Salsa aficionados who missed Luis Enrique’s high-energy, dancing-in-the-aisles 2015 performance at Montgomery College’s Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center in Rockville have another chance. The Nicaraguan-born singer-songwriter known as El Principe de la Salsa (The Prince of Salsa) will return the evening of Saturday, March 10, as part of the center’s Guest Artist Series.
Debra Fyodorov, the center’s theater manager who saw the show, described Enrique as “a stunning performer (who) mesmerized the audience,” adding that “from start to finish, the audience was on their feet. Every aisle was full of salsa dancers.”
“The entire performance was in Spanish, and we had many patrons attend who didn’t speak a word of Spanish; they wanted to come and hear his music and salsa dance, if they could,” Fyodorov continued. “Every face in the audience had a smile on it, and people cried because they loved it so much. It was an absolutely grand evening!”
The show was sold out, but they accommodated as many people as possible by selling standing room spots that evening. Although the college’s student body is 24.8 percent Hispanic, Fyodorov said, “We pulled a tremendous ethnically diverse audience and at least 60 percent of the audience were new patrons–young and old alike.” Montgomery College’s student body is 24.8 percent Hispanic.
Enrique, now 55 and based in Miami, Florida, left his native country at age 15 to join his mother in Whittier, California, where he attended La Serna High School. “My father’s side of the family are musicians and very involved in the arts,” he said. In fact, his father is singer-composer Francisco Luis Mejia Godoy and his uncles are well-known singers, Luis Enrique Mejia Godoy and Carlos Mejia Godoy. “Since age 5, I was very drawn to music, but did not realize that I wanted this to be my profession until I got to the United States and enrolled in a music class.”
That class during high school was Enrique’s only formal training. Propelling him to success were natural talent, hard work and a taste for “any old-school salsa singers;” he cites his role models as the “Queen of Salsa” Celia Cruz, Cheo Feliciano, the orchestra El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico and Oscar D’León. The results, so far, are 14 awards (and even more nominations), including one American Grammy (for “Ciclos,” Best Tropical Latin Album, 2010), three Latin Grammys, four Premio Lo Nuestro, four Latin Billboard and two Premios Ronda.
In the 1980s, Enrique was among the earliest pioneers of the commercially successful salsa romántica movement, a slower, lighter-sounding kind of salsa popular in Latin America’s upscale dance clubs and on its radio stations. Since then, he has released some 21 albums, consisting of his own compositions as well as all-time Spanish hits he has curated and enhanced with salsa rhythms.
Enrique also has done television and Broadway. He co-hosted the first season of “Objetivo Fama,” known as the Latin American version of “American Idol,” in 2004, and in 2013, performed in the Broadway production of “Forever Tango,” along with 16 tango dancers (including “Dancing With the Stars” dancers Karina Smirnoff and Maksim Chmerkovskiv) and an 11-piece orchestra.
Coming to the United States as an “illegal immigrant” is not an aspect of his story Enrique has forgotten. In 2016, he expressed his thoughts and concerns about immigration rights to President Barack Obama at the annual conference of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.
Despite all the success and recognition in his career, Enrique said that “being a dad” to his 16-year-old son, Luca Mejía, is his proudest accomplishment.
At Montgomery College, said The Prince of Salsa, the audience can expect “to have a great time and dance a lot!” And after that, Enrique plans to “keep working hard on my music career—and also to develop my newfound passion for photography.”
Luis Enrique will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 10, as part of the Guest Artist Series at Montgomery College’s Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center, 51 Mannakee St., Rockville. Tickets are $65, $55 for seniors and $50 for students. Call 240-567-5301 or visit montgomerycollege.edu/pac.