Hot in Cuba - Pablo Milanes in concert, Wifredo Lam exhbition, Ballet Nacional, Ballet de Camaguey, Grand Prix Vladimir Malakov and CUBADISCO

As the school season begins and everyone goes back to the old routine, Cuba unveils an exciting calendar of events this September that will grow larger as the month unfolds. Havana will be the main focus of activities as it celebrates its 500th anniversary with a big opening concert by Cuban troubadour legend Pablo Milanes. Then there are ballet productions taking to the stage and special art exhibitions, with more to be announced soon.

Hot in Cuba - Pablo Milanes in concert, Wifredo Lam exhbition, Ballet Nacional, Ballet de Camaguey, Grand Prix Vladimir Malakov and CUBADISCO

At first glance, it might seem there’s not a lot going on in Havana as of lately. The holiday mood has meant there have been few non-family focused events in the island over the past month, but already the arrival of September has started to change that and the atmosphere is getting livelier again. From a ground-shaking concert that will wake up the city to the sound of a famous, legendary voice to dance and theatre productions by prestigious local companies, September starts with a packed first week.

As the month unfolds we’ll keep adding events to this Cuban calendar that will grow longer every week. Keep checking back to find out what’s in store every week of September 2018

Pablo Milanes gives one-off concert at Havana’s Karl Marx (7 September)

Paying special a tribute to Havana on the 500th anniversary of its foundation, Pablo Milanes will delight a keen audience from the city that welcomed him at a very young age and saw him develop into the world-famous artist he is today. It was in the 70s that he first achieved national fame with his characteristic vocal timbre and romantic lyrics that captivated fans of all ages, with a popularity that soon expanded beyond national limits to become a Latin American icon, that went on to enjoy success later in Europe. His sometimes folksy, often jazzy sounds have delighted audiences the world over.

This very special one-off concert is no small matter. For one thing, Pablo Milanes is now 75-years-old (though he certainly doesn’t look it much) and hasn’t given any public performances in a very long time. The occasion calls for it and is special because it is, as he himself described during an interview, his own way to wish Havana and habaneros a happy birthday and give back to the city that gave him so much, but also to introduce the public to a few new songs and surprises. The participation of guest artists singing alongside him has been confirmed although Milanes wants their names to remain a secret. It’s on at the Karl Marx theatre in the Playa municipality with the show starting at 8:30 p.m. and tickets will run out fast so get in line. There couldn’t be a better start to the month!

Ballet Nacional de Cuba presents The Magic Flute and Tierra y Luna (6 to 8 September)

Closing off their summer programme in style, Cuba’s national ballet company will be putting on two shows in the first week of September as their culminating acts of the season. The productions “Tierra y Luna” (Earth and Moon) and The Magic Flute were handpicked by Patrimonio Cultural de la Nacion and will give viewers two very different ballet experiences to enjoy.

First Up it’s Tierra y Luna, inspired on the poetic works of Federico Garcia Lorca, with choreography by Maria Rovira and original music by Equis Alfonso. On the same evening, this act will be followed by The Magic Flute, a comedy ballet piece with original music by Mozart and choreography by Alicia Alonso. Scheduled over three consecutive days (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) and stage at the Gran Teatro de La Habana, all shows start at 8:30 p.m. and tickets can be bought from the theatre’s ticket office. 

Visual Arts Exhibition “Matrices del Tiempo” in Cienfuegos (4 to 30 September)

Cienfuegos’ Federico Fernandez Cavada art gallery, housed inside the Taller de Grabado de la Sociedad Grafica de Cienfuegos is hosting a very special exhibition this month titled “Matrices del Tiempo” (Time Matrices), where artists create the right conditions to debate about multi-cultural diversity in the universe of visual arts. As part of the exhibition, there will also be workshops and conferences at the Museo Provincial.

The exhibition unites the work of contemporary Cuban artists like K-Cho, but most remarkably, this art space also features an important collection of 18 engraved pieces by Wifredo Lam, a Cuban painter who was a pioneer of its time and whose masterpieces reached far beyond the confines of the island. He’s considered the most universal and internationally famous of Cuban artists and for a very good reason as he was the first to explore his mixed heritage roots and elevate Afro-Cuban art from a place of total obscurity. If you’re in Cienfuegos this September, stopping here to check out this gallery is definitely worth it.

