Taking Dance Classes in Cuba

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Salsa is often the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Cuban dance. However, Cuba is also home to several dance styles which have not made it onto the world stage. For instance, there’s Cuban Son, a music genre that originated in eastern Cuba and which contains a mix of African and Spanish musical elements. Cuban Son is played with various instruments, including tres guitar, trumpets and maracas, while the dancers’ steps  are timed with the clave rhythm which some people call ‘dancing on two’, i.e. dancing on the second beat of the bar. Other Cuban dance styles, such as rumba and tumba francesa, have roots in African music and dance traditions. These Afro-Cuban traditions emerged in eastern Cuba following the settlement of African slaves from Haiti in the 18th century.

You can explore these different Cuban dance styles on an immersive dance holiday in Cuba.  Whether you want to learn how to navigate the dance floor, enjoy outstanding live music or enjoy colourful dance performances, there are plenty of dance activities in Cuba to keep you on your toes. However, taking dance classes in Cuba is a not-to-miss opportunity if you want to have a more authentic experience of the Cuban dance scene. Being able to dance when you are in Cuba is a social ‘must’  if you are anywhere with live music playing.

Exploring Afro-Cuban traditions with Ballet Folklórico Cutumba

Taking dance classes in Cuba with Ballet Folklorico Cutumba

Ballet Folklorico Cutumba

Dancing has always been at the heart of social life in Cuba. Before slavery was abolished, dancing was a way for slaves to come together and uphold a sense of identity. During the Batista regime, people from marginalised backgrounds turned to dancing as a form of protest against oppression. Following the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, Cuban state dance schools and companies have been working to protect and promote Cuban dance traditions. One such company is Ballet Folklorico Cutumba, which this year celebrates its 60th anniversary.

Founded in 1959, Ballet Folklorico Cutumba is a Cuban music and dance company that focuses on the Afro-Cuban and Afro-Haitian traditions of eastern Cuba. The name Cutumba is a combination of two words: ‘Cuba’ and ‘tumba’ (a percussion drum used in Afro-Cuban music). What makes Cutumba stand out from other dance companies is its continuous research into Afro-Cuban traditions and folklore. Art meets folklore with upbeat Afro-Cuban music, flamboyant costumes and a contemporary twist on Afro-Cuban stories.

Ballet Folklorico Cutumba is dedicated to presenting authentic experiences for spectators. The majority of dancers at the company have been dancing all their lives. In fact, the company is made up of a tight-knit community of individuals who grew up with music and dance as part of their everyday lives. This strong sense of authenticity is undoubtedly what catapulted Ballet Folklorico Cutumba to international fame. The group has performed at various events across the world, including WOMAD, one of the the largest music festivals in the UK. It also performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for a full 3 week run and the company  has also performed several times in the US.

Taking dance classes in Cuba

Dance teacher giving energetic dance instruction with live percussionists to group of students in red tshirts | Taking dance classes in Cuba

Cuba Dance Holiday in Santiago de Cuba

The dancers at Ballet Folklorico Cutumba not only work hard to put on an amazing show, but also teach at organised workshops and classes in a variety of dance styles. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to dance like a Cuban, this is your chance. Caledonia Worldwide offers intensive dance classes in the heart of Santiago de Cuba. Buzzing with music all day and night, Santiago de Cuba is the perfect location for a Cuban dance holiday. The largest city in eastern Cuba, Santiago is home to several music venues where you can watch Cuban bands play and practise your new dance moves.

The classes are all taught by professional dancers who are passionate about Cuban dancing. You don’t have to travel to Cuba with a partner to be able to attend the classes – you are paired with a Cuban dancer for all lessons. Dancing experience is not required either. You will soon learn the basic steps and rhythms if you are a beginner, or for more experienced dancers, brush up on your salsa or try a new style like Haitian merengue.

Pairing dancing with other activities

Taking dance classes in Cuba

Santiago de Cuba

A dance holiday in Cuba is not only about dancing – it is also a great way to explore other aspects of Cuban culture, including Afro-Cuban traditions. For instance, an Afro-Cuban dance holiday allows you to master the basics of rumba while getting a glimpse of Santeria (an Afro-Cuban religion). The lessons combine dancing with elements of Santeria, including ritual chanting and an understanding of the main orishas (spiritual beings in the Santeria religion).

If you have a keen interest in Cuban history and dancing, particularly salsa, joining a Cuban salsa holiday in Santiago de Cuba is the best way to combine both passions. Santiago is the birthplace of the Cuban Revolution and home to various places of historical significance. The city also boasts a lively music scene, thanks to its many music venues and colourful festivals. This holiday also offers an opportunity to learn other Cuban dances besides salsa, including son, merengue and bachata.

You can even work on your Spanish language fluency alongside your dancing skills on a language, dance and music holiday in Santiago de Cuba. This is a great way to challenge both mind and body on your holiday. Start the day with one-to-one Spanish tuition focused on your language needs, then join your Cuban dance teacher for a fun-packed private class where you can experiment with a variety of dance styles, including salsa, reggaeton, merengue and son.

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Whether you want to learn a new dance or brush up on your dance skills, Caledonia Worldwide offers Cuban dance holidays that are suitable for both beginners and more experienced dancers. You can even combine your dance classes with other activities, including cultural excursions, Spanish lessons or percussion.

If you want to learn more about our dance holidays, or have any questions, feel free to contact us on info@caledoniaworldwide.com

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About the Author
Daniela Frendo is a travel blogger based in Scotland. She studied social anthropology at the University of Edinburgh and works as a freelance writer. Besides writing about the beautiful places that she visits, she also enjoys discovering new coffee shops and reading her way around the world with her ever-growing collection of travel books.