This week’s general cultural calendar in Cuba might not be exactly ‘off the charts’ when it comes to the variety and quality of music performances, but it’s certainly sizzling hot when it comes to the performing arts – this time in the form of contemporary dancing. There are not one but four different choreographies to feast the eyes on taking place at two different venues in the capital and performed by two different dancing companies: Danza Contemporanea de Cuba and Mal Paso. Beyond Havana, there’s even more contemporary dancing going on as Camaguey hosts a series of special performances by Ballet Contemporaneo Endedans with the premier of the debut of the Medianoche (Midnight) production.
Beyond all the dancing and gracious swirling, there’s also a very special one-off concert by talented and much-loved Cuban duo, Buena Fe, who will be performing this Saturday 23rd September in Havana (more details under the Havana Music Scene section). For those in Santa Clara this week, there are more Trovuntivitis "descargas" (a.k.a. jamming sessions) that will simply delight any music lover (it's a great way to mingle with locals in this part of the country and get on their party scene).
A bit further down you’ll find the usual daily low-down on Havana’s music scene and nightlife and also as usual I’ll proceed to list the best art exhibitions currently being showcased around the island before dedicating a few words to those with little ones this weekend looking for something special to do in Cuba or somewhere fun to take them. But for now, let’s devote some space to the highlights of the week first.
Danza Contemporanea de Cuba presents Heterodoxo at the Gran Teatro
One of Cuba’s longest established dancing companies (since 1959) the Danza Contemporanea de Cuba has announced its early Winter programme for the two last weekends in January. As part of each of their weekend performances (which will be made up of three different dancing numbers) I’m highlighting a new one which will premiere this Friday 22nd January – Heterodoxo. The worldwide debut of Heterodoxo will be presented alongside two other pieces: Reversible and Identidad on Saturday 22nd, Sunday 23rd and Monday 24th at 8:30 p.m. while the following weekend on 29th, 30th and 31st January it will be presented alongside two more pieces: Matria Etnocentra and yet another new choreography debuting this year – Cenit. Tickets will be on sale at the Gran Teatro de la Habana (where the performances will also be staged) and performances start at 8:30 p.m. from Friday to Saturday and 5 p.m. on Sundays. A truly divine spectacles for contemporary dance lovers.
MalPaso performs trio of choreographies at Teatro Marti
Widely regarded as Cuba’s hottest new contemporary dance company (they call themselves ‘A Cuban Dance Project’) the MalPaso group will be staging a series of performances at the Teatro Marti in Havana before continuing their winter tour abroad. With shows scheduled for Friday 22nd, Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th January at 8:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. (only on Sunday) their programme will consist of three pieces: Ocaso, Bad Winter and 24 Horas y Un Perro.
Before starting their scheduled US tour in February, the company wanted to present its newest dance pieces to their home audience first, including the premier of Trey McIntyre’s Bad Winter, a gift donation by Mr McIntyre himself. The other two dance numbers are by Cuban choreographer Osnel Delgado with 24 Horas y Un Perro created in collaboration with the dancers themselves). The perfect way to spend a special evening this week while feasting your eyes on MalPaso’s refined techniques, seamless movements and sparkling energy.
Medianoche debuts in Camaguey
A new dance production going by the name “Medianoche” (Midnight) and performed by Ballet Contemporaneo Endedans will soon be debuting at 8.30 p.m. this Friday 22nd January at the Teatro Principal in Camaguey with a second performance the following day at the same place and at the same time. If you happen to be in Camaguey make sure you add one of these performances to your itinerary – watching this rising young company perform is bound to become one of the highlight of your visit.
Havana’s Music Scene
This week’s music scene in Havana is not the most happening but it certainly has its highs – here I break them down for you on my usual day-to-day format so that you can quickly browse and find what’s most to your liking among my personal selection of top picks.
On Tonight – contemporary salsa, trova and a spot of rock
On the spotlight tonight are perhaps two of the best salsa acts this week: Alexander Abreu and Havana d’Primera performing at the Casa de la Musica de Miramar at 11 p.m. and Jose Luis Cortes y NG La Banda performing at the very same spot and at the very same time, but at the separate El Diablo Tun Tun venue. It might be the hardest choice you have to make tonight if you’re in for the best salsa night of the week, but you don’t have to choose wisely as both of these bands will be performing once again during the course of the week (NG La Banda on Friday and Havana d’ Primera on Tuesday).
If you want more sedate entertainment that’s still great quality and 100% Cuban go for an early afternoon session of trova, beautifully delivered by Ray Fernandez with his infectious mellow yet catchy rhythms. Make it to Sarao’s Bar at 10 p.m. to catch his performance.
But if you want to start the night on a rocking high head to El Submarino Amarillo at 9 p.m. to enjoy the live performance of Cuban rock band GENS, covering some international rock classics as well as performing some of their own fusion hits.
Friday 22nd January – rock, quality salsa or reggaeton?
For more rock this Friday night El Submarino Amarillo will once again be the venue to hit at the onset 9 p.m. – this time with the performance of Los Kents, another local rock band that’s very popular with the local crowd of rock lovers in Havana.
If salsa is what moves you then make it to the Casa de La Musica de Miramar at 11 p.m. to enjoy another hip-shaking performance by the hugely talented Jose Luis Cortes and his legendary group NG La Banda.
For something quite new and unique on Havana’s music scene check out local group Los Boys and enjoy their fusion and unique Cuban twist of some of the greatest classics in the English language, from The Beatles to Maroon Five all the way to Bill Withers and their very own hits. Get introduced to their music at the Corner Café from 10 p.m.
If you want Cuban music that has a more authentic and decidedly Cuban flavour mixing traditional trova with other ethnic sounds, don’t miss Raul Paz’s performance at Don Cangrejo, also at 10 p.m.
And…if you’re after a bit of reggaeton (whether it is to get a taste and introduction to its Cuban version or you are already well- acquainted with it and enjoy it) head to La Cecilia at 11 p.m. to catch a performance by local Cubaton duo El Chacal ft. Yakarta.
Lastly, if you want an encounter with Cuban rumba make an early exit towards El Jelengue del Areito at 5 p.m. to enjoy a stellar performance by Rumberos de Cuba.
Saturday 23rd January – fusion music, a bit more rock and the LGBT scene
If looking for some lively event to join this Saturday night you definitely have some choice.
First up, my highest recommendation if you want to immerse in the kind of music the locals absolutely adore, is to head to El Sauce at 10 p.m. to enjoy a one-off concert by Buena Fe, arguably the most successful Cuban duo who produce and write all of their (meaningful and often humorous) songs. Whilst the meaning of some of the lyrics might completely lost on you if you don’t speak Spanish (and even if you do their songs are about very Cuban issues not every Spanish-speaker might be familiar with) you can still enjoy their melodic sounds and sway along in the crowd. It’s a promising night out under the stars and surrounded by locals.
If you want an earlier start to your Saturday entertainment then it’s a good idea to kick off things at King Bar to enjoy a charismatic performance by Telmary with her unique Cuban sounds and rapping style. Make it there for 5 p.m.
For some salsa the Casa de la Musica de Miramar will be the perfect stage at 11 p.m. hosting Lazaro Valdes and Bamboleo for an all-dancing music session.
Lastly, if you want a taste of the LGBT scene in the capital, Proyecto Divino will be delivering their weekly flamboyant show at their usual venue (Café Cantante Mi Habana) also at 11 p.m.