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Hot in Cuba - Havana Theatre Festival and Ballet Nacional de Cuba

This week's cultural calendar in Cuba, but especially in Havana comes packed full of treats in the performing arts area. Starting with various daily theatre performances from an array of international and local theatre companies and finishing off with a very special gala by the National Cuban Ballet Company, it's all about the expressive arts in Cuba this week. To round things off there's various music shows to enjoy, as usual, plus quite a few painting exhibitions to indulge lovers of the visual arts.

Hot in Cuba - Havana Theatre Festival and Ballet Nacional de Cuba

Festival de Teatro de la Habana

The hottest thing in Cuba this week is no doubt the 16th edition of the Havana Theatre Festival which this year comes bigger and brighter than ever, with more participation from U.S companies than ever. There are theatrical productions to be enjoyed coming from all corners of the world, from Russia to Germany, Canada, Brasil, France, Peru, Colombia, Denmark and Norway to Ecuador, Puerto Rico and the UK.

If one thing’s for sure is that you won’t be short of options and whilst many of these will indeed be staged in Spanish many other will be fully interpreted in English, namely those that come from English-speaking countries.

There is quite a selection to pick from but my recommended theatre highlights for an English-speaking audience are:

  • Big Love by the Conservatory of Theatre Arts of Webster University which will be staged at Las Carolinas this coming Friday and Saturday at 8.30 p.m. and on Sunday again at 5 p.m.
  • Broadway Rox by Nederlander Worldwide Productions (U.S.) taking to the stage at Sala Raquel Revuelta del CTRR also on Friday, Saturday and Sunday with performances at 8.30 p.m. and 5 p.m. respectively.
  • Crash, drumming in motion by U.S. based Mary Ellen Childs Company which will be presented at the Teatro Trianon on 27th and 28th October (next Tuesday and Wednesday) at 8.30 p.m. on both occasions.
  • Surprised Body Project by Wee/Francesco Scavetta from Norway; also staged on 27th and 28th October but at the Teatro Mella, also at 8.30 p.m.
  • Cuban Coffeee by Teatro El Portazo (Cuba)
  • Tablao, a flamenco dance performance by Cuban company Flamenca Ecos which will be presented on Saturday 31st October and Sunday 1st November at Teatro Mella with performances starting at 8.30 p.m on Saturday and 5 p.m. on Sunday.
  • Posible Imposible by Danza Teatro Retazos from Cuba, a spectacular dance show that is sure to move you. It will be presented at Las Carolinas on 30th and 31st October and 1st November, at 8.30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 5 p.m. on Sunday.
  • Cenicienta (Cinderella) by Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo form Monaco, a very special performance that will be on show from Friday 30th October to Sunday 1st November at the Sala Avellaneda del Teatro Nacional de Cuba at 8.30 p.m on Saturday and Sunday and 5 p.m. again on Sunday.

Special one-off gala performance by Ballet Nacional de Cuba

Special one-off gala performance by Ballet Nacional de Cuba

Now there’s a real treat that’s really special this week because it’s a one-off performance out of season. To see ballet in Cuba, or more precisely in Havana, you’d normally have to come during the International Ballet Festival of Havana, which usually takes place between late October and early December. But now, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Cuba’s youth newspaper, Juventud Rebelde, a special two-day programme has been organised by Cuba’s National Ballet Company with performances being staged this weekend at the Sala Avellaneda of Havana’s Teatro Nacional.

This specially planned programme to celebrate the occasion includes five different productions (Tiempo de Danzon, Didenoi, Triade, A la luz de tus canciones and Rara Avis) all of which will be interpreted by the ballet company’s most promising youngest members.

Moreover, a special invited guest from Japan, the ballerina Rina Tanaka, winner of the Valentina Kozlova International Ballet Competition who has also earned herself a one-year scholarship at the prestigious Cuban Ballet School, will be participating in the performance.

Teatro Nacional de Cuba

Be at Teatro Nacional de Cuba at 8.30 p.m. on Saturday 24th October for the first presentation and at 5 p.m. on Sunday for the final one. Tickets will be on sale at Teatro Nacional’s box office. They sell out fast, so be quick!

The Music Scene in Havana – day by day

The Music Scene in Havana

Not the strongest it’s ever been, the music calendar this week in Havana could be seen as somewhat repetitive and lacking with no big numbers or special performances particularly standing out. Regardless, there are still some good places to head to whether in the mood for salsa, jazz, trova, rumba or conga and here I proceed to address the highlight of each day. Enjoy!

What’s on tonight

Your best bet if out on the town today and seeking a live music performance is to head to El Diablo Tun Tun in Miramar’s Casa de la Musica to catch Jose Luis Cortes y NG La Banda’s salsa beats.

Elsewhere there’s not much going on but if you are in the mood for some afro-Cuban rumba then head to El Jelengue del Areito to enjoy a full show by the Conjunto Arsenio Rodriguez.

Friday

If still in the mood for salsa your best option this Friday is Monika Mesa’s show at El Turquino nightclub, located inside the hotel Habana Libre, on its very last floor (it’s actually famous for having a ceiling that partly opens to the stars above). It kicks off at 11 p.m. but you can head there a little earlier for pre-concert snacks and cocktails.

