Afro-Cuban Dance Holiday

Join us in Santiago de Cuba for a unique Afro-Cuban dance and music holiday, providing intensive dance, music and percussion workshops with one of Cuba’s most famous national dance and music companies, Ballet Folklorico Cutumba.  A strong cultural heritage has formed the backdrop to Santiago de Cuba, with Franco-Haitian and Afro-Cuban influences evident in the  music, dance, architecture and language of this vibrant city.

  • Duration: 1 week (2 weeks on request)
  • Start dates:  any weekday all year round
  • Cost: 1 week £750; 2 weeks 1,500

Please keep reading for full details.

“My two trips to Cuba ( so far! ) with your back-up have definitely been the highlights of my life. So proud to have played music and danced in the country, basked in the hospitality, and tasted a true Cuba before too many changes….. Best wishes to all the music teachers who I think of often, and cherish fondly for their wisdom, musical talent and inspiration”

CC, England

On this Afro-Cuban dance and music holiday, you will learn about the key rhythms and dances associated with local Afro-Cuban culture in Santiago de Cuba. You will also be given an exclusive insight into Santeria, the Afro-Cuban religion with strong African influences, and learn some of the chants sung at special Santeria events.  Tuition is provided by top professional  Afro-Cuban professional dancers and musicians, providing you with individual tuition and an opportunity to focus your lessons on what is of most interest to you. Afro-Cuban music is also a key feature of the trip.  Santiago de Cuba has a strong cultural heritage with influences from Franco-Haitian and Afro-Cuban sources, and there will be plenty of opportunity to see live music and dance events and performances during the holiday. We can also arrange an optional visit to meet a local babalao (a Santeria priest).

There is a range of live music and dance venues in Santiago de Cuba which offer different entertainment every night of the week, including the world famous Casa del Caribe and the Casa de Africa, so will be able to practise what you have been learning each day.

Daily Afro-Cuban dance and percussion lessons are taught by professional Cuban tutors for all lessons. Dance classes will focus on Afro-Cuban rumba, some of the main orishas such as Chango, Yemaya and Ochun and other Afro-Haitian styles such as Gaga and Vodu.  You can also have classes in Haitian Merengue and salsa if you wish. There will also be classes for percussion and rhythm to help you understand the roots and key elements of traditional Afro-Cuban music.  Classes are suitable for absolute beginners to advanced level.

Accommodation is arranged in carefully selected homestays which will provide you with a real insight into Cuban life, delicious home cooked meals, a chance to practise your Spanish and a home away from home with all the independence you need.

Accompanied nights out to top live bands and Afro-Cuban events with plenty of time to relax and recharge your batteries too, all in a relaxed and tropical Caribbean atmosphere. A holiday you will never forget!

If you are able to come to Santiago in early July, your Afro-Cuban dance and music holiday will coincide with the annual Festival del Caribe, a colourful Caribbean festival with visiting performers from surrounding countries, and dedicated to a different country each year. Unlike our other dance courses, this trip will focus primarily on Afro-Cuban dance but with the opportunity to mix in popular dances such as Haitian merengue and salsa.

If you would like to have a look at our group Cuban dance holidays which take place 5 times per year, focusing on Cuban Son and Salsa, please visit the following page on our website: http://www.caledoniaworldwide.com/trip/cuba-salsa-holiday/ 

  • Sunday

    Arrive Santiago de Cuba and dinner at homestay accommodation. 
    Free evening

  • Monday

    Introduction to your tutor(s) with dance/music classes 09.30 – 12.30
    B
    riefing meeting followed by short orientation walking tour of the city centre in the afternoon
    Rest of day free

  • Tuesday

    Free morning 
    Dance/music classes 14.00 – 17.00
    Evening activity, accompanied by one of your tutors

  • Wednesday

    Morning cultural activity accompanied by one of your tutors
    Dance/music classes 14.00 – 17.00
    Free evening

  • Thursday

    Free morning
    Dance/music classes 14.00 – 17.00 
    Evening activity, accompanied by one of your tutors

  • Friday

    Morning cultural activity
    Dance/music classes 14.00 – 17.00
    Free evening

  • Saturday

    Free day – organised excursion or tour optional (not included)
    Evening activity, accompanied by one of your tutors

  • Sunday

    Check out of accommodation late morning. End of trip.

