Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso, Havana
With marble muses and winged angels on the baroque facade, the grande dame of Havana’s colonial-era theatres dominates this a part of the outdated city. Inside, Anna Pavlova and Sarah Bernhardt as soon as trod the boards, and it was lavishly restored between 2013 and 2015. The 1,000+ seat auditorium – beneath a half-tonne chandelier – hosts dance and theatre occasions, and witnessed President Obama’s epic speech to Cubans in 2016. Don’t miss classical ballet choreographed by Cuba National Ballet’s 97-year-old prima ballerina assoluta, Alicia Alonso, or performances by Carlos Acosta’s new Acosta Danza. Japan’s avant garde Karas dance company wowed audiences in spring 2018. Check billboards, too, for acclaimed Cuba troupe appearances by Danza Contemporánea.
• Tickets round £23. Buy in individual on the field workplace (Tue-Sun 9am-5pm, field workplace reopens at 6pm for last-minute tickets on day of efficiency). Guided excursions of the theatre (day by day) £Three.80. Havana’s biennial ballet pageant runs 28 October-6 November, Paseo de Martí, +53 7861 3077, no web site
Callejón de Hamel, Havana
Crowds watching a efficiency in Callejón de Hamel. Photograph: Alamy
Every Sunday at midday, a small alley in Centro Havana thunders into life with rumba, a rhythmic music and dance originating within the dockside properties of enslaved Africans in Matanzas and Havana. Fusing Afro-Cuban conga drums (tumbadora), claves (wood percussion sticks) guagua (a drum, also called a catá) and European call-and-response tune, the fizzing noon occasion is a should. Hamel Alley is stuffed with murals and sculptures by Salvador González Escalona depicting rituals of African orishas (saints) of Santería: a Catholicism-fused-with-Yoruba faith.
• Free however donations welcome. Callejón de Hamel, between Calle Espada and Calle Aramburu, Centro Habana. Havana’s Rhythm and Dance Festival runs from Four-10 March 2019
Streets of Old Havana
Artists participate in 2016’s Old Havana: City in Movement Festival. Photograph: Alamy
Cobbled plazas, distressed partitions and shaded courtyards are the stage for a few of Cuba’s extra curious dance performances. The annual Old Havana: City in Movement pageant sees tons of carry out up to date and folks dances, expert maypole strikes, youngsters’s parades, costumed timba turns, in addition to the assured strides of dancers on stilts (Los Gigantes). Every few years (lack of funding and pure disasters have prevented it being each two), the Havana Biennial (Bienal de la Habana) artwork truthful options visible hits: in 2012, Conga Irreversible noticed arts collective Los Carpinteros reverse the colorful Cuban conga, with dancers and musicians wearing black, moving backwards, enjoying music again to entrance, and singing lyrics in reverse.
• Old Havana: City in Movement (Habana Vieja: Ciudad en Movimiento), Three-9 April 2019. Bienal de la Habana 12 April-12 May 2019
Fábrica de Arte Cubano, Havana
Photograph: Matthew Pickles
Brooklyn meets Berlin in Havana’s cultural powerhouse, which was developed out of an outdated peanut oil manufacturing unit and hitched to the sting of the town’s artwork district. Opened in 2014, the Cuban Art Factory, brainchild of musician X Alfonso, reveals avant-garde pictures and murals, and has auditoriums, bars, a patio, a cigar nook and a restaurant. It attracts multi-generational crowds, travellers, and Cuban farándula (celebrities) to its films, reside music, dance and theatre – entertaining punters for simply the £1.50 entry. Since the venue opened, there has been flamenco from Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba, tango, and a contemporary dance interpretation set to Ravel’s Bolero by a trio of Cuban troupes (Acosta Danza, Danza-Teatro Retazos, and DanzaAbierta), together with courses from Cuban professionals in capoeira, Afrobeat, and up to date dance.
• Calle 26 e/ 11 and 13 streets, Vedado, on Facebook
Jardines del 1830, Havana
Havana’s sultriest salsa venue is a patio on the seafront between a roadside restaurant and the kooky Japanese Gardens. It’s Gaudí meets 18th-century shellcraft – with coral- and shell-encrusted caves – and a tiny Moorish mosque. Arrive at weekends for spellbinding reside bands, comparable to Habana d’Primera enjoying timba – salsa mixing in hip-hop, disco, nueva trova and jazz – below the celebs. Drinks from a small bar assist loosen ft. There’s no scarcity of dancing companions, and for solo girls the scene is much less intense than in different haunts, comparable to La Gruta (Avenida 23, in the identical district).
• Admission from £7.50 (relying on band); Malecón, nook of Calle 20, Vedado, +53 7838 3090; from 10pm
Casa de la Trova, Santiago de Cuba
Musician’s acting at Casa de la Trova. Photograph: Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket through Getty Images
The success of Buena Vista Social Club (began in 1996) helped to revive the careers of numerous Cuban crooners and launched Compay Segundo’s tune Chan Chan into the dwelling rooms of tens of millions. This son music (predecessor to trendy salsa) is rooted in colonial Spain and slave-era Africa, combining devices of Africa such because the bongo and claves with Spanish tune, and the tres, a three-string guitar from Spain. Walk into the balconied 19th-century Casa de la Trova’s street-level salon to groove to old-timers. Matinees are much less intense affairs than night grand-salon stormers (and a kinder surroundings for self-conscious overseas dancers). Check the billboard exterior for bands. Los Jubilados are a favorite.
