CubaCaribe's mission is to preserve, promote and present the vibrant cultural and artistic traditions of the Caribbean and its Diaspora. Founded on the principle that dance, music, and visual art have the power to unite people of diverse perspectives, CubaCaribe fosters greater understanding and appreciation of Caribbean arts and culture.
CubaCaribe was co-founded in 2003 by visual artist/dancer Jamaica Itule and dancer/choreographer Ramón Ramos Alayo in order to tap into the large talent pool represented by the significant community of Cuban and Caribbean artists who live and practice in the Bay Area. Since its inception, the organization has become widely known for the diversity and quality of its programming, and its deep roots in the Diasporic community under Artistic Director Ramos's leadership.
The organization's primary goals are: promote and aid the preservation of time-honored, sometimes rarely seen Caribbean art forms; celebrate tradition while giving space for innovation; bring together diverse emerging and established Caribbean Diaspora artists from around the Bay Area and across the nation, concentrating talent and facilitating collaboration; support artists who recently immigrated to the United States by providing them performing opportunities, a supportive artistic community, and an artistic and cultural connection to their homeland/roots; and broaden /deepen cultural understanding of Caribbean Diaspora cultural expressions among under- served audiences, the Bay Area dance community, and the general public.
Summary of programs
The Bay Area is distinguished by the large number of Cuban and Caribbean artists who now live and practice here. CubaCaribe taps into this talent pool and produces a wide range of professional, community-oriented activities.
Projects include: The Annual CubaCaribe Festival of Dance and Music 2005-2009; resident dance companies Alayo Dance Company (featuring Ramos' innovative fusion of Afro-Cuban modern, folkloric and popular Cuban dance) CubaCamp Bay Area and Hawaii 2004-2006 (CubaCamp offers adult campers an intensive four days of Caribbean dance and music classes); and the San Francisco Carnaval Contingent 2006 and 2008.
The CubaCaribe Festival of Dance and Music is the center of the organization's programming and crucial to its mission. Held annually over three weeks each spring, it is the only festival in the Bay Area devoted to folkloric and contemporary dance and music of the Afro-Caribbean and its Diaspora. The Festival repeatedly sells out and receives critical acclaim and popular support for its celebration of both tradition and innovation. San Francisco Chronicle dance critic Octavio Roca hailed past performances of the Festival, describing artists such as Susana Arenas Pedroso as "riveting" and Silfredo La O and Ramón Ramos Alayo as "dancers who need to be seen and known." Three different CubaCaribe Festival performances have been nominated for Isadora Duncan Dance Awards and many of the presenting artists are nationally renowned in their countries of origin. Alayo Dance Company presents its annual home season at the Festival, premiering new works such as the 2008 production of Blood + Sugar, a piece funded in part by the prestigious Gerbode Foundation Award for Emerging Choreographers. Each year, the Festival presents more than 100 artists in 12 performances plus exhibitions, master classes and lectures on the religion, history and politics of the Caribbean. As Nirmala Ntataraj wrote in the in her review of the CubaCaribe Festival in the SF Weekly, "For those of us whose educations left Cuba an inconspicuous speck on the atlas of the world, the CubaCaribe Festival presents a delightful opportunity to cull little known knowledge about this multifaceted island nation.
