top of page

8th Annual Festival
of Dance & Music

April 20-27, 2012



Two weeks of dynamic weeks of dance, music, film, master classes & special events in San Francisco and Oakland. The 8th Annual CubaCaribe Dance Festival will present performances, workshops, lectures and a film screening by master and emerging Caribbean and Latino musicians and choreographers, each offering a unique look at the power of people and their use of music and dance to overcome daily trials.  

The theme for this year’s Festival is PODER POPULAR and looks at the power of the people and the art that they create when they gather, not in conservatories, but in living rooms and in the streets. The secular dances are fundamental to the daily survival of many cultures, traditions and artists themselves. Dance and music serves as a vital form of expression and as a release from daily problems, worries, hard ships.  


Dance Mission Theatre, 3316 24th street & Mission, SF
Friday and Saturday at 8pm, April 20-21 and Sunday at 3pm and 7pm, April 22.
Family matinee with discount pricing at 3pm Sunday, April 22

A mixed program featuring local artists and a Sunday matinée with youth performances.


Local artists include: Cunamacué, Aguacero, Alafia Dance Ensemble, Grupo Experimental Nagó, Rueda con Ritmo, Arenas Dance Company, Las Que Son Son, Rica Salsa, and Dimensions Dance Theater.


Laney College Theater, 900 Fallon St, Oakland

Friday and Saturday at 8pm, April 27 and Sunday at 7pm, April 29

Alayo Dance Company World Premiere
Alayo Dance Company, CubaCaribe’s resident dance company, unveils a new work, OIL & Water (2012) In this new work, choreographer Ramón Ramos Alayo and his diverse performers will present a new work built about the recent oil spills in the gulf coast. The piece will draw on the strong histories of Santería, mixing Modern dance vocabulary and live Cuban Folkloric music in a unique ritual. With this project, Alayo will push his own creative boundaries and take an innovative risk through the integration of a current environmental issue and traditional sacred manifestations. The work will focus on how the pollution has destroyed oceans, animals, and humans around the globe and how we can seek salvation in the wake of such disaster. Alayo will symbolize the ocean with the Orisha Yemaya, who is the Yoruban deity of the Ocean and Salt Waters.


Special Events
A series of lectures and classes allow audiences to examine more critically the themes viewed on stage, and to visit a cultural/spiritual world that is often hidden or made exotic. Lecture/Demos will be given by artists Bobi Cespedes and John Santos. Master classes will be taught by Demone LeBaeu, Denmis Bain Savigne, Yismari Tellez Ramos and Rodson de Jesus. A film screening of LA SALSA CUBANA will also take place. The full schedule of performances and events can be viewed at

Lecture with John Santos

Wednesday April 18, 6 pm. $12 at door

Museum of African Diaspora, 685 Mission St., San Francisco

Alza Lo Pié Kongo:

Caribbean Empowerment Through Kongo Traditions.

Kongo-derived drumming, dance, song, language, healing rituals and ancestor recognition have played an immeasurable role in the evolution of Creole-Caribbean culture and identity. Kongo influence is the strongest among the many manifestations of African retention in the Caribbean basin, providing the foundation for creative self expression, social commentary, and community based historical documentation. This lecture demonstration will include slides, recorded examples, and live songs of Kongo-Caribbean origin.


Five-time Grammy-nominated percussionist and US Artists Fontanals Fellow, John Santos, is one of the foremost exponents of Afro-Latin music in the world today. Born in San Francisco, California, he was raised in the Puerto Rican and Cape Verdean traditions of his family, surrounded by music. John is widely respected as one of the top writers, teachers and historians in the field and was a member of the Latin Jazz Advisory Committee of the Smithsonian Institution. He is currently part of the faculty at the Jazz School Institute (Berkeley, CA) and the College of San Mateo (CA). He has conducted countless workshops, lectures and clinics in the US, Latin America and Europe including the Adventures in Music program of the San Francisco Symphony, the Berklee School of Music in Boston, UCLA, Yale, Stanford, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the University of Michigan, Cal State Monterey Bay, Cal State Hayward, and the University of Colorado, to name a few.

Lecture with Bobi Cespedes

Thursday April 26, 6 pm. $12 at door

Museum of African Diaspora, 685 Mission St., San Francisco

Female Orishas

This lecture focuses on the fundamental concepts in the tradition of female Orishas (goddesses of the Yoruba Pantheon); also on the history and the attitudes that create and support their traditions. These will be talks from the afro-Cuban –Lucumi perspective and will touch on the role of Lucumi women in general and the music, song, art, and legends of this rich tradition.


Film Screening:  LA SALSA CUBANA

With Q and A by the film director, Eric Joseph Johnson


Thursday April 26, 6 pm.  $12 at door.

