Wednesday, November 28, 2012

'Tucson’s Heart and Soul': El Casino Ballroom Re-Debuts 'Fiesta El Casino'

Posted By on Wed, Nov 28, 2012 at 5:00 PM


If you missed the debut of Tucson writer and filmmaker Daniel Buckley's Tucson’s Heart and Soul: El Casino Ballroom, thank the Tucson gawds you've been given a chance to redeem yourself.

The documentary on the life, times, destruction and rebuilding of Tucson iconic performance and celebration venue first premiered to a full-house at the Fox Tucson Theatre in August. While Buckley was a bit disappointed the documentary was still a work-in-progress when it screened as a part of the Cine Plaza series, this time its done and the "redebut" takes place appropriately at El Casino Ballroom during Fiesta El Casino, Saturday, Dec. 8, 6 p.m. Doors open at 5 p.m. so you can get your El Casino on.

The Ballroom, and I shouldn't have to tell you this, but I have to, is located at 436 E. 26th St. $5 admission at the door goes to the El Casino Restoration Fund.

From Buckley's press release:

This project was supported in part by a PLACE Initiative grant from the Tucson Pima Arts Council and was completed in partnership with the Fox Theatre, KXCI Radio, The CHISPA Foundation, The Latin American Social Club, El Casino Ballroom and the Arizona Historical Society.

For 65 years Tucson’s legendary El Casino Ballroom has been home plate for the festivities of Tucson’s Latino population and the rest of the city.

Its iconic dance floor — the biggest in Arizona — shouldered fans of everyone from Mexican film stars Pedro Infante, Maria Felix and Lola Beltran to Fats Domino, James Brown and many more. It housed clubs for the Mexican community, served up dances every Saturday night and created lifelong memories for generations of Tucsonans.

It was the headquarters of Arizona’s Tejano music scene in the genre’s infancy and the place where such local greats as Love LTD and Adalberto got their start.

In the 1980s KXCI launched its game changing House Rockin’ series at El Casino, bringing throngs of zydeco, blues and world music fans to its sprung dance floor.

“El Casino Ballroom doesn’t make money, it makes memories,” says Luis Cruz, one of the crew members who helped restore El Casino.

It’s a story of family, community, and a coming together of people, after its roof blew off in 1991, to rebuild the place of their memories. It’s a story of music and love, of countless weddings, quinceaneras, political rallies and community celebrations of every sort, told by the people who lived it.

Film maker Daniel Buckley spent 18 months shooting at El Casino Ballroom, interviewing patrons and performers, restoration crew members and families, distilling a bit of 65 years into 65 minutes. A well-received work-in-progress version debuted to a huge crowd at the Fox Theatre in August as parts of its Cine Plaza series.

Now the completed film will be seen where it all took place, at El Casino Ballroom, as part of the first Fiesta El Casino celebration. Proceeds will go to continue the restoration effort and restore the ballroom to its pre-storm size.

After the film is shown the party will roll on into the night with local favorites Los Nawdy Dawgs, Relente and Suerte ready to heat up the dance floor. In addition singer Joe Ahumada will join Relente to recreate some of former house band Love LTD’s trademark sound.

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