When I wrote my “Salseros Lost in 2016” pieces for Dance Papi, I never thought I’d be writing a tribute to Albert Torres only months later. Unfortunately, that is what is happening now.
Albert Torres, promoter, salsa congress organizer, dancer, etc., died on May 25 after a stroke and following complications. Even though he had posted of ill health on his Facebook page for a couple of months, no one expected this tragic turn of events.
Tributes to him have been pouring in from all around the world as he was such an internationally recognized figure in the salsa and dance world.
No doubt the most heartfelt ones came from the Los Angeles Salsa Fest 2017 that was underway even as the sad news of his passing was announced. Among all the salsa dance congresses he organized around the world, the Los Angeles one was always his pet project. He brought in the top bands and top dancers to participate. And he was a central figure during the entire congress.
Torres grew up on the hard streets of Brooklyn, New York. Born in 1956 to a Puerto Rican family, he learned to love salsa and dance from his mother. At age 5 he began studying dance. But it was not an easy road to success. A recovered alcoholic and drug user, his path eventually took him to Los Angeles, where his rise in the salsa world began.
Those who knew him well remember when he began promoting salsa in several local clubs. Even then, he focused on bringing in top talent from New York, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Africa, Europe and Cuba. He also supported Los Angeles’ local bands.
He formalized what was soon to be his empire in 1992 when he created Albert Torres Productions, Inc. He organized the first salsa congress in Los Angeles in 1998, and that was the start of something big. He would go on to organize salsa congresses all over the world—from Brazil to Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Italy, Switzerland, Mexico, Australia, etc., etc. In fact, he could rarely be found in town except when it was Los Angeles’ turn.
Somehow, during all of this, Torres also found time to appear in television shows and movies, such as Mambo Kings and Dance With Me. He was a featured dancer at an Academy Awards ceremony and even made a guest appearance on the Keenan Wayan’s Show on which he danced with Jennifer Lopez.
Even as early as 2001, Torres had captured the attention of the media. In 2001, in a piece that appeared in the Los Angeles Times, writer Agustín Gurza wrote: “Torres is the kind of imaginative entrepreneur who somehow manages to make his dreams come true. In 1996, he was the first promoter to bring the celebrated Cuban group Los Van Van to Los Angeles. He also brought the legendary Orquesta Aragon to town after a 30-year absence, and even revived New York’s seminal Fania All Stars for a one-night stand at the Hollywood Palladium.”
Torres received many awards and accolades for his accomplishments. As early as 1996, he was named the Best Salsa Club Promoter of the Year at the Latino Music Awards. In 2011, he was the Grand Marshall of the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York. That same year, he was accepted as a member of the Council for Dance of UNESCO.
Despite his grueling schedule, Torres loved what he did. As he told Los Angeles Times writer Ernesto Lechner in 2008: “I travel around the world, and it’s exhausting, but at the same time I get to see the glow in people’s eyes, the glee of doing something they love. Maybe they don’t even understand the words. But boy, they live it, they feel it and they dream it.”
His legacy will be that people around the world will keep feeling it, keep dreaming it . . . and keep dancing it!