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16th Annual Festival
of Dance & Music

June 8-12, 2022

She Who Is Queen / Ada Ara
16th Annual CubaCaribe Festival of Dance & Music

Featuring Ada Ara, Directed by Susana Arenas Pedroso performed by Arenas Dance Company and guests.

Z Space Theater, San Francisco, 450 Florida St, San Francisco, CA 94110
June 10-12, 2022


Friday June 10  8pm 

Saturday June 11  8pm 

Sunday June 12  2pm 


Adult $30
Child (12 and younger) $15

Ada Ara is a new piece by choreographer Susana Arenas Pedroso and Arenas Dance Company. Inspired by the tale in which Ochún, the youngest of the Yoruba deities and goddess of female sexuality and sensuality, takes away the crown of King Changó, god of male sexuality, after he dismisses her.  Her conditions for returning his crown are his respect, admiration and equality. Ada Ara will explore through dance, music and spoken word the larger message of this tale: that the world cannot be without women, their work, wisdom and hearts. It will pay homage to women ancestors who have fought for Cuba on different fronts and to the female orishas who offer rich visions of womanhood in Cuba. The new work delves into the complex role of Cuban women today in both Cuba and in the United States, underlining the physical, artistic and intellectual contributions they make to society.y. Although much of their work is not recognized, women often carry the weight—literally and metaphorically—of their communities and their countries.


Featuring an all-female ensemble of approximately seventeen dancers and three soloists, four drummers and five singers, Ada Ara reflects the choreographer’s specialty in Afro-Cuban folkloric sacred dance, ceremonial and folklore Yoruba traditions brought by West African enslaved men and women to Cuba and other countries during the Spanish Empire. The piece will also include secular Cuban popular dance forms such as the rumba, which grew out of urban Havana in the late 1800s as an expression of the underclass. 

Covid-19 protocol:

For the health, safety and well-being of everyone in our space, Z Space’s current COVID-19 policy requires all patrons, performers, and staff to be fully vaccinated or proof of negative COVID-19 test for those unable to be vaccinated for religious or medical reasons with proof of legal exemption. As of Feb 2021, booster shots are required for in-person ticket holders. Patrons and staff will be required to wear face masks for the entirety of their time inside the building. 


Special Event of the 16th Annual CubaCaribe Festival of Dance & Music
Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco
685 Mission St. (at 3rd) San Francisco, CA 94105
Special Event
June 8, 2022 from 6:00 - 8:00pm


A reception & musical celebration featuring Yenisel Valdés and Suklary Valverde and members of TeamBahia. These two incredibly talented Cuban women vocalists will use their powerful voices to both speak and sing. They will share about their experiences as Cuban women living in Cuba and the U.S. and sing with six members of the talented musicial group TeamBahia. There will be a Q & A and space for dancing and cocktails will be served.

