By: Rogaj / Photos by Boris Muriedas
The Club Tropicana is Cuba at its most joyful. The colors of the tropics and Afro-Cuban rhythms have intermingled for seven decades in this ageless paradise under the stars.
A drum was chosen to symbolize the seven decades of Cuba's landmark cabaret, which became world famous in the 1950's glory years, beginning with choreographer Roderico "Rodney" Neyra. According to Cuban media in the 50s, Neyra was the best and best paid choreographer in Cuba at the time.
The "Paradise under the Stars" became known for its showgirls, rumba sounds and spectacular productions, as well as the greats who performed there, like Nat King Cole, Carmen Miranda, Xavier Cugat, Josephine Baker, Tongolele, Los Chavales de España, Pedro Vargas, Rita Montaner, Bola de Nieve, Chano Pozo, Rosita Fornés, Los Papines, Elena Burke and Omara Portuondo.
Today, another of the greats on the Cuban scene, Tomas Morales, produces and directs the cabaret's extravaganzas with a composition called Tambores en Concierto (Drums in Concert).
The footprints of the night club can be traced to the early 20th Century in the former Villa Mina on the outskirts of Havana. Celebrated choreographer and director Sergio Orta was inspired to give it its name from the "Tropicana" melody by composer and flutist Alfredo Brito.
From its opening on December 30, 1939, the boite de nuit conquered Cuban and foreign audiences al ike. But the club's architectural conception was transformed in the early 1950s with the luxurious roofed Crystal Arch space for use during inclement weather and the exquisite open air "Under the Stars" terrace with its "spider" or "surreal istic insect" shape, said to resemble the signature of former Tropicana owner Victor Correa.
This design, considered "the best example of Cuban architecture," received the 1953 Gold Medal from the National School of Architects. The crowning touch was the placing at the entrance of a stylized statue of a dancer by Cuban sculptor Rita Longa.
The glamour and magic of the Tropicana continues enchanting audiences and was chosen as one of the world's twenty locations by US networks ABC and CNN for the live broadcast welcoming the 20th Century's New Year's Eve.
Beyond Cuba's shores, Tropicana shows have also been acclaimed in widely different world venues, among which stand out: London's Royal Albert Hall, Montecarlo's Sporting Club, Berl in's Friederichstadt Palace and the Beacon Theater on Broadway. In 1992 it received the distinguished Best of the Best Five Star Diamond by the American Academy of Restaurants.