Photo: Matthew Murphy

Kennedy Center’s On Your Feet! Offers More Than The Rhythm

The Kennedy Center’s On Your Feet! lives up to everything you’d expect from a musical filled with the songs of Gloria and Emilio Estefan and their legendary group, the Miami Sound Machine. The audience can’t help but mouth along the words, shimmy their shoulders, stomp their feet and fight the urge during the entire first act to dance to that conga beat.

But beyond the bright musical numbers, the loud costumes, and the budding romance between Gloria (played exquisitely by Christie Prades) and Emilio (an incredibly charming and leggy Mauricio Martinez), family is at the root of On Your Feet! 

We meet Gloria’s grandmother and father, who encourage her at every moment to step out of her shell and let her musical talent shine. We learn a dark, resentful secret about her mother, who fled Cuba during the revolution, that carries on throughout the second act.

Anyone who has felt the tension between family responsibility and the desire to find your own identity and follow your dreams will feel a pang in their heart.

The Estefans are the original #RelationshipGoals. From the moment Emilio sets eyes on Gloria, he knows that her talent is special and different, and he makes it his responsibility to make her a star first, and woo her secondly.

A sweet highlight in their love story is during an early Miami Sound Machine rehearsal, where Gloria perfects her choreography as she sings “1-2-3” to Emilio, with the help of an incredibly talented ensemble. The music, smiles and dancing will whisk you back to the memory of the first person who stole your heart away.

When their record exec tells them that there’s no way a Latin group can successfully cross over, Emilio’s response elicits rousing applause and cheers from the audience.

Their story is the story of the person sitting next to you, the story of the girl who practiced her piano for hours after school, the story of the father looking to build a legacy for their family, the story of any person with a talent and a drive who is determined to prove naysayers wrong – a story that is above it all, uniquely American.

On Your Feet! is playing at The Kennedy Center though Sunday, January 28. You can get tickets here

The Kennedy Center: 2700 F St. NW, DC; 202-467-4600;


Valeria Villarroel

Valeria Villarroel is a lover of good music, art, and food. Raised in Boston, Valeria has made Washington, DC her home since 2011. Valeria works as a video editor and freelance digital strategist, writer and social media editor for publications and businesses in the DC area. She loves comic book movies, dogs, politics, pop culture, vintage rhythm & blues, posing for impromptu fashion shoots in the middle of the sidewalk, and always leaves her coffee on the kitchen counter before heading out. You can see more of her work at, and you can follow her on all social media @itsvalerious.