1-    Yenisel Valdés – Vocal

2-    Sulkary Valverde – Vocal y percucion menor 

3-    Erick Barberia – Vocal y Congas 

4-    Ernesto Mazar Bajo 

5-    Erick Peralta – Piano 

6-    Carlos Medrano – Timbal y Bongo


16th Annual CubaCaribe Festival

Arenas Dance Company - She Who is Queen


Yemaya Universal Mother

Salsa for Yemayá

Ola the Warrior

Revolutionary Women

Ochun and Women Artists

Manos de Mujeres a la Obra / Women's Hands at Work

Adá Ará: Cuban Women Demand Respect



Susana Arenas Pedroso- Choreographer and Director of Arenas Dance Company- was born and raised in Havana, Cuba. Pedroso began her career in dance at age twelve, studying at La Casa de Cultura de Matanzas and at Cojunto Folklorico Nacional in Havana. She danced professionally for seventeen years in Cuba with popular, folkloric and theatrical performing groups, including Tierra Virgen, Alafia Ire, Oche Olorun, Oriki, Clave y Guaguancó, Oba Wemilere, Rumberos de Cuba, and Raíces Profundas. Since her arrival in the United States in 1998, Ms Pedroso has  performed and choreographed numerous pieces that have been exhibited throughout the United States, Austria, Mexico, Morocco, Martinique, Cuba and Hong Kong with companies such as Omo Ache, Omo Oddara, Ban Rarrá, Ire Ile, Alayo Dance Company, Las Que Son Son and Obini Ashe. She has also taught both Afro-Cuban folklore and Cuban popular dances in regular classes, workshops and lecture demonstrations in dance schools and cultural institutions such as Dance Mission, Brasarte, The Beat Berkeley Performing Arts, the Music and Dance departments at the University of California  in Berkeley and Davis, California State University at Hayward and Chico, and in Santa Cruz. In 1999 Ms Pedroso founded her own dance companies, Sandunga Cubana, which specialized in Cuban Popular dance, and Olorun, which specialized in Cuban Folkloric dance. In 2004 Ms Pedroso decided to join the two troupes, establishing Arenas Dance Company, an all-female ensemble that has developed an expertise in folkloric and popular Cuban rhythms and traditions. This all-female ensemble of dancers and percussionists  has performed at venues such as Dance Mission Theater, the Palace of Fine Arts, Yerba Buena, Herbst Theater, Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley and Davis, Chico State, Laney College Theater, The Great American Music Hall, and La Peña Cultural Center. In 2005 Arenas Dance Company produced the evening length show Yo Soy Cuba (I am Cuba) in San Francisco, which was sold-out at all four performances. By popular demand the music and dance extravaganza was remounted in 2006 for four encore performances. One of the show's featured dancers, José Barroso, received an Isadora Duncan Dance Award for his performance in the 2006 production. Other celebrated works include Dos Aguas, which received an award for Best Choreography from the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, and "A Night in Havana"  a sold-out performance presented to an audience of 5000 in Modesto, California in 2013. Arenas Dance Company has been an enthusiastic participant in regular community events such as the Black Choregraphers Festival, the CubaCaribe Festival, Salsa Rueda Festival, Yemanja Festival, Stanford Jazz Festival and San José Jazz Festival.

Sulkary Valverde- Festival Lead Singer- A talented interpreter of Latin music in the San Francisco Bay Area, was born in Guantanamo Cuba. She studied music and voice from an early age at the regional provincial school “Regino E. Boti” and later graduated from the Music Conservatory in Santiago de Cuba, specializing in saxophone and voice. In Cuba, she sang with bands  like Traje Nuevo, La sabor y Ritmo, La Ritmo Oriental and others. Residing now in the Bay Area, Sulkary launched her career as one of the leading female Latin singers of the Bay Area.

Christelle Durandy fuses Afro-Caribbean, Jazz and other polyrhythmic sounds in a provocative exploration of the African diaspora’s diffuse and powerful musical energy - a multicultural complexity Christelle herself embodies, having been raised in France by a mother from Reunion Island and a father from Guadeloupe. She draws upon her polyglot background to celebrate and expand the diaspora’s vibrant musical conversation.

Yeni Valdés- Singer for TeamBahia- is from Pinar del Rio, Cuba. As a child, at age four, she had already started in the amateur movement, and was almost always awarded at provincial festivals. Valdés graduated in 1990 from the (EPIA) Provincial School of Arts Instructors in the specialty of choral conducting. Her inclination for music was always within the variants of the song. After performing several tests and casting, she became part of the Sello LA orchestra and the PG Group, formed by the maestro José Luis Cortés. She was the first woman vocalist member of two of the most famous and longest-running Band in Cuba, first with NG La Banda and later with Los Van Van 2001-2017. She is undoubtedly an strong, extraordinary and wonderful vocalist, also highly respected and considered for her ability to improvise on stage. Yenisel Valdes has been nominated for Six Latin and one American Grammys. Valdés currently lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area of California.


