Hot in Cuba – Acosta Danza, rock in Cienfuegos, circus in Matanzas and jazz in Havana

In Cuba dance takes centre stage east and west of the country this September, with two fabulous performances by two outstanding dance groups on different dates across the month - ensuring you can make it to both (if you can). Then there is Cienfuegos´ most awaited rock festival of the year, and a whole lot of jazz at various Havana venues. Not enough? Then check out some of the local galleries´ new exhibits (spoiler alert: one of them gives an intimate glimpse into Fidel Castro´s private life).

Hot in Cuba – Acosta Danza, rock in Cienfuegos, circus in Matanzas and jazz in Havana

Most regard September as a slow-moving, sobering month, where the holiday mood has definitely reached its expiration date and where much of the world goes back to their routine. Children return to school, adults slowly start to layer up as most brace themselves for autumnal downpours and grey skies, and everyone feels like they don´t know where the first half of the year has gone!

Yes, you´d be forgiven for feeling the summer blues, and you´re not alone, but Cuba at least presents a good excuse to escape reality for that little bit longer and procrastinate getting on with the daily grind for a while longer. If you´re in Cuba this September you´ll definitely have more than one reason to smile! And with my selection of top events this month, you won´t be short of options in how to spend your time and liven it up in the evenings.

Top Picks

Summer may be officially over, at least in terms of the aestival festivities, yet there is more planned for the months ahead, and with kids back in school, it´s time for some adult fun. As of Monday, 3rdSeptember Cuba waved goodbye to the year´s middle season, but temperatures still remain as balmy as ever so the beach is still as alluring as are the many outdoor options. As September progresses visitors can look forward to slightly cooler temperatures making open-air pursuits more enjoyable and less daunting.

Sinatra in Havana (7th and 9th September)

Exclusively in Havana for two nights, British mezzosoprano Sarah-Jane Lewis is the invited guest of honour at the “Sinatra from Havana” recital taking place this coming 7th September at the Casa del Alba Cultural, found on Linea Street, corner D in Vedado. The show starts at 7 p.m. and is part of the Cubalirica Festival 2017. The accomplished and versatile singer will travel to Matanzas the next day to offer a second concert at the Jose White hall before returning to Havana the following evening to delight an eagerly awaiting audience at the Teatro Lirico Nacional in Zulueta street, between Animas and Neptuno, in Old Havana. This second concert in Havana is scheduled for 6 p.m. and Miss Lewis will be presenting an exquisite selection of timeless pieces, varying in style, form and languages to seduce a varied and discerning audience.

This is your chance to catch the Royal Opera House singer on a rare appearance in Cuba, accompanied by female Cuban musicians like singer Lindiana Murphy, soprano Zoylin Ibarra and Eralys Fernandez on the piano, all under the direction of Rayner Fernandez. Chorus group Caliope will join Lewis´ powerful, evocative vocals. One not to miss!

Danza Espiral at Teatro Marti (8th, 9th and 10th September)

Celebrating 30 years of talent, fame and glory, Matanzas’ Danza Espiral dance company will be performing in Havana’s Teatro Martí to the delight of a loyal audience who admires their gumption for breaking away from the elements of traditional dance teaching in Cuba and showing a new way of thinking and making dance. The company, which was founded towards the end of the 80s marked a difference in the Cuban arts scene by mixing a variety of disciplines, eliminating borders between theatre, dance, art and music while calling on interesting creators to further perfect their multi-faceted identity.

To mark their 30 years the company has put together a splendid programme that will debut in Havana´s Teatro Marti over the course of three days, calling on audiences of all backgrounds to experience their cliché-defying movements and poetical essence. Tickets can be purchased at Teatro Marti´s ticket office but be quick about it, don´t leave it ´till too late! This company is as admired as much as their productions are coveted, so availability will run out soon.

Acosta Danza at Havana’s Gran Teatro (8th to 17th September)

Carlos Actosta´s all-Cuban dance company is bringing its unique, edgy style to Cuban stages this month with the presentation of its new seasonal programme, aptly entitled “September”. The occasion will be marked by two brand new productions, seeing light for the first time with two global premieres.

Of the two, “Imponderable” (Unthinkable) will be the first, with choreography by Spanish choreographer Goyo Montero, inspired by the musical and lyrical style of Cuban troubadour Silvio Rodriguez, who lent his voice for the excerpts used in this piece.

The second premiere will be “Mermaid”, a duet by Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui (one of the most renowned names in contemporary dance) especially created for Carlos Acosta, who will return to the stage accompanied by Cuban dancer, Marta Ortega.
As part of the “Septiembre” programme, audiences can also look forward to enjoying other already well-known choreographies like “Belles Lettres” by Justin Peck, “El cruce del Niagara” by Marianela Boan, and “Twelve” by Jorge Crecis.