The Afro-Cuban dance and music trip costs £750 and includes:

Homestay accommodation:
single room including breakfast & dinner x 7 nights

Dance and/or music classes:
15 hours of individual lessons – dance, percussion and singing classes with your own professional Cuban tutor/partner

Activities:
2-3 Afro- Cuban cultural activities will be scheduled and accompanied by one of your Cuban tutors, but the exact programme can only be confirmed close to the time of your trip as it will depend on what events are taking place in Santiago at the time.

Local representative:
English speaking Caledonia local representative


Please note the following are not included:

  • Flights*
  • Tourist card (the required visa)*
  • Airport transfers (can be organised on request)*
  • Travel insurance
  • Lunches
  • Entries and drinks on nights out

These can be arranged by us on request

Travel

Are flights included in the cost of this holiday?
The holiday itinerary is a ground package and the cost does not include flights. You can either book your flights independently or book them through us. Càlédöñiâ can book your flights for an admin fee of £42 per booking (not per person), and by doing so, your entire package will be covered by our ATOL licence if you are departing from the UK or if you are resident in the United Kingdom.

Transfers

For those arriving at Santiago airport or the Viazul bus station in Santiago we can arrange local transfers.

For those arriving at Holguin airport, we can arrange transfers to Santiago de Cuba which is approximately a 2.5 hour journey. The cost is £120 one way for a private transfer.

For anyone flying into Havana airport, we can book domestic flights to Santiago de Cuba (a 1.5hr flight), or book bus journeys which is a cheaper option of travel and which will take approx. 14-16 hours each way.

Accommodation

What type of accommodation is included in the trip?
Single rooms in homestay accommodation are included in the cost. For those travelling with someone else, we can arrange double/twin room accommodation as required.

What is homestay accommodation like?
Homestay accommodation provides a real insight into the everyday lives of Cubans, and offer a safe, friendly and welcoming place to stay. All our homestay accommodation is licensed by the Cuban state and guarantees a good standard of cleanliness and decent facilities as well as daily contact with truly wonderful welcoming hosts. Your room will have air conditioning and an ensuite toilet facilities with a shower. You will also have access to a fridge in the house.

Where are the homestays located?
All of our homestays are located right in the city centre, close to the main square, the venue for tuition and most cultural activities.

Are meals included?
Both breakfast and evening meals are included at your homestay for the entire trip, starting with dinner on the first evening and ending with breakfast on your last morning.  You can expect good home cooking using delicious local, seasonal produce and hearty portions. You don’t eat your meals with your hosts. Breakfast usually consists of coffee, juice, bread, eggs, fresh fruit. Dinner varies each night and is normally a typical Cuban dish which can be rice, beans, vegetables, salad, and meat/fish/seafood.

I have a dietary requirement, can this be catered for?
Yes, our homestays often have guests with dietary requirements and they are happy to cater to your needs as much as possible as long as we know in advance.

Santiago de Cuba

What is the city like?
Santiago de Cuba is a vibrant city, full of life and a strong Afro-Haitian culture, yet has a very relaxed Caribbean atmosphere. It is the second biggest city in Cuba and has a compact centre, making it very easy to get around on foot.

Dance classes

Will I have a dance partner?
Yes, you will have your own professional Cuban dance partner/tutor for the Afro-Cuban dance lessons.

Cost of the trip

Is there a single supplement?
No, the cost of the trip includes single room accommodation.

