What does the title mean?
It means the "Spirit of Salsa" or in Spanish "El Espiritu de la Salsa." And it's a fond look at a group of salsa students at all levels of ability from all walks of life in New York.
These are everyday New Yorkers-our friends and neighbors-who are learning how to salsa dance with Tomas Guerrero, the maestro of salsa dancing in New York City's Spanish Harlem.
And maybe lurking inside you is that, sort of, inner salsero. You always wanted to get out on the dance floor, but you're so busy that you never get a chance to learn how to do it. These characters got out there and did it. And we get to see what happens to them.
What drew you to the subject?
(HBO's) Sheila Nevins had this inspired idea to make a documentary about something festive and celebratory based in and around New York. It seemed a real challenge to keep people's interest and keep our own interest as filmmakers without some kind of motivating incident, whether it's in a fiction film or a documentary. But there's a less known tradition of looking at everyday things with love and engagement and celebration.
And there's also the element of humor. As a filmmaker, even if you're working on the most serious film, you often find yourself striving to find that lighthearted moment that makes the audience laugh - that unexpected surprise. "El Espiritu de la Salsa" has quite a few chuckles, which is more uncommon with documentaries. So when you do get them, you cherish them.
What surprised you in making the film?
The film had us shooting all over New York City, and many of these places weren't places we'd spent much time in before. As a native New Yorker, it's always surprising to me how much of this city I don't really know.
It really introduced us to a whole other New York, socio-economically, culturally. But the nature of the material was such that we were able to visit these people through something festive, like salsa dancing, and the dynamics of a dance class.