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Fringe review: Salsa Lesson sizzles

It's hot outside, and just as hot at Salsa Lesson, a don't-miss offering from Stardust Players at this year's Fringe fest.

Edmonton's Andrea House is treasure. The talented actor/singer-songwriter is at the helm of “Salsa Lesson”, a new storytelling concert engaging audiences at this year's Edmonton Fringe fest. And what a treat this is.

While temperatures outside are scorching, it's a cool respite inside the Spotlight Cabaret, where food and drink service and a dimly-lit space enhance the smouldering vibe created by House and company in this latest offering from Stardust Players (who come to Fringe with a pedigree of past holdover shows). With all original music and lyrics from House and renowned local pianist and composer Chris Andrew, the piece is an hour-long recounting of a woman's journey as a newly divorced Edmonton mom--salsa dancing included. 

Through songs (in English, French and Spanish), the beautiful and emotive House speaks and sings her story in varying styles and rhythms; from her kids making an online dating profile for her, to meeting a junior-high school mate online, to entering his Chilean culture and discovering each other again, this time on the dance floor. House is at turns funny and poignant as she tells the tale to the backdrop of traditional rhythms such as son, rhumba, semba, Iyesa and more. The musicians backing House are stellar: Cuban percussionist Raul Gomez Tabera, Edmonton-based, Brazilian bassist Rubim De Toledo and jazz great Andrew, who all would be an amazing ticket on their own, but lucky us, the performance is further heightened by the addition of dance. 

Local professional dancer Brittany Ward (with special guests from Edmonton's Latin dance community), highlights the stories and rhythms through various solo and partner dances: salsa, bachata, reggaeton and kizomba among them. It's a sexy blend, created by House and company--which, as she advises the audience, is a mix of choreographed and natural, spontaneous moves, gestures and inflections that are unpredictable. And, it turns out, entirely captivating.

Director Davina Stewart said, "We set Salsa Lesson in the Spotlight Cabaret because of its timeless nightclub feel. We didn't want to create a traditional theatre presentation. There's ambient noise, people get up and move around--the atmosphere and energy mirror the passion of the performance."

What a beautiful find at the Fringe; unexpected and welcome and, highly recommended.