• Heredia 206 between San Felíx and San Pedro streets, Santiago, +53 2265 2689. Matinee from 1pm, evenings 6pm-1am, £Three.80, promociones.egrem.co.cu. Look out for Festival Internacional Matamoros Son (2019 dates tbc) and call cultural company Paradiso (Heredia Street 302 between Carnicería and Calvario streets) for particulars, +53 2262 0214
Tumba Francesa in Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba road parade. Photograph: Alamy
After the slave-led riot in Haiti in 1791, hundreds of French espresso planters fled to jap Cuba with their slaves. Along with the fragrant bean, and French china, they introduced with them a style for lengthy frocks and genteel ballroom steps. In jap Cuba this mixed-up music and dance performs out as a court docket dance set to African devices and rhythm. Tumba Francesa survives in three locations in Cuba nevertheless it’s most accessible to travellers in Santiago. Watch it in a city-centre home the place dancers in pagoda sleeves and flouncy robes promenade to tunes that includes three massive tambores (drums).
• Tumba Francesa, Calle Carnicería 268 between Trinidad and Habana streets (no cellphone). Year-round Tuesdays and Thursdays follow nights at 9pm, are open to guests. Donations welcome. Check the town’s cultural calendar for Tumba Francesa performances
Streets of Santiago de Cuba
Carnival dancers in Santiago de Cuba. Photograph: Alamy
Cuba’s African soul sparks up throughout summer season carnivals when hundreds, led by historical mutual support societies, come collectively to arrollar (do the conga) via the tight streets of this sweaty metropolis. A Chinese cornet, with its penetrative wail, hails the conga and unleashes a monumental percussion fest: marchers hit car-brake drums, conga drums and cylindrical and Franco-Haitian drums in a relentless percussive hymn as a river of grooving Santigueros flows via the town. To get swept alongside, go to Santiago in early July and some days earlier than carnival (2019 dates 18-27 July). Stay up for night comparsas – choreographed costume parades accompanied by music – the place as much as 180 folks in a single cabildo (society) participate. If you see posters for a theatre or road efficiency by stellar folkloric ballet group Cutumba, change your plans pronto.
• Festival del Caribe 2-9 July 2019, casadelcaribe.cult.cu, Santiago de Cuba occasions on-line (Spanish solely)
Nengón and Kiribá, jap Cuba
Musical group performing close to El Güirito, jap Cuba. Photograph: Alamy
The village of El Güirito shot to fame earlier this 12 months when it appeared on Cuba’s model of Strictly Come Dancing: Bailando en Cuba. The small neighborhood, exterior Cuba’s authentic 16th-century capital, Baracoa, resurrects the easy musical rhythms of nengón and kiribá, which predate son. Slow nengón is danced in a circle; kiribá is a bit sooner and extra freestyle. The attraction of El Güirito’s melody making is its snapshot of a 19th-century nation dance with girls in full skirts and males in conventional Cuban guayabera shirts accompanied by musicians in a country village setting. A feast of pre-Columbian Taíno dishes comparable to bacán – a tamale of crab meat, mashed banana, annatto and coconut milk – and spit-roast pork fuels the occasion.
• Dances with feasts might be organised by guests with three days’ discover. Ask your B&B to contact Nancy Paz Pupo, Filial de la Música Baracoa, +53 5247 0279. It prices £11.50pp together with meals for lunch and a morning’s pageant; minimal two folks. A return taxi from Baracoa prices from £15
Streets of Matanzas
Locals dance on the road in Matanzas Photograph: Alamy
Matanzas, on the north coast, powered Cuba’s sugar growth, utilizing slaves from Nigeria and Benin. The metropolis’s music and dance mirror this deep African coronary heart however Matanzas is usually missed by travellers, who bypass it on the way in which to Varadero seaside. Search out neighbourhood rumba, Callejón de Tradiciones – a road framed by vibrant Yoruba sculpture – cultural occasions run by Project AfroAtenas, and the town’s August Timbalaye rumba pageant. Seek out Matanzas’ new collective, El Almacén, a part of the Callejón de Tradiciones venture. El Almacén tracks down and information indie Afro-Cuban folks musicians. Its Sendero Music label launched the award-winning Transmisión en la Eritá Meta, that includes one of many oldest units of sacred batá drums in Matanzas. Listen out for the rumble of rumba within the Marina neighbourhood, simply north-east of central Parque de la Libertad, and shimmy all the way down to an impromptu rumba road occasion.
• Project AfroAtenas , San Ignacio Street between San Francisco and San Juan Bautista streets, organises music occasions, on the second and fourth weekends of the month. AfroAtenas will take part within the Bienal de la Habana artwork truthful (see above) as, for the primary time, occasions shall be held in Matanzas and different cities exterior Havana
The movie of Carlos Acosta’s Cuban-rags-to-Royal-Ballet story, Yuli, shall be screened on 14 December on the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana (6-18 December)
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