Cabaret Parisien at Hotel Nacional
Cuba has a passion for many things in life, but its love affair with music is timeless. It’s believed there are over three dozen musical styles - shaped by African, Spanish and Caribbean influences.
Much of this music can be enjoyed at bars and clubs across the country, but a certain type of musical performance has found fame in Cuba’s grandest settings. These are the lavish and exquisite cabaret shows, and few are quite as spectacular as Cabaret Parisien at the Hotel Nacional. An icon of its own, the Nacional is probably Cuba’s most legendary and famous hotel, having hosted the longest and most varied list of celebrities since its opening date in 1930. It might then come as no surprise to learn that one of the country’s oldest and most renowned cabaret shows has its home here.
A glamorous past
In its early years of pre-revolution razzmatazz, Hotel Nacional had its own grand casino and a famous face was likely to walk through the door any minute. Ernest Hemmingway, Spencer Tracy, Marlon Brando, Gary Cooper, Betty Grable, Frank Sinatra and countless other writers, actors, dancers and musicians all spent time amid its grandiose surroundings.
But while the roulette wheels rolled and the champagne was poured, it was the introduction of the Cabaret Parisien that became one of the main nightly attractions. This dazzling, superbly choreographed show full of glitter and glamour was one of the hottest tickets in town.
Today, Cabaret Parisien remains at the heart of the Hotel Nacional’s nightly entertainment and is certainly worth grabbing tickets for if you’re staying in Havana. You would only be excused from spending a night here if you had gotten tickets to see the grander Cabaret Tropicana show instead.
The modern day spectacle
Unabashed, lavish and kitsch in all the right ways, the modern day performance is held every night from 10:00 p.m. Combining Hispanic, African and Indo-American styles, the exotically-dressed troop of dancers take to the stage in multi-coloured outfits that feature more feather boas and frills than you’ll likely see in a lifetime. It’s a slick, expertly choreographed show that whisks you back to what it must have been like in the hotel’s glory years during the 1950s.
Make a night of it
You can combine a night here with drinks and a meal in one of the hotel’s restaurants, including the option of dining in the Cabaret Parisien itself. And if you’re feeling inspired once the curtain comes down, you can pick up a few dance moves thanks to the late-night salsa sessions. To get hold of tickets, you can either book seats through an independent tour operator or directly at the hotel lobby.
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Throughout its 70 year history, Tropicana nightclub has been frequented by both movie stars and presidents and was once one of the most glamorous clubs in the world. Famed for its spectacular open-air cabaret shows, this legendary Havana institution still has the razzmatazz of its 1950s glory years and arguably makes for one of the most fun nights out in town.
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