Lopez, Anthony and King have all played active roles in scouting the ¡Q’Viva! hopefuls to try to make some worthwhile dreams come true. “Everybody that you’re gonna see has been doing it all their life,” Anthony says. “They have put their time in that dream, but the dream was so distant that someone would come and knock on their door in, say, Medellín, Colombia.”
The reactions of potential performers have, as expected, ranged from stunned silence to screams of excitement. The day after Anthony’s shoot at El Morro, a group of dancers, of both the fusion and traditional ilk, are called by the production crew to the Galería Nacional del Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, a Spanish-Colonial building that was once a Dominican monastery and now houses a museum. There’s a 20-something with a bleached asymmetrical haircut who nevertheless specializes in traditional flamenco. There’s another hopeful named Carlos, a curly-maned spark plug from the hardscrabble San Juan neighborhood of Bayamón, who made up his own style of dance in the streets, where he would escape to in an effort to avoid his troubled family life. When Lopez sweeps in, radiant in a white, Grecian-style dress and her hair meticulously waved, there are tears from the hopefuls. “I loved you in Maid in Manhattan!” Carlos cries in Spanish.
If ¡Q’Viva! seems unorthodox, it’s all part of the plan. Rule bending is especially old hat for Anthony. Mainstream audiences now know him as a salsa singer who fills stadiums internationally. But while he has been involved in music for years, salsa was originally one of the last genres he wanted to tackle.
In fact, his earliest hits, at least around his native New York, were in the club scene. In the late ’80s, Anthony laced some of the biggest tracks in the then-popular genre of Latin freestyle, a dance sound characterized by electro beats and syrupy, romantic lyrics. He also graced early house-music tracks by Todd Terry and freely floated between these genres — and even the hip-hop and rhythm-and-blues scenes — in his hometown with no problem.
It was only when he finally attempted to tap into purely Latin sounds that he hit some roadblocks. Problem number one: He had more of an affinity for the urban sounds of New York than for the classicism of tropical music. “First and foremost, my school was more R&B. I sang differently and I wasn’t a traditional salsero, so critics were all over me. They even criticized me on my use of the clave,” he says of the class of rhythmic pattern that forms the basis of salsa. “So I told them they could go shove it, and I did it my way. I think what happened was, I did it my way to the point that it attracted these disenfranchised youth that looked like me — second-generation Latinos that I came to represent.”