“On Your Feet!” story personal for Jewish actress from Argentina

Photo: DJ Corey

By Lee J. Green

The Broadway in Birmingham musical “On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan” is close to the heart for actress Cami Taleisnik, who grew up in Argentina’s Jewish community.

The show opens May 9 and runs through May 14 at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. Featuring Miami Sound Machine hit songs “The Rhythm is Going to Get You,” “Conga” and “Get On Your Feet,” the original production debuted in Chicago, then a few months later in 2015 first hit Broadway.

“I feel like I am telling their story by telling my story,” said Taleisnik, who grew up in Cordoba, Argentina’s second-largest city, and moved to the United States last year after spending time in Mexico. “It’s the story of immigrants coming to the United States for a better life.”

The 32-year-old singer/dancer/actress was introduced to Miami Sound Machine’s music by her older sister. “Gloria Estefan is an icon and an inspiration. She worked hard to achieve her status. I saw the Broadway show in 2017 and it really touched my heart,” she said.

Taleisnik came to the U.S. last year to perform with a Spanish-language “On Your Feet,” premiering in Washington. This past March, she got offered this Broadway tour production, and two days later began the tour.

“It was like a dream come true,” she said. Taleisnik is a swing in the show and has had to learn seven different parts. “I shadow several performers during rehearsal and prepare myself to play any role on a given night. It keeps me on my toes. It’s a challenge, but it’s a lot of fun.”

Growing up, she said her family was active in Cordoba’s Jewish community. Taleisnik got interested in dance at the city’s Jewish community center. “I grew up learning Israeli dances and I did some (Israeli and Latin) dances at my Bat Mitzvah.”

Attending a bi-lingual high school with a focus on the arts helped Taleisnik learn to act and sing in English. She would go on to earn a degree in architecture from a university in Cordoba and worked as an architect for a couple years.

But visiting the U.S. to see shows spurred her dream to make it on the stage. She would go on to perform professionally in an Argentinian production of “Shrek The Musical” and later, “The Lion King” in Mexico.

Taleisnik said that her heritage goes back to Europe and a long line of Ashkenazi Jews. She said she has always had a strong of pride growing up a part of “two communities.”

“Being a part of the Jewish community and the Latin community has given me a very strong sense of community,” she said. “I think that’s also really what ‘On Your Feet’ is about. It’s a family. We’re making community in this show.”