Visas

Is a visa required to enter Cuba?
Yes, all persons visiting Cuba must have a valid tourist card to enter the country. The tourist card is valid for up to 30 days from the date of your arrival in Cuba, and is the required visa for those travelling for tourism purposes. Càlédöñiâ Worldwide isre authorised by the Cuban Consulate in the UK to issue tourist cards, so please contact us if you require one.

If you are travelling from the US, irrespective of your nationality the required travel visa must be supplied by an authorised  US travel company, including a number of American airline companies.  Our trips comply with the Support for the Cuban People category of authorised travel from the US to Cuba.

“I loved the [Santiago de Cuba]. It felt like a being inside a vibrant beating heart. It felt safe and it was so easy to walk everywhere…the homestay locations were ideal. I loved all the music venues and the cultural things to see. [My homestay hosts] were amazing. My room was perfect. I didn’t need anything more. The food was amazing and most of all – the hosts were so warm and kind. I can’t say enough about how they made us feel like family and how kind they were. The dance school and team were fantastic. The nights out are such a good idea – it is awesome to roll up to the dance floor with your professional dance partners and actually get the experience of dancing outside of the studio. The dancers were good at making us get up and dance because I could be a bit shy at times. Our [tour leader] was fantastic. I immediately felt comfortable and cared for with her. She speaks perfect English and was our Cuba mom 🙂 She was patient with everyone’s requests and questions and really went out of her way to make our time there memorable. The tours she took us on were great. My favourite [excursions] were visiting Granjita Simone, the church (I can’t remember the name) and also the drive around Santiago. The history of Cuba is very fascinating to me and I loved hearing about it. Our last night out we went to Casa Tradicionales…a little venue that felt like stepping back in time. By now we all knew each other quite well and the dancing just seemed to flow with everyone. I could see the improvement in all of us. It was so cool to see that. We also had a chance to see the National Ballet….Wow! Other than those particular experiences I really enjoyed the people…the Cuban people and the others on the trip. I’m very happy to have met them.”

FL, USA, Jul 2015

“I liked Santiago very much because it is quite small and it was easy to get around. Our homestay hosts were charming and helpful and not intrusive. The laundry service was invaluable because we had three changes of clothes every day.  The accommodation was lovely. The [dance] classes were excellent. Having different partners for different dances was good and the opportunity to dance with all the dancers was very helpful. I loved the teachers and by the end began to feel very comfortable with them and I think they felt the same about us. I loved their energy and style and professionalism and their joy. I enjoyed them all [cultural visits/excursions]. I think climbing up the big rock was my highlight. The view was amazing and the coolness after the city was so refreshing. I absolutely loved dancing with all the dancers and getting to know them. The dancing itself was my highlight. I liked the fact that so many people in the community knew each other. The ballet Gisell was beautiful and to see Cutumba in their show was amazing. I am remembering more as I write. I don’t think I can highlight anything actually. Everything together worked to make my holiday wonderful.”

SA, London, Jul 2015

“Next time I visit Santiago de Cuba, I would definitely like to stay with [homestay hosts], and I think that says it all. Throughout I felt like a member of their family, like a cherished friend, not as a guest…Lovely lovely people. The way they took care of us! Will never forget the sunsets on the roof of their house overlooking Santiago de Cuba…The room was comfortable, food delicious, always considering the special needs and eating habits. [Dance classes] Love those young passionate enthusiastic teachers and amazing dancers! I enjoyed everything, but most of all the dance classes.”

AT, Qatar, Jul 2015

“I loooove Santiago. It was my 3rd time there. I love the atmosphere…lots of life in the streets and still laid back and relaxed. Small enough for you to be able to walk to most places, like dance clubs etc. easily. Feels very safe. People are lovely and you have got to love the climate! Good beaches near by. We went to Bueycabon and it was really nice. Oh, and the music! It’s everywhere and for a son lover like me, it’s great to go out dancing in a city, where so many know how to dance it. Great location of the casa. Nice and helpful host family.”

