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The star performer of the evening was Maykel Fonts. Afro and rumba were some of the dance forms he performed. From breaking into an impromptu performance to jumping off the stage to going shirtless — the StreetDance 2 artiste did it all as the audience cheered him on

How did your dance journey begin?

Dancing on the streets of Cuba is very natural and as a child I did just that; but when I grew older I joined a very famous dance school in Havana called Tropicana and in the graduating year I was selected to join the school of the company. This is how my journey started.

Which is your favourite dance style and why?

I would say rumba and flamenco because I feel both are linked... the expressions in particular are similar. I encountered flamenco when I had gone to Europe and after that I went to Jerez de la Frontera in Spain to learn flamenco. Learning flamenco was like going back to my roots as Cuba has a Spanish influence and flamenco is a Spanish dance form. Though I have learnt other dance forms, when it comes to flamenco, my hunger never ends. Also, I feel the vocals of rumba and flamenco are similar.

On your first visit to India, what is your impression about Calcutta?

At the workshop, I realised people here have a natural disposition of dancing rumba and Afro-style. I am especially impressed with how spontaneously they picked up the hand and hip movements. I also found a similarity in the architecture of Calcutta and Cuba.

How was it being part of StreetDance 2?

It was a grand experience for me! I feel it was the culmination of my work that I did for 12 years. At first, I was asked only to train Sofia Boutella (who plays Eva in the movie), but the other choreographer was doing only ballroom stuff; when they saw my style they wanted to incorporate more Afro-Cuban styles and that’s how the whole thing happened.

Your top tip for youngsters looking for a career in dance...

Follow and focus on the techniques and make sure you enjoy the music.

Finally, your experience at Kolkata International Salsa Congress...

I enjoyed every bit of my journey here and I would love to come back because I felt a very strong connection with this place. To me, the voyage was long but totally worth it.

Translation by Ananya Kabir

LAUGH RIOT: Funnyman Papa CJ kept the audience ROFL between the dances at Tollygunge Club on Sunday. After poking fun at the Indian cricket team and Kingfisher Airlines, he asked, “What do you want me to talk about?” Mamata Banerjee, said a voice from the crowd. “I plan to stick around for another hour at least, so let’s not go there!” pat came Papa’s reply.

How does it feel to be back in the city?

Calcutta is home for me, so it always feels great to be back. I have had rolls from Nizam’s, played golf at Tollygunge Club and had steaks! So, you see how much I like Calcutta!

Best thing you like about Calcutta...

The people — there is something about the vibe and friendliness of the city and if you have grown up here then you are bound to find an instant connection!

Your take on Kolkata International Salsa Congress...

I think it’s cool. It takes hell of a lot of effort to organise something like this! Combining stand-up comedy with salsa is a gamble.

Your favourite dance form would be...

I would say jive because that’s the only form I can manage!

Best part about being a stand-up comedian...

I don’t remember the last time I had set an alarm to wake up... except to catch a flight!

On a day you feel less funny, how do you prepare before a show?

The audience... the vibe that I get from them lifts me up. The moment I walk towards the stage I get pepped up! Also, I try and get hot journalists to interview me before my show (grins).

Your favourite stand-up comedians...

Chris Rock and George Carlin. I also like Russell Peters.

The secret behind the name Papa CJ...

I am not going to reveal the secret behind it and I cook up different stories every time I am asked this question (grins)!

Text: Pramita Ghosh

Pictures: Arnab Mondal