Performances will take place on 8th, 9th, 14th, 15th and 16th September at 8:30 p.m. and on Sundays 10th and 17th September at 5 p.m. All will be staged at the Gran Teatro de La HabanaAlicia Alonso”.

“Afrodita, Oh Espejo” by Rosario Cardenas (29th, 30th September and 1st October)

The Gran Teatro de La Habana “Alicia Alonso” will certainly be busy this September. No sooner will the curtains of Acosta Danza’s latest production have been drawn that the stage will be welcoming another daring, avant-garde contemporary dance by Rosario Cardenas, winner of Premio Nacional de Danza (National Dance Award) in 2013. The versatile choreographer known for implementing a variety of elements into her dance routine, with special attention to Cuba’s African roots, will debut her brand new production “Afrodita, oh, espejo!” (loosely translating as “Aphrodite in the mirror!”) on the last few days of the month.

Drawing parallels between the Greek goddess of fertility, which came from the water and the afro-Cuban Orishas goddess, Oshun, also born from the sea and symbol of femininity, love, honey, rivers and good fortune. Also equivalent to the Roman Venus, the goddess of grace, beauty and female sexuality, Chango’s bride and close friend to Eleggua, an afro-Cuban deity that protects her, Oshun is usually depicted as a witty, charming “mulata”, lover of dance and lively partygoer forever tinkling with the persistent sound of her bells. This mega production with a cast of 13 dancers (some of which are very young) will debut in time to mark Cyprus’s Independence Day, the place where Aphrodite was born.

Top Cuban Jazz in Havana

Sergio Jimenez & Jazz en Trance (12th and 26th September)

One of Vedado’s most famous jazz haunts, the centric La Zorra y el Cuervo will be hosting the talented Cuban saxophonist Sergio Jimenez along with the Jazz en Trance ensemble for two unforgettable jamming sessions this September. Come to appreciate quality Cuban jazz in a great atmosphere. Shows start at 11 p.m.

Cuban Jazz at Diablo Tun Tun (16th September)

Award-winning Cuban pianist Alejandro Falcon and Cubadentro will join forces to offer a spectacular jazz rendition at Casa de La Musica’s Diablo Tun Tun Hall. The time is 11 p.m. and get there early as a full house is expected.

Julio Valdes & Pentajazz (20th September)

Composer, pianist, violinist and the multi-talented and multi-faceted Julio Valdes is one of Cuban jazz’ brightest promises. At the tender age of 16 he won the JoJazz festival, where members of the jury included Grammy-winning Cuban artist Chucho Valdes. Julio hasn’t looked back since. His project and band “Pentajazz” made up of equally talented young musicians is seducing audiences of all ages and he has shared the stage with the likes of Ibrahim Ferrer and Omara Portuondo (Buena Vista Social Club). Catch him and his band live next Wednesday 20th September in La Zorra y El Cuervo Club. Performance is scheduled for 11 p.m.

Lazaro Valdes & Son Jazz (24th September)

Descended from a family of prestigious musicians, pianist, professor and lecturer Lazaro Valdes will be leading a jamming session at Club La Zorra y El Cuervo this coming 24th September with his quintet “Son Jazz”, mixing powerful sounds that include son, jazz, timba and danzon, contradanza and (yes, really!) classical music. A rare treat not to miss out on.

Salsa and Fusion Music

Interactivo (every Wednesday in September)

The recently restored Café Teatro Bertolt Brecht in Havana will be frequently hosting one of Cuba’s most eclectic fusion music groups this month: Interactivo. Taking the stage every Wednesday at 11 p.m. this soulful band mixing African sounds with jazz, blues, hip hop and jazz will regale audiences with their unique multi-faceted identity.

Jose Luis Cortes y NG La Banda (every Friday in September)

Award-winning musician Jose Luis Cortes and his band NG La Banda will be treating audiences to the best timba and salsa sounds at Havana’s Casa de la Musica de Miramar


Beyond Havana

Festival Rockasol in Cienfuegos (7th to 9th September)

Organised by the Agencia Cubana de Rock (Cuban Agency of Rock) and the Hermanos Sainz Association, the first edition of Rockasol will launch on 7th September at 2 p.m. with a tattoo exhibit first and then two hours later a concert by Cienfuegos rock bands, including Breaking the Silence, The Stone Road, Akupunktura and Bouquet.

Come Friday 8th September and at the turn of 10 p.m. another line-up of local bands will rock the stage with the likes of Adictox and Dana y Rise and Beans. The rocking action will draw to a close on Saturday before midnight with performances by Trendkill, Metastasys and Darknessfoll.

This September Cienfuegos is the Cuban capital of rock – head down here and check out the local talent!

Circuba in Matanzas (1st to 10th September)

Circuba´s annual summer tour will be drawing to a close over the next few days and it will do so in Matanzas with scheduled performances in the cities of Cardenas, Jaguey Grande, Colon, P. Betancourt and Varadero, where it will all end with a big finale.