MK, London, Mar 2015

“I had a really wonderful time in Cuba and came away with lots of happy memories. I was with a really lovely group of people and it was such a privilege to be able to dance every day with [dance partner]. Santiago de Cuba is a great city. Music playing everywhere you go and lots of nice, open spaces to sit and soak up the atmosphere. [Homestay hosts] Wonderful hosts, great opportunity to improve Spanish language skills through conversation with them. They graciously tolerated us coming home late at night, answering the door to us with a smile! Very clean and comfortable room, enough space and privacy. The house is very close to the city centre, everything is within walking distance. The meals were excellent, plenty of good food and variety. I really enjoyed the dance lessons. I liked the way we had the opportunity to do things as a group, but also had plenty of time to practice with our partners. I liked the way the dance routines were built up on a daily basis, with opportunities to recap what we’d learned so far and learn new phrases each day. I enjoyed the afternoon percussion sessions and having the opportunity to learn more about the different rhythms. Our teacher was very attentive and patient, especially when we struggled with a particularly difficult sequence. The nights out were great, really well organised and we had good seats reserved for us near to the bands. We were able to see quite a lot of the Trova festival, outside of the organised evenings, too.”

GR, Amsterdam, Mar 2015

“I had a really wonderful time in Cuba and came away with lots of happy memories. I was with a really lovely group of people and it was such a privilege to be able to dance every day with [dance partner]. Santiago de Cuba is a great city. Music playing everywhere you go and lots of nice, open spaces to sit and soak up the atmosphere. [Homestay hosts] Wonderful hosts, great opportunity to improve Spanish language skills through conversation with them. They graciously tolerated us coming home late at night, answering the door to us with a smile! Very clean and comfortable room, enough space and privacy. The house is very close to the city centre, everything is within walking distance. The meals were excellent, plenty of good food and variety. I really enjoyed the dance lessons. I liked the way we had the opportunity to do things as a group, but also had plenty of time to practice with our partners. I liked the way the dance routines were built up on a daily basis, with opportunities to recap what we’d learned so far and learn new phrases each day. I enjoyed the afternoon percussion sessions and having the opportunity to learn more about the different rhythms. Our teacher was very attentive and patient, especially when we struggled with a particularly difficult sequence. The nights out were great, really well organised and we had good seats reserved for us near to the bands. We were able to see quite a lot of the Trova festival, outside of the organised evenings, too.”

GR, Amsterdam, Mar 2015

”[Santiago de Cuba] Lovely city – everything was within walking distance, and when required getting a taxi was easy. [Homestay host and family] and her casa were lovely. The room was comfortable, the air conditioner and fan were a god send and having hot water was great. [Homestay host] is an amazing cook… Her home cooked food was excellent. [Dance Lessons] The one to one teaching was great – exactly what I needed. I really enjoyed the Son classes as I have not done much “proper” son before. I loved the other dances we covered too: chachacha, pilon, rueda, rumba, Orishas. [Nights out] These were great. I loved the complete mix of evening venues, from the traditional son houses to the reggaeton discos!! I loved all the excursions…. The walk round Cayo Granma was wonderful, el Moro stunning, the views from la Gran Piedra and Puerto de Boniato were amazing, the plants in the botanical garden and the fern garden beautiful, el Porvenir was fabulous! I don’t think there is any need for improvements…. For me the holiday was perfect – thank you soooooooo much. Thank you again for an amazing trip!”