Erick Barberia- Musical director of TeamBahia- is a Cuban dancer, singer and percussionist. He graduated from the Escuela Nacional de Artes (ENA) in Habana, Cuba in 1999. He began his professional career in the Artistic Community Company, Korimakao as a dancer, drummer and actor. He also became a master teacher of dancing, singing and Afro-Cuban percussion in both the ENA and the Escuela Internacional de las Artes (CENCEA) in Havana, Cuba. Expressive dancing, melodious vocals and great improvisational skills make this artist a unique performer. Barberia has been influenced by his father Luis Barberia, current singer of the famous orchestra Jorrin Creators of Rhythm Cha Cha Cha is one of his biggest inspirations. In the U.S. Barberia has had the pleasure of playing and recording music with many musical greats. El gran Sonero Fito Reinoso y su Ritmo y Harmonia, Master guitarist Freddy Clarke and his Wobbly World, Bass Player Victor Little, Master Percussionist John Santos, Latin Jazz Master Art Jackson, P23, Former percussionist of the group Afrocuban de Matanzas Sandy Perez, master flautist John Calloway, Lazaro Pedroso, scholar of the song and elder of the Yoruba-Lukumí tradition in Havana Cuba. In 2006, Erick had the honor to record, in Cuba, with the great Chucho Valdes, creator of Irakere and again with Chucho’s sister, Mayra Caridad Valdes. He teaches classes in local dance studios, schools and gives private classes. 

In his spiritual practice, Erick is crowned Omo Eleggua, Awo Orunmila, and Olubata. He comes from the Afro-Cuban Yoruba family of the highly respected and wise Babalawo Papo Angarica Oshelogbe (Awo Ifanire), son of the late Chief Nicolas Valentín Angarica (Oba Tola). Erick is Omo Ala Aña, (Son of the Drums secrets) consecrated in the tambor Bata Fundamento (Aña Bi) on one of the oldest set of Tambores Bata (Bata drums) that exists today in Cuba.


Arenas Dancers


Diana Aburto was born and raised in Nicaragua. She has a wide variety of dance training from Latin-American rhythms, contemporary, modern techniques, and belly dance. Now in the Bay Area, Diana directs Chavalos Danzas por Nicaragua—a Nicaraguan folklore troupe in SF that participates in several venues throughout the Bay Area. She has been a member of Arenas Dance Company since 2018.


Stella Adelman, Raised in SF, Stella Adelman holds a Bachelors in World Arts and Cultures and also studied dance at El Instituto Superior del Arte (Havana, Cuba). Adelman is currently the Managing  Director at Dance Mission Theater, an artist-driven space rooted in intersectional feminism. Adelman co-produced the CubaCaribe Festival from 2007-2010, has worked with Carnaval San Francisco since 2014, and has been a member of Arenas Dance Company since 2005.


Ilana Andújar has studied and performed dance since age four. Having studied dance locally and abroad, Ilana performs with local groups and companies. With a BS in Public Health, dance is an influential force in her work with youth, which she currently serves in an East Oakland Public School. 


Joshua Barbosa was born and raised in Puerto Rico and holds a master’s degree in Engineering. He started dancing Salsa On 2 in 2010 and danced with Salsamania Pro Team, from the Bay Area, for several years. Currently he is the director of a dance team called Yamulee Project San Francisco. He has been a member of Arenas Dance Company since 2018.


Brisa Camacho-Lovell is a proud Oakland native who has been dancing with Arenas Dance Company since 2021. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in World Politics and Hispanic Studies from Hamilton College in New York, and works as a middle school Spanish teacher and Social Justice Educator.


Jessica Decker has a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology from Paris. She works as a therapist with the Latin community in the Bay Area. Working with trauma in many forms, she deeply believes in the healing powers of dance and the restorative strengths of finding community through dance, culture and art. She has been a member of Arenas Dance Company since 2018.