Museum of African Diaspora, 685 Mission St., San Francisco

A true story about Cuban salsa dancing, the film follows a dance group from Havana striving to win the national dance competition. Enter a world of vibrant dancing, fascinating relationships, wonderful music, and colorful imagery. Filmed in Havana, Cuba.  A dance group from the outskirts of Havana strives to win the Cuban national dance competition. It is a story and event that engrosses the country.  The group comes from the Guanabacoa neighborhood and their passion is Cuban salsa. This is an authentic and rare view of Cuba today and the dancing that lifts the national spirit.  


Eric Joseph Johnson: Director, Producer, Editor, Screenwriter During 2003 and 2004 Johnson lived in Cuba while studying dance in the streets and neighborhoods of Havana and as a matriculated student at the Instituto Superior de Arte, Cuba’s premier university of performing arts. In April, 2004, he performed on Dance Casino, the same Cuban-produced TV program featured in the film. Johnson was the director and choreographer for the performing dance group Rueda San Diego until 2010 and taught Cuban dance at the University of California, San Diego, rueda de casino recreational dance club for students. He holds engineering degrees from UC Berkeley and Stanford. Eric is a self-trained filmmaker who learned by studying the works of other filmmakers, especially documentary and Cuban genres.


2012 – 8th Annual CubaCaribe Festival

Week 1 - Poder Popular

Cunamacué - Zamacaueca

Las Que Son Son - Valoma's Tango

Las Puras Dance Company - Mambo Cha

Las Que Son Son - Valoma's Tango

Alafia Dance Ensemble - Aguas de Oxalá

Aguacero - Goze mi Bomba

Star Studded Entertainment

Rueda con Ritmo - El Pillo

Grupo Experimental Nago - Masun y Petro

Arenas Dance Company - Ciclo Palo Makuta

Week 1 - Poder Popular Matinee
Star Studded Entertainment (no video)

Rueda Con Ritmo (no video)

Muriel Johnson (no video)

Quenepas (no video)

Cunamacue (no video)

Dimensions Dance Theater (no video)

Week 2 - Oil and Water

Alayo Dance Company - Grace Notes

Alayo Dance Company - Layers of Love

Alayo Dance Company - Oil & Water


Grupo Experimental Nagó with Artistic Direction by Temistocles Betancourt of eastern Cuba’s Ballet Folklorico de Oriente. A native of Santiago de Cuba, Temi became a member of the renowned Ballet Folklorico de Oriente in 1978.  For thirty years he danced professionally with the company, performing throughout Cuba, the Caribbean, Mexico, Spain, Italy, Russia, and Africa. Temi danced as primer bailarin from 1979 to 2000 and worked as choreographer and professor with the company until 2000, when he became assistant director.  

Muriel Johnson is an early childhood educator and storyteller, specializing in multi-cultural folk tales for children. Muriel was born and raised in Salisbury, MD. She grew up in an environment where language was celebrated. Her mother was an English teacher, actress and avid reader. As a child Muriel would sit in awe as her mother would read and tell stories, sing songs and recite nursery rhymes. “I heard Mother Goose, foreign folk tales, Paul Lawrence Dunbar to Shakespeare...a little of everything.” By the age of five Muriel had acquired an extraordinary vocabulary, soaring imagination and gift of expression. As a storyteller Muriel shares her passion and warmth with audiences of all ages: Performing for pre schools, libraries, parties, festivals and churches. She has traveled throughout the United States, the Fiji Islands and lived in Central America. Through her travels she has gathered stories, songs and an appreciation for diverse cultures. 


Grupo Aguacero is a performance and education project focusing on the traditions and contemporary creative expressions of Afro Puerto Rican Bomba music and dance. “Aguacero” literally means a sudden heavy rainstorm usually followed by a refreshing sky clearing and gust of sunshine. The spirit and practice of Bomba, like an “aguacero,” is intense, healing and promotes life and growth. Bomba is a living cultural music and dance form born in the sugar cane plantations of Puerto Rico over three hundred years ago. Used as a form of resistance and relief, Bomba provided a setting for enslaved Africans and Puerto Ricans to creatively express what they were living through daily as well as an organized means of rebellion against colonial powers. Through cultural resistance and family lineage, Bomba has been kept alive through many years of struggle and persecution. Aguacero is founded and directed by Shefali Shah with musical direction by Hector Lugo and the collaboration of Bay Area artists practicing, studying, and performing Bomba and other Puerto Rican folkloric traditions. Aguacero came together in 2007 with skilled musicians and dancers of the genre as a way to create and share new original works in Bomba and to share perspective and expressions of the genre rooted in the teachings of our masters and ancestors. Aguacero was featured in the 2008 West Wave Dance Festival at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and has collaborated and performed with Los Pleneros de la 21 from New York City, members of La Familia Cepeda, as well as other renowned masters and practitioners from Puerto Rico.


