicycle when I was twelve years old, and I haven’t stopped. Bicycles have always been a huge part of my life, so to combine that love with my passion for circus and machines is extremely rewarding.

Why should I see Pedal Punk?

If you love circus or like watching amazing feats of daring; if you are a builder, a maker, a gadget guru; or if you just like to laugh, we think this Pedal Punk is for you! We are having a blast and hope to meet you after the show!
 
Pedal Punk Icon    Cirque Mechanics' Pedal Punk is at The New Victory through January 3. Wacky circus contraptions, acrobats, dance, comedy—it's unlike anything you've ever seen. Be sure to come early to practice your plate-balancing tricks and take some steampunky photos for sharing, #PedalPunk.
Posted by Zack Ramadan
November 23, 2015

¡Bienvenidos a Cuba Vibra!


Cuba Vibra! is a spirited extravaganza of dance and music, and the superb dancers of Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba (LADC) tell stories through traditional Cuban dance styles—cha-cha-cha, mambo, rumba, conga, bolero—all backed by a big band and lyrics sung in Spanish. When you come to see Cuba Vibra!, you'll find in your New Vic Bill a list of the dance and musical numbers, called a set list, along with summaries of each song's choreographed story. But unless you understand Spanish, you may still wonder how the lyrics of the songs relate to the stories you're seeing unfold onstage.

So let's take a look at some of the lyrics from the show, along with the stories that Lizt Alfonso has choreographed, and shed some light on the connections. Spanish lyrics will appear on the left, and their English translations on the right!

Música y Estrellas

The opening number of Cuba Vibra! features the entire ensemble in a celebratory welcome. You'll hear the singers repeat the the song's title numerous times, Música y Estrellas—Music and Stars. Music, yes. But what stars? Where? The rest of the lyrics shed some light on this stellar mystery, and the full version of the song—performed by LADC in their musical Amigas—features a narrator:
 
Música y Estrellas
Tu programa va a empezar
Te traigo música y estrellas

Narrator:
Muy buenas noches, señoras y señores.
Bienvenidos a esta emición especial de su
programa favorito de la televisión cubana,
Musica y Estrellas.
Music and Stars
Your program is about to begin
I'm bringing you music and stars

Narrator: 
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.
Welcome to this special broadcast of your
favorite Cuban television program,
Music and Stars.

Mystery solved! Música y Estrellas was a iconic television program in Cuba during the 1960s and early 1970s. A musical variety show in the vein of The Ed Sullivan Show, it featured both musical newcomers and established musical celebrities—stars!—debuting new music and dancing to the popular rhythms of the day. Cuba Vibra! is a similar medley of celebrated music and dance, and so its opening number pays tribute to its spiritual predecessor from Cuban television.

Té Bailable

The setting for Té Bailable (Danceable Tea) is an afternoon tea party in the late 1950s, which is how you'll find it listed in your New Vic Bill. The music compels the young ladies in attendance to dance, and a young man soon joins them; but what does the music have to say?
 
Soy un hombre presumido, vanidoso, peculiar.
Tengo un andar que sofoca,
Que a las mujeres las vuelve locas.
I'm a boastful, vain, peculiar man.
I have a walk that takes [their] breath away,
That drives the ladies crazy.

As it turns out, the young man who joins them is a bit full of himself! Though they do seem a bit distracted by his dancing.

Quizás

The tea party comes to an end, and the young people begin looking for romance! The course of true love never did run smooth, though—the music clues us into their frustrations and fickle hearts. Quizás, Spanish for Perhaps, is a song about the mixed messages and fear of commitment that young people in love are sometimes guilty of.
 
Siempre que te pregunto,
"¿Qué, cuándo, cómo y dónde?" 
Tú siempre me respondes,
"Quizás, quizás, quizás..."

Y así pasan los días,
Y yo, desesperando,
Y tú, tú contestando, 
"Quizás, quizás, quizás..."
I'm always asking you,
"What? When? How and where?"
You always answer me,
"Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps..."

And so the days pass,
Me losing hope,
And you, you answering, 
"Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps...."

You may have heard the English version of this song before, made famous by Desi Arnaz and, later, Doris Day; but the lyrics to that version are not a direct translation. Check out a comparison here, and listen for the final chorus of the song, which LADC's vocalist sings in English!

Espiritualidad

This musical number, Espiritualidad (Spirituality) features a mystical ceremony. You will hear music with lyrics—the song Ayyaba by Carlos Alfonso and the Eme Alfonso Quartet—but the lyrics are not in Spanish. They are in Lucumí, an Afro-Cuban dialect of the West African Yorùbá language. In Cuba, and in parts of the southern United States, this language is not widely spoken. Rather, it's used only in the rituals of Santería, the set of mystical religious practices that combine Catholicism with West African Yorùbá traditions. What you're seeing and hearing onstage in Espiritualidad is a Santería ritual!

El Vecindario

When the rumba is danced at community gatherings or in the streets, it's often called a rumbón. In El Vecindario, or Neighborhood, a community of dancers and musicians gathers onstage for a fiesta. The rumbón begins and the sound of the drums takes over. Rhythms from other countries, like swing and rock 'n' roll, are blended with traditional Cuban beats, and one young man comes onstage to declare his love for a girl named Regla.
 
Oye, Regla! En este día te canto.
No me importa lo que digan,
Ni lo que estén comentando.
A esta mujer le canto porque enamorado estoy!

Ay! Si yo no quiero tanto,
Con el corazón tú sabes que te canto.
Listen, Regla! Today I sing to you.
It doesn't matter to me what they say,
Nor what they might be talking about.
I sing to this woman because I'm in love!

Oh, if I don't love so much [as you might like],
Know that I'm singing to you with my heart.

In front of the whole neighborhood, this young man is declaring his love in song, and he doesn't care what anyone thinks. He wants Regla to know that his feelings are so honest that, not only has he been moved to song, but that he's willing to risk the embarrassment of singing in public. He really has nothing to worry about—his singing is great!

Bésame Mucho

After the neighborhood party, two young ladies try to capture the attention of the man of their dreams. It's a struggle, and only one will triumph! The song choice here is one of the most famous Spanish-language songs ever written—Bésame Mucho
 
Bésame, bésame mucho,
Como si fuera esta noche
La última vez.
Bésame, bésame mucho,
Que tengo miedo a perderte,
Perderte después.

Quiero tenerte muy cerca,
Mirarme en tus ojos,
Verte junto a mí.
Piensa que tal vez mañana
Yo ya estaré lejos
Muy lejos de ti.
Kiss me, kiss me lots,
As if tonight were
The last time.
Kiss me, kiss me lots,
Because I'm afraid of losing you,
Losing you afterward.

I want to have you very close,
To look at myself in your eyes,
To see you next to me.
Just think that maybe tomorrow
I'll already be far away,
Very far away from you.

So, while the lovestruck dancers spin about onstage, the music suggests that there might be something more afoot than just a typical teenage romance. "Kiss me now, because I might not be here tomorrow!" Is it just hyperbole? Or perhaps it's foreshadowing the coming end of the Cuban Revolution? The musical numbers that follow in the second act certainly express the impact, stess and loss of wartime. Quizás, quizás, quizás.

Most of the numbers of in the second act feature no lyrics, so sit back and enjoy the music and dance. This night will be full of surprises—surprises that, in the words of the Música y Estrellas narrator, "will make you laugh, cry, remember and relive." Prepared as you are now, the wonder of Cuba Vibra! will still surprise and delight you. ¡Disfrútense todos! Enjoy.
Posted by Zack Ramadan
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