And if you want to listen to some Cuban tunes sang in English then check out Sweet Lizzy Project, the island’s emerging pop-rock band, performing at 5 p.m. in Casa de la Musica de Miramar’s Diablo Tun Tun. You won’t regret such a refreshing change from the salsa and reggaeton beats that take over most of the time in most places.

Saturday

Strap on your salsa-dancing heels or pointed shoes and head to Casa de la Musica de Miramar this Saturday to dance to the infectious salsa melodies of Lazaro Valdes and Bamboleo, on at 11 p.m.

Preceding this we’ve got a mellow alternative with music that will have you travelling back in time to the golden era of Cuban music. Unwind with the soulful tunes of Yaima Saez at Barbaram Pepito’s Bar. Before you get ready for a night of intensive salsa dancing this soothing music will put you in the mood. Get there at 5 p.m. for this afternoon performance.

Sunday – Orange concert to mark No Violence Toward Women campaign and a spot of rock'n roll

This 25th October Cuba will dress in orange to mark the No Violence Towards Women Day and celebrate United Nations’ 70th anniversary.

Honouring this important date in the calendar, popular salsa singer, David Blanco will be offering a special open-air concert at Pabellon Cuba. Make it in time for his performance at 6 p.m. to secure a front row place or arrive a little later to see the concert in full swing and enjoy it from a less crowdy distance.

This is the most rocking day of all in the week. If you fancy a spot of rock and roll then this is the day to head to Havana’s most popular rock venue, the Beatles-inspired Submarino Amarillo, where local rock cover band Los Kents will be performing at 9 p.m.

A little earlier than this you can catch another rocking performance as Cuban rock band, Los Tackson, put on a show at El Pedregal, starting 7 p.m.

If infectious salsa tunes is what you see Laritza Bacallao will be giving a stellar performance at Dos Gardenias. Don’t miss it!

Monday

Schedule a date with Jazz this Monday and head to the Jazz Cafe to listen to the inspiring tunes of Real Proyect. It’s on at 11 p.m. For something more upbeat catch Sur Caribe’s conga tunes at Casa de la Musica in Miramar. It kicks off at 11 p.m.

If salsa is what you think Wil Campa will be performing at 5 p.m. in Casa de la Musica Miramar while Pedrito Calvo y La Justicia will give another salsa performance at the very same spot but a little later, starting 11 p.m.

Tuesday

There’s another chance on Tuesday to make a date with Jazz, this time at the hands of Zule Guerra who will be performing at the Jazz Cafe from 9.30 p.m.

Then, if you want to kick things up a notch or two, head to the Casa de la Musica de Centro Habana to dance to the intoxicating rhythms of Grammy-winning Jose Luis y NG La Banda.

The Arts

The joint art exhibition Masson-Lam, uniting the works of Cuban born painter Wilfredo Lam and the surrealist of legend of French artist Andre Masson will be on display on the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes indefinitely starting this week. It includes 44 original pieces by Masson and 37 pieces by Lam. All paintings and sketches belong to the period spanning 1951 – 1974 and Masson’s art works were kindly donated to Cuba by a Swiss-American philanthropist.

Altavoz contra la pared

Another exhibition is being presented this week at Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. This one is temporary and comprises a variety of installations and sculptures by Cuban artist Esterio Segura Mora. Titled “Altavoz contra la pared” (speaker against the wall) this exhibition is part of the celebration of the Festival Les Voix Humaines which recently came to an end in Havana.

Cigar aficionados are also in for a treat this week as the prestigious cigar factory, Fabrica Partagas presents its latest exhibition: Cedar, brushstrokes and aromas, a collection that displays humidors painted by famous Cuban artists and artisans.

Family Specials

For families enjoying holidays in Cuba with little ones in tow there are quite a few performances aimed at the youngest audience taking place in Havana this week.

The Carpa Trompoloco keeps up their weekend circus shows with the programme Veraneando (summering) by Circo Nacional de Cuba staged at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on 24th, 25th and 31st October.

La Colmenita - Havana, Cuba

But the most special of performances for children this week comes with Cuba’s legendary theatre company La Colmenita, made up of the island’s youngest, most talented little actors. This On Saturday 31st October and Sunday 1st November the production Cenicienta segun Los Beatles (Cinderella according to The Beatles). Whilst much of the show will be in Spanish, the songs most likely won’t and you’ll love to see Beatles classics performed by little darlings - a feast for the eyes and the ears for all!

Coming up next week - a Halloween Special by the Norwegian Embassy

Something that everyone will enjoy, young and old, the Embassy of Norway in Cuba is giving everyone an early Halloween treat with a round of Cinema Under the Stars. All are invited - locals, tourists and zombies alike to celebrate Halloween with a bang.

Juan de los Muertos

On Tuesday 27th October at 8 p.m. the Cuban horror film “Juan de los Muertos” will be screened and Jazz Vilar, an actor from the movie, will be giving a small presentation to kick things off. The fillm will be followed by a small speech by Gustavo Arcos who will be enlightening guests about “El cine de genero en Cuba”.

Then, on Wednesday 28th October, Norwegian zombies arrive to the island with the film “Nazis Zombis” which will be screened also at 8.00 p.m.

Screenings will take place at the Embassy of Norway’s front tennis court.

Susana Corona

Susana Corona

The islands' go-between

Having lived most of my life between Cuba and the UK and being half-raised in both island nations, I...

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