Cunamacué's mission is to promote the continuity of Afro-Peruvian culture, representing it not as a point in time, but as a living, vibrant and evolving form whose music and dance can be used as a means of expression.  A reflection of its new environment, the San Francisco Bay Area, Cunamacué uses Afro-Peruvian movement vocabulary as well as movements inspired by modern dance aesthetics and dances of the African Diaspora to communicate themes that are universal to the human experience.  Cunamacué is dedicated to sharing Afro-Peruvian dance with the community through performances, school residencies, and youth programs.


Arenas Dance Company is a Cuban folkloric and popular dance company directed by Cuban-born Susana Arenas Pedroso. Arenas Dance Company has performed throughout the United States and local performances have included the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival (2006, 2007), CubaCaribe (2005, 2006) and various colleges, such as Chico State. Susana Arenas Pedroso began her artistry in dance at age 12 when she took the opportunity to study at the Casa de la Cultura inMatanzas, Cuba, and  began dancing professionally with Terra Virgen in 1991 and in 1992 she joined the theater and dance troupe Alafia Ire. She danced with Oched Olorum in 1993, and in 1994 she joined world renowned Compania Folklorica Raices Profundas as a soloist. After settling in the Bay Area, she merged her two former companies (Olorun and Sandunga Cubana) into Arenas Dance Company (2004), a company with a commitment to sharing Cuban culture in an accessible form for a wide audience.


Alafia Dance Ensemble - Valerie Watson founded Alafia Dance Ensemble (ADE) in 1995 because of a desire to showcase the intricate beauty of African Haitian Dance and Music. As a professor of Dance at City College of San Francisco (CCSF) since 1980 and a 3rd generation Dunham dancer and teacher, Ms. Watson began the company with students from African Haitian classes she taught at CCSF (a process that continues). Over the past 15 years Alafia Dance Ensemble has had the honor to perform in many venues which include: 30th San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, Haitian Flay Day Celebration at Ashkenaz, La Pena Cultural Center, Great American Music Hall, Presidio’s Golden Gate Club, Konbit 2nd Annual Haitian Dance, Music and Arts Festival, Cuba Caribe, Fort Mason’s Cowell Theater, and CCSF Dance Concerts.


Las Que Son Son, founded in 2006, is a San Francisco based, all-women dance company performing a broad repertoire of Cuban dance genres ranging from contemporary popular to traditional folkloric. In 2008, Las Que Son Son began working with Cuban dancer and choreographer Yismari Ramos Tellez, and in 2009 Ramos assumed the role of artist director of the company. LQSS dancers have studied with the prominent Cuban, Haitian, and Brazilian dance instructors of the San Francisco Bay Area, and are trained in such dance forms as flamenco, ballet and modern. The company's performance history includes San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival (2008, 2009); CubaCaribe Festival of Dance and Music (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010); Storm of Roses (2008); San Francisco Salsa and Rueda Festival (2009, 2010, 2011); and numerous club events and private soirees. The mission of Las Que Son Son—to study and perform dance in a collaborative environment—is based on the notion that dance is a vital artistic practice that shapes community and builds solidarity among diverse cultures, ethnicities and ages.


Alayo Dance Company was founded in 2001 by Ramón Ramos Alayo. Ramos Alayo articulates his creative vision through a synthesis of Afro-Cuban modern, folkloric and popular Cuban dance. Alayo is the resident company of CubaCaribe. Alayo has grown an audience far more diverse than most Bay Area modern dance circuits, attracting devotees of both contemporary and folkloric arts. It is known for tackling difficult issues such as slavery, racism and cancer, and since its inception has produced nine evening-length productions that have received both critical and popular acclaim. They have performed throughout the San Francisco Bay Area at venues such as Theater Artaud, ODC Theater, Dance Mission Theater, Herbst Theater, Laney Theater, Sonoma Country Wine Theater, and La Peña Cultural Center, and have presented work in the Black Choreographer’s Festival, The CubaCaribe Festival, and Intersection’s Culture and Flow. In 2010 Alayo was one of the first American companies to ever perform at the Annual Festival del Caribe at Teatro Martí. Alayo also performed at Teatro Mella in Havana, Cuba in July 2011. Alayo was featured in the article “Dance Across America” in National Geographic Magazine in 2006, and received the prestigious Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation’s “Emerging Choreographer’s Award” (2005) to develop his piece, Blood + Sugar. Ramos was nominated for an Isadora Duncan Dance Award nominee for the ensemble performance of Los Guedes, performed at CubaCaribe Festival (2006). Most recently, he was recognized as “Best Dance Dynamo” in the SF Bay Guardian’s “Best of the Bay” (2009), and was the recipient of a SF Bay Guardian 2010 Goldie Award, hailed by dance critic Rita Felciano as “the best Afro-Cuban dancer whose choreography stands well beyond traditional modes.”

bottom of page