The Drag Show

28 Jan

Since they were fully booked we had to move out of Jose and Denis’ apartment after two nights in Havana and into a neighbour’s casa two stories below. On our third evening in town we were invited back upstairs to enjoy a ‘surprise’ that Jose had organised for us. Beyond Cuban rum, which was always plentiful at their place, none of us were sure what to expect.

When we arrived at the apartment we were introduced to Jose’s friend Leo, an attractive young black man who wore a diamond stud in one ear. Leo disappeared into the kitchen when the rum started flowing and the volume of the salsa music was turned up a few notches.

Soon Jose took to the centre of the lounge room, and grasping a tall glass as if it were a microphone announced in an impressive display of showmanship that we were about to meet one of Havana’s finest Cabaret performers. A round of applause please!

From behind the curtain appeared Leo, spectacularly transformed into Esperanza. Wearing a beautiful wig, an evening gown, sparkling jewelery and high heels Esperanza proceeded to dance and mimed a number of Whitney Houston-esq diva ballads. We were privileged to witness at least three costume changes throughout the show.

Of course Alex and Michael received special attention from Esperanza. Both did their best to dance with her when invited on to the impromptu stage which Jose and Denis both thought was hilarious. At one point Jose leaned towards me and asked if I thought Michael knew that under all the big hair and sparkles was a man. I was very sure that Michael was aware that he was taking part in a drag show, but I told Jose that I wasn’t sure as to not destroy his fun.

In the final act Esperanza sang a song whose bold lyrics told the audience something like ‘this is me, here I am, tough if you don’t like it’. As the tune progressed Esperanza slowly started to hemorage her costume. We watched as the heels, then her dress, and finally her wig were passionately thrown to the floor. Next Esperanza started to take off her padded hips and stockings. For a few moments I thought she was about to go the full monty. But the finale ended with an underwear-clad Leo throwing a glass of rum at our little audience. Encore!

Well I never expected that my experiences in Cuba would include a private performance of a very professional drag show in a casa particular, though I am greatful that it did. I was reminded this night just how important it is to leave space in your itinerary for surprises when traveling, as often the most precious experiences you’ll enjoy far away from home are those that are unplanned.

After the show we were asked to hand over a couple of CUCs as a tip, which we happily gave to Leo. Alex and I also presented as a gift the pink wig that I wore during Carnival in Cartagena, Colombia. Leo was appreciative and gave me an earing in return, and asked me to please post him any other wigs, dresses or size thirteen heels that I may come across in my travels.

We spent the rest of the evening continuing to learn how to salsa and to move to regaton, which is very popular in Cuba. Isobelle and I finally mastered some salsa turns that night, but our partners still struggled with the basic ‘one-two-three-and’ steps. That any young healthy man could not pick up this move was beyond Jose’s comprehension.

All of us had a lot of fun teaching Alex an Michael how to move their hips. They finally got it (sort of) when Leo told them that they should move as though they were making love. Perhaps this is the language that all men understand even if Latin blood doesn’t pump though their veins?


One Response to “The Drag Show”

  1. Kim Flannery February 3, 2011 at 11:37 pm #

    I have really enjoyed reading about your experiences in Cuba. It sounds like you have had a lot of fun.

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