PDS, London, Sep 2014

“[Santiago de Cuba] Great place to spend two weeks whilst on a dance holiday. Plenty of other things to see and do when you want a break from dancing. [Homestay hosts] Nice hosts and I really enjoyed the meals. The homestay had everything I needed. Great location, close to the central area, the night life and the dance studio. [Dance classes] I really enjoyed the classes. Whilst concentrating on Son and Salsa a good variation of other dance was covered which I appreciated, reggaeton/pillon/merengue/rumbaand rueda. Both [dance teachers] were excellent teachers and partners. The other dance partners were also excellent when asked/required to help or when we did group stuff. [Nights out] Just the right amount of organised nights out for me. The dancers were very good at getting me up and encouraging me to dance. It was good having [dancer] out as he was the life and soul of the nights out with his enthusiastic nature. [Excursions] The excursions were interesting and informative and good break from dancing. It was good to experience both the Carnival week and the non carnival week where we went out to dance at different venues. Carnival also introduced us to a different part of Cuban culture and different areas of Santiago.”

 BC, Edinburgh, Jul 2014

“[Santiago de Cuba] Fully Cuban – a cultural hub, frenetic. Great place if you want the real Cuba. It’s much more than a holiday – it’s an unforgettable experience to be embraced. One of the nights out I danced until I dropped – it was an awesome, liberating and uplifting experience!”

LW, England, Mar 2014

“’Santiago is my favourite city in Cuba. It’s a lovely size to walk around, very safe, and there was an amazing atmosphere with the festival del Caribe going on. My homestay hosts were absolutely fantastic, so welcoming and friendly. Their terrace is beautiful, and G is an excellent cook. I was very happy there. My dance lessons were amazing, very professional. I had an excellent teacher, who was great fun and very patient. The casa in Havana at the end of the trip was beautiful too, and I loved the colonial style. It was also very well located for exploring Old Havana”

RF, London, July 2013

“Thoroughly enjoyed the holiday. The dance instruction was superb and the tutors listened to what I wanted to achieve. The escorted evenings out all went very well with plenty of different venues visited, and the Cuban dancers were always keen for a dance. The Pepe Sanchez festival was an added bonus and we got to see some special bands. My landlady at the homestay was great. All in all an excellent dance holiday with plenty of variety. I will remember it and all of the Cuban dancers and other guests for a long time to come. Happy days.”

 KB, Cyprus, Mar 2013

“I have been in Santiago once before – I liked it the first time but liked it even more the 2nd time and would love to return again. I like the fact there are less tourists in Santiago. Homestay – location and meals excellent, hosts lovely and very helpful, room excellent especially bathroom. Dance classes – outstanding. Loved the classes and learnt a lot particularly in Son – there was a good balance between enjoying the dancing and feeling encouraged that I could do it, and being helped to improve. The best thing for me was having a Cuban dance partner throughout the lessons – dancing with [them] made me very happy! I could not have asked for better partners. Nights out – I REALLY liked the nights out with the dancers and the fact that they dance with you a lot – this (and the lessons) made the holiday. Santiago was much better than Havana for getting dances with local Cubans. Also loved the Christmas party and the New Years Eve celebration, especially because they included dancing! Most memorable part of the trip? There was no one particular thing but the 2 best aspects were 1. The dancing (both lessons and nights out) and 2. The group – I really liked having a small group to share the experience with.”

RA, Oxford, Dec 2012

“Santiago de Cuba is hugely atmospheric and has a strong cultural vibe. The Festival del Caribe gave the city a strong Afro-Cuban mood which was interesting to experience firsthand. Lots of son and salsa as well! My hosts were brilliant and could not have been more welcoming (2nd time I have stayed with them). The room and private bathroom were spacious, bright and clean. Food was excellent and plentiful. Both my lead dance partners were brilliant. They were unfailingly patient, and went over steps to correct my technique and also taught me new things. Introducing the rumba class was a great idea – I loved it.”

CN, Edinburgh, Jul 2012

‘Everything was absolutely fantastic and I am already trying to figure out when I can go back. All the people I met – homestay, teachers, guide – were really wonderful and made sure that we enjoyed ourselves to the fullest. The dance classes were great and the teachers really went out of the their way to make us feel welcome. My trip to Havana was very pleasant but Santiago really takes the biscuit!’

 RN, Brussels, Mar 2012