Famed Salsa legend and Hollywood choreographer turned mega event planner Albert Torres has died.
Torres who grew up between New York and Puerto Rico told Downtown Weekly in a recent interview that as a kid he once swayed away from his Latino heritage until fate led him to his mother’s record collection of Salsa hits. It was his mother who eventually taught him the dance steps as an adolescent. Those same steps he used to impress the neighborhood girls would later lead him into celebrity after a chance meeting at a local hang out with the creative team behind the Mambo Kings (1991).
Torres who showcased heavily in the making pointed out that most of his footage ended up on the cutting room floor but the experience was still amazing revealing that he was the one who taught Antonio Banderas how to move yet had little success teaching him English, which was extremely rough for Banderas at the time.
The movie was the hit that catapulted Torres into the limelight landing him on the same stages with the likes of Debbie Allen during The Academy Awards (1992), and affording him countless opportunities to show off his signature moves, Debbie had told him felt to her like, “The dance of his heart”.
With moves so outstanding Torres once found himself out dancing peers like Jennifer Lopez to the amazement of fans everywhere on late night tv. As a Hollywood choreographer, he would instruct actors such as Vanessa Williams, Jack Lemmon, and Walter Mathau in two of America’s most romantic films, Dance With Me (1993) and Out to Sea (1998). Everywhere there was Salsa, Torres seemed to be there. Albert Torres began producing dance and competition events in 1999.
For DTLA his passing could mean the postponement of his 19th Annual LA Salsa Fest scheduled for this weekend at the Bonaventure Hotel. Torres had planned to hold the festival there for the next few years with this year’s event offering a free shuttle from the Westin Bonaventure to the Opening Pre-Party at Stevens Steakhouse in Commerce, followed by the Festival’s Opening Night Party back at the hotel continuing with a variety of events from May -25th – May 29th. The hotel which Torres reported was almost entirely booked would also fill with merchants, world-class instructors, world champion performers, Caribbean dance and music enthusiasts, fans, musicians and travelers from around the globe who faithfully return each year to participate. This year’s return would also include a Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson.
LA Salsa Fest showcases the world’s best in Salsa, Bachata, Kizomba, Zouk & Hip Hop dancers, many of which were hand picked by Torres by special invite.
The Festival, Torres told Downtown Weekly, celebrated the diversity of Afro/Latino rhythms and the unmistakable legacy it had brought to the world. The freedom of the dance and its unifying powers is what drove Torres to do what he did. And he did it well traveling to as many as 48 countries a year throwing conferences, contests, revolving around Salsa performances around the world. He was especially fond of the youth who he felt the festival influenced in a positive way.
Downtown Weekly will honor the legend of Torres by posting the interview in its entirety in the days to come. Rest in Peace friend.
Photo by Daniel Byun