Tiffani Jarnigan was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic and fell in love with Latin culture and dance. She returned back to the Bay in 2014, as a sustainability professional by day and dancing with Susana Arenas by night. She has been a member of Arenas Dance Company since 2016.

Sriba Kwadjovie was born and raised in the SF Bay Area and is trained in modern/contemporary, ballet, jazz and African Diaspora dance forms including Katherine Dunham Technique. She holds a law degree from John F. Kennedy University and bachelors in political science from UC Irvine. She has performed with various companies including Company Chaddick, Robert Moses’ Kin, Epiphany Dance Theater and has choreographed solo projects locally and abroad. Sriba joined Arenas Dance Company in 2021.

Casey Kettering joined the Arenas Dance Company in 2018 with prior experience in West African dance and music. Casey’s dissertation was written on West African forms of dance-drumming in treatment of anxiety and depression. Following musical, spiritual and cultural traditions from West Africa to Cuba, Casey continues to be inspired by how music and dance are both art and medicine.  


Clara Martinez Dutton has been dancing since age fifteen, when she first fell in love with Cuban music and dance. She has a master’s degree in International and Multicultural Education and teaches advanced high-school Spanish. She has been a member of Arenas Dance Company since 2021.


Luz Mena is a cultural geographer, professor, dance instructor, choreographer and performer. She specializes in Nineteenth-Century Havana’s spatial dynamics in race and gender relations. Trained in Latin America, Spain and the United States in a wide gamma of dances, Luz has specialized in Afro-Latin American rhythms. She has been a member of Arenas Dance Company since 2010.


Juliana Romano is a Bay Area native, artist, dancer, and teacher. Juliana has performed at the SF Ethnic Dance Festival, Ashkenaz, CubaCaribe Festival, Mission Cultural Center, ODC, and Dance Mission. She graduated from UC Davis with a degree in community development and teaches Spanish and dance at John O’Connell High School. She has been a member of Arenas Dance Company since 2018.

Mitzi Ulloa has studied/performed with Susana Arenas Pedroso & Arenas Dance for nearly two decades. She coordinates travel for Arenas Cuba’s Dance/ Music Program & is a Bay Area Visual/Performing Arts Educator. Mitzi holds a B.A. in Dance, Youth Development & Masters Degree in Education from SFSU.  Proud daughter of immigrant parents (Mexico/Colombia), a native to Califas, residing on Ramaytush Ohlone land.

Deborah Valoma is an artist, researcher, writer, professor, and chair of the Textiles Program at California College of the Arts where her specialized field is textile history, theory, and practice. Deborah has been dancing Cuban popular and folkloric genres since 2000 and has performed and designed costumes for Arenas Dance Company since 2016.

Adetola (Tola) Williams was born in Oakland to Yoruba parents from Nigeria. She spent seven of her childhood years in Lagos, Nigeria, where music and dance is a staple of everyday life. She started dancing Afro-Cuban dances when she joined the Arenas Dance Company in 2016.


Guest Dancer 

Isabel Estrada-Jamison owes her first experiences of dance to her late mother Barbara who brought her along on adventures from the tablaos of Sevilla to the rumbas of La Habana. Currently a member of Oyu Oro Afro-Cuban Experimental Dance in New York, she has also had the honor of performing with Arenas Dance Company (the first company she ever performed with in 2000) and Raíces Profundas in La Habana. Isabel is also passionately studying Flamenco with her teachers Sonia Olla and Ismael Fernández.

This project is funded in part by the Gerbode Foundation Dance Composition Award.


CubaCaribe is funded in part by the San Francisco Grants for The Arts, California Arts Council, The Fleishhacker Foundation, The Walter & Elise Haas Fund, Zellerbach Family Foundation, and the Alliance for California Traditional Arts.

© Copyright CubaCaribe

Header photo by Alexa "LexMex" Treviño

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