For our first extravaganza, Lisa and I recently attended the 5th anniversary Festival De La Ley, sponsored by 96.9 FM La Ley, a Spanish-language sender which is owned by Curtis Media in Raleigh. I have to hand it to Julie Garza, La Ley's programming director, for pulling off a huge event with her usual grace under fire. She runs a tight ship, yet made room for a couple of last minute castaways on the media roster (Lisa and myself). This is our third year attending La Ley's anniversary party, and while 2006 may have been my favorite thus far, this year offered ample espectaculo--with special emphasis on "culo." I speak of course of headliners--who we almost missed, they arrived so late!--Grupo Control.
Now, something about Control makes ladies seem to lose it. I was skeptical at first, having only seen their act on YouTube. To speak plainly, this is the only Mexican Regional group I have ever seen that has regular band members who are solely designated dancers. That's right, they don't sing backup, don't play accordions, or keyboards or drumpads. They work it like Chippendale cowboys in an aerobics class.
There are four designated dancers in total, but the team of Memo (Guillermo) Lopez and Paco Garza seem to be the stars, either new or returning to the band after a hiatus. Unbelievably, I have them to myself during the band's first couple of songs, as they wait in the wings to be introduced.
"I saw you on YouTube," is my brave entree in English.
"You like?" asks Memo.
"Well, I mean, what's not to like," I ventured on. "But I was really surprised to see this kind of dancing with this music. Are you professional dancers?"
"Si," says Paco, switching to Spanish. "I've been dancing for 5 years."
"All different styles?"
"Yeah, everything, folk, jazz, salsa, merengue, cumbia," says Paco. That was in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon.
"I danced folkloric dancing in Mexico," says Memo. He's from Reynosa, or Tamaulipas? I can't quite make it out. He's worked quinceañeras too, and like Paco, trained in the same variety of styles.
"The two of us have a very similar way of dancing," says Paco. "A little different from the other two guys, but we have a good chemistry between the four of us."
Control's brand of dirty dancing has spread in popularity to young men dancing in quinceañera choreographies. I ask them what they would say to those who might regard a hip-gyrating all male revue as less than stereotypically "macho," but they don't seem to understand the question. Instead, we talk about where the "sexy" moves came from.
"I love salsa," Paco admits. "We take a little bit from salsa and merengue, and mix it up. There are some steps that resemble the cumbias. It's a little bit of everything." (Judging from YouTube samples of ordinary humanity, my guess is that banda and durangense are also sources.)
Pretty soon the crowd noise rises to shrill; it's time for their big entrance. I wish them luck, they kiss me on the cheek and head out on stage, leaving behind the scent of cologne and spandex.