Ramón Ramos Alayo
Ramón Ramos Alayo is a Cuban-born dancer, teacher, choreographer and the founder and artistic director of the Alayo Dance Company and CubaCaribe. Ramos was selected by the Cuban government to study dance in Santiago de Cuba at age eleven. In 1990 he earned a masters degree in contemporary and folkloric dance and dance education from the Havana’s National School of Art. He was the principal dancer with Danza del Caribe in Santiago and Narciso Medina Contemporary Dance Company in Havana and performed in Cuba, Europe, Canada, Belize and the U.S. Since moving to California in 1997, he has performed with some of the most respected choreographers in the San Francisco Bay Area, including Robert Henry Johnson, Kim Epifano, Sara Shelton Mann, and Joanna Haigood. Ramos currently dances with Robert Moses’ Kin. He teaches Cuban popular dance, Afro-Cuban modern dance and children’s movement at several local dance studios and schools. In 2001 Ramos founded Ire Ile, an all-woman Cuban popular dance group and in 2002 founded the Alayo Dance Company. As director and choreographer, his work is an innovative fusion of Afro-Cuban modern, folkloric and popular Cuban dance. Ramos has choreographed and produced eight full-length dance performances: Anoranza de Una Epoca (1999); Mis Sueûos, Mis Ideas (2003, 2004); A Piece of White Cloth (2004, 2005); La Madre (2005); After Rain (2006); Three Threes & Traces (2007); Blood + Sugar (2008); and Three Leaders, One Idea (2009). Ramos has received grants from Cash, Zellerbach and Lef Foundations and the prestigious Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation’s “Emerging Choreographer Award”. Alayo Dance Company was featured in “Dance Across America,” published in National Geographic Magazine (2006) and Ramos was an Isadora Duncan Dance Award nominee for the ensemble performance of Los Guedes, performed at CubaCaribe Festival (2006). In 2003 Ramos co-founded and became artistic director of CubaCaribe, with the mission to preserve and promote the vibrant artistic and cultural traditions of the Caribbean and its diaspora. CubaCaribe sponsors performances such as the annual CubaCaribe Festival of Dance and Music and educational outreach programs including Cuba Camp that support and uphold Cuban and Caribbean dance, music, visual art and culture in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Jamaica Rose Itule Simmons
Jamaica Itule Simmons was born and raised in Tucson Arizona. She has studied both dance and art most of her life. She received her BA in Art and Hispanic Studies from Lewis and Clark College and MFA in Graphic Design at The Academy of Art University. The topic of her thesis was Dance As The Survival Of Identity within the context of Cuban culture. It culminated into a book and exhibition. She is both a visual artist and dancer. Her visual exhibitions include Student work, Tucson 1995, Mis Altares Portland 1999, Emerging Artists, Portland 2000, Sobrevivir at Dance Mission Theatre 2005. She has been studying Cuban dance for the past eight years. In this time she has worked with Sovereign Arts Society, participated in cultural exchange programs including dance intensive workshops with Ban Rarra and members of the Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba. She has danced with Alayo Dance Company, Ire Ile and Raices Cubanas. She co-produced Mis Sueños Mis Ideas (2003), A Piece of White Cloth (2004), La Madre (2005) dance shows, Cuba Camp 2003 and 2005 and The first annual Cuba Caribe Festival. She is the associate director of Cuba Caribe and a graphic designer.
Kyleigh Nevis is a grant writer and freelance motion graphic designer and producer in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has worked in grant administration for Harvard University, Katahdin Foundation, and CubaCaribe. She has also worked closely with documentary filmmakers and local nonprofits to promote culture and diversity. She holds a BA from University of Washington, an MA from University of Bath, and a Certificate in Motion Graphics from the Bay Area Video Coalition.
Moran Serr Hirsch
Moran Serr Hirsch was born and raised in Israel. She has been passionate about the Cuban culture, dance and music since she was first introduced to Cuban dance in Israel in 2005. Ever since moving to the bay area in 2008 she became further more involved and vested in the community and started working and performing at the CubaCaribe festival at 2009. Since finishing Business and law school in the IDC, Hertzelya, Moran’s career focus was on online marketing. Today Moran is concentrating on community building, graphic and web design and teaching Pilates. A big part of her life these days is promoting the love for Cuba and it’s culture through leading dance workshops in Cuba with Ramon Ramos Alayo.
Adrienne Harrison: Steering Committee
Adrienne Harrison has worked with CubaCaribe since 2008 and is an active steering committee member. She has been studying dance since age seven and at age ten she began performing professionally as a soloist with the Puerto Rican folkloric troupe Ballet Folklorico Latino in her hometown of Honolulu. In addition to studying Latin folkloric (as well as ballet, tap, hula, Middle Eastern, and swing) she was trained in flamenco by Yaelisa, La Tania, José and Pastora Galván, Andrés Marín, and Juana Amaya. She has also studied Afro-Haitian, Afro-Cuban, and Cuban popular dance with Blanche Brown, Michelle Martin, Susana Arenas, José Barroso, Ramón Ramos Alayo, Yismari Ramos Tellez, and José “Cheo” Rojas, as well as training in Havana, Cuba with Aida Salinas Sánchez in 2003 and Juan de Dios Ramos and his company Raíces Profundas in 2005. She has been a member of Group Petit La Croix (2000-2002), Arenas Dance Company (2003-2006) and danced with Alayo Dance Company (2008) and Las Que Son Son (2007-2010). She was also the costume designer for Arenas Dance Company and Las Que Son Son.