With artists from four different nations (Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay and Cuba) the grand shows put together by Cuba´s National Circus are made up of two acts and 16 scenes, translating into close to two hours of joyous fun and exciting thrills.

The final goodbye will be on Sunday 10th September at Varadero´s Amphitheatre with a spectacular gala and prize-giving ceremony to the families that have long contributed to the Cuban circus´s existence, persistence, fame and glory.

Trapizancos invade Matanzas’ historic city centre (every Friday from 8th September to 1st December)

Brightly dressed characters on stilts will be parading down Matanzas’ historic city centre as part of the cultural project “Trapizancos en la ciudad”. An initiative conceived by Luis Gil, the aim is to add colour and music to the streets every Friday of the month and beyond.

Adding more folklore to the mix, every third Sunday of the month, Cuban country music will take over the municipal Casa de Cultura, a chance to get acquainted with “tonadas”, country style improvs and the legendary “controversias”.

Cultural Saturdays in Matanzas (9th and 23rd September)

But Matanzas isn’t finished yet - on the second and fourth Saturday of the month, the Banda Muncnicipal de Conciertos (Municipal Concert Band) will perform alongside dancing groups, soloists and other aficionados. Sabado Cultural will take place during the morning at the Parque de la Iglesia.

Havana d’ Primera in Santiago de Cuba (10th September)

Santiago de Cuba´s Tropicana Cabaret will be hosting one of Cuba´s most internationally acclaimed salsa bands of the times for one night only. Alexander Abreu y Habana d´ Primera will heat things up in Santiago to the sounds of their infectious timba rhythms on the second Sunday of September at 10 p.m. A first-class act from a group of first-class musicians – a treat for the senses in every way imaginable!

The Arts

Fidel Castro – an intimate portrait by his son (2nd September until further notice)

The personal photographer of Cuba´s commander-in-chief, who also happens to be one of his sons, Alejandro Castro, also referred to as Alex Castro, has wanted to pay tribute to his late father with a unique exhibition. It was him who, to mark the occasion of what would have been his father´s 91st birthday last 13th August, put together a carefully curated collection of intimate photographs showing the Cuban leader in a softer, more familiar light. It´s on show at the Casa del Alba Cultural until further notice. 

“Nacido de lo Invisible” at Galeria Villa Manuela (August to September)

A rare and intricate collection of works by Cuban artist and poet, Elias Henoc Permut, will be on display at Galeria Villa Manuela in Havana’s Vedado neighbourhood. With a name that’s as intriguing as the paintings themselves, Nacido de lo Invisible (Borne out of the Invisible), the artist displays his personal understanding of maths, with drawings that fragment time and space in eternal strokes. A rare view of the universe through a very personal lens, using Greek symbology and millennial Western culture, particularly of hebrew origins. The exhibition will be on show until the end of September.

Post-It - a collective Cuban contemporary art exhibit (6th September to 20th October)

A total of 53 artists participate in this latest modern exhibition, showcasing bold, daring and colourful Cuban contemporary art at three different venues in Havana: Galeria Galiano and Collage Habana in Centro Habana and Artis 78 in the Playa municipality. The fourt edition of “Post It!” includes a selection of works from emerging artists handpicked by a jury sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and Fondo Cubano de Bienes Culturales. All painting styles have been included to make it as representative as possible of the Cuban arts scene today.

“A life of love” – a fan collection from a famous Cuban poet (1st September to 31st October)

Cuba’s most internationally famous Cuban poet, a lady who received many literary prizes in her lifetime, including The King Alphonse the Wise Order from Spain and the Miguel de Cervantes Literature Prize (hailed as the Nobe Prizel equivalent in Spanish Literature) from the hands of King Juan Carlos I himself, Dulce Maria Loynaz, as her name aptly reveals, was a sweet, timid lady with an exquisite gift for the written word. Her personal collection of no less than 95 elaborate fans, made in different styles, using a variety of techniques and materials and spanning a wide time period will be on show at the Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas in Havana.

The daughter of a famous General and poet who valiantly fought in Cuba’s Liberation Army and sister of other three poets, her home environment, privileged upbringing and famous aristocratic and literary friends (including Federico Garcia Lorca) gifted her with rare and exquisite pieces, including fans signed by the likes of Madeleine Lemaire (19th century) and Vernis Martin (18th century). Some of the pieces on show will be replaced every 15 days to refresh the exhibition and give space to all the 95 fans. Fans of antiques and rare decoration items certainly shouldn’t skip a visit here if in Havana this month or the next.

For Families

"Magico Regalo" at Havana's Zoo

A circus tent has been erected this month at Havana’s popular Zoologio de 26 to delight the youngest audiences and their families. The “Magico Regalo” production will be offering top-notch circus entertainment full of exhilarating antics performed by members of Cuba’s National Circus every Saturday in September at 11 a.m.

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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