El Caballero de la Salsa sparks the salsa spirit Saturday night  

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Puerto Rican bandleader Gilberto Santa Rosa performs for an excited crowd in the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts. Audience members danced and sang to the lively music of the band on Saturday night.  Photos by Julie Spillane / The Daily Campus.

Puerto Rican bandleader Gilberto Santa Rosa performs for an excited crowd in the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts. Audience members danced and sang to the lively music of the band on Saturday night. Photos by Julie Spillane / The Daily Campus.

Gilberto Santa Rosa lit the night on fire at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts Saturday evening with his performance of sultry salsa songs that called everyone to the dance floor. El Caballero de la Salsa (The Gentleman of Salsa) sang nonstop for two hours to an adoring crowd of lifelong listeners, date-night couples and salsa fans.  

Santa Rosa began promptly at 8p.m., and the audience was ready to dance. Couples almost immediately filled the dancing areas roped off on either side of the cabaret tables near the stage. Others waited to dance until they had eaten the empanadas, pernil and flan that were part of Jorgensen’s special Latin-inspired menu for this performance.  

El Caballero de la Salsa was billed in the Jorgensen’s program as a living legend, and it was clear that he was one from the audience’s love of him. Throughout the performance, audience members took photos or videos of the icon singing their favorite songs. They also sang along to a few of Santa Rosa’s biggest hits and gave big rounds of applause as the singer transitioned from one song to another.  

Most of Santa Rosa’s songs focused on love: falling in love, experiencing heartbreak, trying to forget the person you once loved and moving on. Santa Rosa performed each song with the same high level of energy and emotion. Some of the hits he performed included “Que Alguien Me Diga,” “Si Te Dijeron” and “Que Manera de Quererte.”   

Audience member Edgar Alejandro, a fan of Santa Rosa from Springfield, Massachusetts, described Santa Rosa as the Frank Sinatra of Latin music.  

“For him to come to UConn… is huge,” Alejandro said. “For UConn to get him here is a surprise for us.”  

Alejandro attended the performance with his wife Lilly and said that he grew up listening to Santa Rosa. He and his wife are big fans of the singer and only heard of Santa Rosa’s upcoming performance at the Jorgensen late last week. They were excited that the legendary singer was coming to UConn and bought tickets as soon as they could.  

Santa Rosa’s performance was an active one. The singer and his band members salsaed on stage a few times, and the music never ended. There wasn’t a single moment when Santa Rosa wasn’t singing or a band member wasn’t playing. Unlike many other singers in concert, Santa Rosa never took breaks to talk to the audience. He and his band played all night long, only briefly pausing for cheers from the audience when he asked who was from places in Latin America like Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Peru and Colombia and to later introduce his band members.  

“Oh, he’s amazing,” Yesenia Villegas, a Santa Rosa fan from Connecticut, said. “He can put on a show, as you can tell. He was by himself all night long, and it was amazing.”  

By the end of the performance, most of the audience had left their seats to salsa on the dance floor near the stage. While the front of the dance floor was crowded with people trying to get some good pictures and videos of the singer, the back of the floor was left to couples who came to salsa. Partners spun and swayed to the beat of Santa Rosa’s songs all night long. 

Santa Rosa’s performance even inspired some dancing in the aisles when the dance floor got too crowded. A few couples salsaed while others just shimmied their hips on their way back to their seat from the bar. Even if an audience member remained seated, they were sure to be tapping their toes or nodding their head to the music.  

Towards the end of the performance, Santa Rosa showed off his skill on the timbales. The audience went wild as Santa Rosa improvised and played alongside another timbales player.  

At the end of the night, Santa Rosa sang his one last note before leaving the stage while his band played the ending of the song. The audience cheered for the icon and left the theater satisfied with their long, sizzling night of salsa.   

Santa Rosa’s performance took place as a part of UConn’s celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month and was co-sponsored by the Puerto Rican and Latin American Cultural Center.  


Stephanie Santillo is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at stephanie.santillo@uconn.edu.

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