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Keeping things lively, spicy and sensual

There was plenty of theatrical flash that cut through the haze of stage fog that hung over the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts' Mainstage Theater on Wednesday night as Havana-based Kings of Salsa took the stage for their opening production number.

Backed by a 10-piece salsa band of musicians and singers, the troupe's seven dancers moved through a stylized version of Cuban club salsa dancing that energized a receptive audience.

There was also plenty of skin on display in the opening number and throughout the program as both the men and the women of the troupe rifled through a ton of costume changes for each of the show's many dance numbers that ran one into the other; the men often dancing shirtless.

The dance numbers in the program's first half, many of which offered something other than salsa dancing, were tied together by an overriding theme of sensual allure. Sweaty bodies, come-hither-strutting, lustful glares and a bevy of hip gyrating and shaking were pervasive throughout.

The flashiest dance moves came in choreography that was more based in jazz and ballet -- the dancers, (mostly the men) showing versatility in their training that went beyond club dancing.

Of note in the first half were a sexually charged STOMP-like number in which the dancers drummed and danced simultaneously, and a very physical group dance in which the dancers used wooden flip-flops like tap shoes to pound the stage.

The program's second half opened with another flashy production number that was followed by a segment in which the dancers took turns in brief solos showing off their impressive dance skills. The program then took on decidedly party-like atmosphere as Roclan Gonzalez Chavez, the show's main male singer, invited the audience to join him and the dancers onstage for an impromptu salsa lesson.

After the lesson and the stage was cleared, the show continued with perhaps the best dance number of the evening involving the entire cast, a handful of scarves, and a powerful blend of predatory salsa dancing, machismo and attacking choreography that left one on edge.

While at times the show invoked a sort of cruise ship or resort show feel to it, and it could have benefited from a few wow-factor salsa numbers, overall Kings of Salsa was a really good time with great music and singing, especially from singer Danais Menendez Valdes, a myriad of different styled dance numbers to keep things lively and lots of scantily clad, beautiful and talented performers to pull it off.

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Kings of Salsa    

Wednesday evening in the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts Mainstage Theatre, North Campus, Amherst.