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Ritmo Cuba Salsa Festival: a springtime showcase

Ritmo Cuba Salsa Festival: a springtime showcase

 by Ricardo Alberto Pérez

In the 1970 and 80s, Cuba experienced a surprising boom in salsa dancing. You could practically breathe it in the air, from the mass media to the very streets where, every time any of the popular salsa bands could be heard playing, people would spontaneously start dancing and awestruck crowds would provide enthusiastic audiences.

Remembering all that, it is gratifying to see that over twenty years later, Havana’s first Ritmo Cuba Festival is going to be held from April 18 to 24 and will be focus on salsa dancing. It will be responsible for promoting even more the teaching of that style and the tremendous possibilities it has to become enriched as it fuses with other dance styles.

The event came into being as a response to the fact that salsa festivals are regularly being held all over the world, but never in Cuba, when, ironically, Cuba is acknowledged by most people to be the birthplace of that rhythm and the dance.

The Havana Festival will be upon us shortly sponsored by a private salsa school known as La Casa del Son, located on the corner of Empedrado and Compostela streets in Havana. The school is run by Silvia Canales and she has been one of the principal instigators of the idea of the festival.

Organizers of the event tell us that this spring we will be seeing the best salsa dancers from all over the world brought together here in Havana. Most of them happen to be Cubans who have been living abroad for years and now they are coming back home to show their compatriots what they have learned during their absence. We have heard that some of the couples are not all-Cuban; however, although one of the partners may not be from the Island, the dominant partner is sure to be Cuban. Some of the names to look out for are Alberto Valdés, Andria Panayi, Jennnyselt Galata Calvo, Jorge Luna, Roly Maden, Yeni Molinet, Yanek Revilla and the Alexis and Cristina Duo, just to mention a handful.

The Festival will include a solid program of workshops and classes that will be providing a remarkable opportunity for some very talented young dancers who are living in Cuba to be able to show their talent and attain a bit more exposure.

All the activities revolving around those days in April will converge on the Old Havana area, making good use of the beautiful scenario of that area’s historical and colonial sites. Three different kinds of classes will be taught, using two of the large rooms at the Museo de La Revolucion and one at the San Miguel Hotel.

Another interesting main attraction will be the night-time fiestas that will be held at La Casa de la Música de Galiano, at Club 1830 and at La Gruta. The evening program on Friday and Sunday nights will have the privilege of taking place in one of the large halls at the Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso. A number of tourist trips will also get added to the fiestas and classes.

Big-name Cuban musicians who are currently very much in the public eye and high on the popularity charts will be supporting the Festival. Those that have already confirmed their presence are groups such as El Niño y La Verdad, and El Noro y Primera Clase.

Something else that will make this event very attractive for salsa fans is the fact that many of the teachers present will be specialists in the different salsa styles that have been created all over the world. Many of these have been embellished by a variety of other cultural influences. To have so many trends present at one single event will provide a more exact and realistic view of the size of the salsa phenomenon these days.

Although Ritmo Cuba is essentially not a competitive event, the talent and artistry of the over forty teachers taking part will be exhibited at shows at the evening fiestas on the weekend.

La Casa del Son will be the main site for the festival but it is not the only Cuban school to be participating. Around six other schools will be there, including Villa Danza, La Casa del Tango and Prat Café. This will be an ideal occasion to bring together the work of our Cuban schools in order to encourage cooperation among them, thereby making it more feasible to hold future events of the same kind. Springtime 2016 in Havana will definitely be a showcase for salsa, the dance style that clearly identifies and defines Cuba to the world.

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