Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Brown Skin Showgirls, Vol II The Cuban Edition is Here!

Available in print and digital formats!    


From the secular to the spiritual, Afro-Cuban music and dance were rapidly growing in popularity in the U.S. by the mid-20th century. Yet, after The Cuban Revolution of 1959, international relations were shattered, artistic freedoms ended and travel was restricted to the tropical island once known as America's favorite vacation spot. 

Although the best talent from Cuba has long been forgotten in the states, Afro-Cuban culture still has a strong hold on many U.S. troupes who incorporate a rich Latin blend into their repertoires.Still, there is much to be discovered about how the Afro-Cuban craze landed and took root in American soil. 

Created by TRIBES Entertainment for The Harlem in Havana Project, BROWN-SKINSHOWGIRLS, VOL II: The Cuban Edition is a black and white photographic collection of the Cuban women who performed rhumba, salsa and calypso on Leon Claxton’s “Harlem in Havana” Revue in the 1950s. This book is guaranteed to expand your knowledge of these talented performers who wowed American and Canadian audiences, and helped popularize Latin entertainment in a way that still resonates today. 

All attempts have been made to verify the names and whereabouts of the women, and men, appearing in this book. Thanks to this special collector’s edition, they will never be forgotten. Get ready to be titillated! 

Click here to learn more. 

Friday, March 30, 2018

Documentary Film About 'Harlem in Havana' Spotlights Afro Cuban Inspired Artists

Dancer and Choreographer
 Andrea Woods Valdés
DURHAM, N.C. - March 30, 2018 - PRLog -- Although the best talent from Cuba has long been forgotten in the states, Afro Cuban culture still has a strong hold on American entertainers. Today, many U.S. performance troupes incorporate blends of Latin, African and European cultures into their repertoires, but there is still much to be discovered about how the Afro Cuban craze landed and took root in American soil.

Later on this year, the long-awaited documentary film JIG SHOW | Leon Claxton's Harlem in Havana by producer and director Leslie Cunningham, will shine a light on this rich history. This weekend, Cunningham teams up with cinematographer Kelly Creedon in Durham, NC to conduct some of the final interviews for the film. Lined up are two powerhouse academics, dancer and choreographer Andrea Woods Valdés and artist and writer Dr. Joan Francisco Valdés Santos.

JIG SHOW is the story of 'Harlem in Havana', one of America's most successful traveling shows that birthed music icons, broke carnival records and significantly influenced Black and Latin entertainment during the Jim Crow era. The film also unearths the legend of African American showman Leon Claxton, a world-renowned impresario whose vision, passion and determination produced a multicultural stage show that still resonates with wonder today.

Arguably the hallmark girl show revue in North America, Claxton's popular midway attraction introduced a chorus-line of brown skin showgirls performing exotic, rumba, salsa and calypso dances. The film considers Claxton's work in pre- and post-revolution Cuba- maneuvering government and working closely with Cuban officials and nationals, such as the first recorded Santeria singer Mercedes Valdés'  and Cuban dance troupe, The Cuban Dancing Dolls, who traveled and performed early salsa and rumba on Claxton's show before the revolution. Claxton not only presented dance troupes from Havana, Cuba, he discovered new talent all over the Caribbean, including Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad where the merengue dance was born. Read more.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Harlem in Havana Photography

The Harlem in Havana Photography Exhibition 
Coming 2018, this photography exhibit features more than one hundred never-before seen images taken of The Harlem in Havana Revue spanning the 1930s through the 1960s.

Visit the Harlem in Havana Shop  
to purchase cool collectibles!


Sunday, July 30, 2017

View the Collector's Magazine


Get the Harlem in Havana Collector's Magazine in digital, print or via IPad! This special collector's edition features 28 pages from the 1955, 1958 and 1959 Harlem in Havana show programs that feature cast members and includes autographs from the entertainers themselves. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Work-in-Progress Screening in DC, Saturday, July 29th!

Capitol Dance & Cinema Festival's feature film series continues Saturday, July 29 @ Dance Exchange with a work-in-progress screening of the coming documentary film JIG SHOW | Leon Claxton's Harlem in Havana by filmmaker Leslie Cunningham.
  • 7:00pm - 7:30pm Harlem in Havana Photo Exhibition and Event Seating 
  • 7:30pm - 8:30pm Film Screening Q &A with filmmaker

The event is hosted by Jen Ray of Dancinema
Brown Skin Showgirls Books Available for Purchase! 

Free Admission! .
Dance Exchange
7117 Maple Avenue
Takoma Park, Maryland

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Some of the Entertainment Legends Who Toured and Performed on Leon Claxton's Shows Before Becoming Big Stars

Fontella Bass, a St. Louis-born soul singer, hit the top of the R&B charts with Rescue Me in 1965. At 17, she auditioned on a dare for Leon Claxton's show and was hired to play piano and sing in the chorus, making $175 per week for the two weeks it was in town. She wanted to go on tour with Claxton but her mother refused and according to Bass "... she literally dragged me off the train".

Micki  Lynn was discovered by Leon Claxton in a West Coast nightclub. She toured and performed on Harlem in Havana for several seasons before recording with Capitol Records. 
The Avalons, 1950s
The Avalons, a popular Doo Wop group from the Tidewater VA area, joined Leon Claxton's Road Show and toured throughout the United States for several seasons in the 1950s and 60s. 

Big Memphis Ma Rainey worked in several road shows before landing in Memphis, Tennessee in the late '20s and becoming a regular performer on the city's famed Beale Street, where she was known as "the Mother of Beale Street." She toured and performed on Leon Claxton's show before recording with Sun Records in 1953.  

Chuck Berry, 1940s 
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Chuck Berry had an interest in music from an early age and gave some of his first public performances on Leon Claxton's road shows before going onto become the King of Rock and Roll. 

Merceditas Valdés, 1950s 
Merceditas Valdés (far left) was a Cuban singer who specialized in Afro-Cuban traditional music. In 1949, she became one of the first female Santería singers to be recorded. Valdés toured and performed as a featured act with the Cuban Dancing Dolls on Leon Claxton's Harlem in Havana revue in the mid 1950s. After the Cuban Revolution, the commercialization of Afro-Cuban music was restricted. Nonetheless, Valdés managed to make several recordings in the early 1960s before halting her recording career.

Rufus Thomas, 1940s
A rhythm and blues, funk and soul singer and comic entertainer, Rufus Thomas toured on Leon Claxton's revue in the early 1940s. Thomas went onto record with Chess and Sun Records and was the first R&B disc jocky at WDIA in Memphis.

Five Pennies, 1950s
The Five Pennes Doo Wop group started performing in Knoxville, TN. Around 1955, the group toured with the “Harlem in Havana” variety show, organized by producer Leon Claxton before recording with Motown Records.  

Dinah Washington
The "Queen of the Blues" - Dinah Washington was a American singer and pianist from Chicago who has been cited as "the most popular black female recording artist of the '50s". In the  late 1950s and early 1960s before her death, Washington toured with Leon Claxton's shows and  performed on the Las Vegas Strip.  Washington was a close friend to the Claxtons and often stayed at their showplace home in Tampa.