Ballet de Camaguey celebrates 50th anniversary with performances in Havana (21, 22 and 23 September)

After adapting their pieces to Sancti Spiritus’ smaller format theatre, the Ballet de Camaguey will stop in Havana later this month to perform its summer programme at the Gran Teatro de La Habana “Alicia Alonso” in the Garcia Lorca hall. The production includes pieces Aguas Primaverales, Los Amantes y la Muerte (an excerpt from Romeo and Juliet) and Aleatorio, the company’s newest piece which debuted last July by choreographer Tania Vergara.

JJ celebrates 56th anniversary with a special performance at Teatro Nacional (21, 22 and 23rd September)

Cuba’s traditional folkloric dance company “JJ” (Compania de Danzas Tradicionales de Cuba JJ) will take to the stage in Havana for three weekend nights to introduce the audience to their latest production - Arara. Under the artistic direction of Johannes Garcia, this new piece pays tributes to the culture of afro-Cuban ancestors from the Ewe-fon western regions of Africa and the Yoruba religion, bringing to life their customs and beliefs through elaborate dances and costumes. A great opportunity for a full cultural immersion into Afro-Cuban culture not to miss in Havana this month! 

5th edition of Dance Gala and Competition “Grand Prix Vladimir Malakov” in Holguin (23rd to 29th September)

Holguin gears up this month to welcome the fifth edition of the city’s biggest dance competition and one of the most nationally famous too. The “Concurso de Danza del Atlantico Norte y Grand Prix Vladimir Malakhov” takes place over the last week of September and will see a wide variety of dance groups and individual dancers take to the stage and battle it out for a series of prizes.

For the course of seven days, Holguin becomes Cuba’s dance capital and this year, the competition has attracted the widest array of participating countries with dancers and dance companies from Cuba, Paraguay, U.S., France, Spain, Italy all confirmed to attend.

Vladimir Malhakov the outstanding dancer, former artistic director of the Berlin State Ballet from its founding until 2014 and winner of numerous prestigious accolades during his professional career is the person after whom this competition is named and returns to the island to be part of it for the fifth time. And he doesn’t just come to enjoy the performances, he takes a leading active role in the competition, is part of the judges’ panel and personally hands out the prizes.

He recently said this to Cuban media when speaking about the upcoming fifth edition of Holguin’s Malakhov Grand Prix:

“I always expect something special you know, because there’s always lots of surprises every day. That’s why I’m excited, I’m very excited about this. I’m very happy to be here, to see old friends and to start the wonderful competition of Grand Prix Holguin”

Beyond the staging of dance performances, the event will also include workshops, master classes and seminars

When speaking about what was new in this year’s competition, Malakhov said:

“I always come up with new ideas on how to make all competitors happy. This is why this year I decided to give out more prizes. This time we will have lots of prizes”

Beyond the big three main awards usually given out (the Grand Prix Best Performance, Grand Prix Best Choreography, and Grand Prix Best Scenography), there will be a First, Second and Third place prize in all three categories.

Those wishing to attend performances can head to Holguin’s Eddy Sunol theatre, the event’s main host and where tickets will also be sold.


Danza Contemporanea de Cuba debuts new production at Havana´s Gran Teatro (28th to 30th September and 5th to 7th October)

Treating dance lovers to yet another dance extravaganza this month in Cuba is the prestigious Danza Contemporanea de Cuba company which will be staging its newest, latest production on September´s last weekend, closing off the month just like it started, on a high note and a dancing mood.

With a total 25 participating dancers, “Los Amores de Marte y Venus” (The Loves of Mars and Venus) is the company´s latest piece, under the direction and choreography of MBE Lea Anderson, who has been commissioned by the British Council to collaborate and work with Danza Contemporanea de Cuba in Havana. With the same title of the first ever ballet dance production to be staged in England, back in 1717, this renewed piece, based on the work of John Weaver (1673-1760), tells the mythological story of ill-fated lovers Venus and Mars through the art of movement, music and dance.

With music by Steve Blake, lighting design by Simon Corder and costume and staging design by Simon Vincenzi, the premiere of Los Amores de Marte will be staged at the Gran Teatro de La Habana “Alicia Alonso on Friday 28th September at 8:30 p.m., followed by two more performances on Saturday 29th at 8:30 p.m. and on Sunday 30th at 5 p.m.

They will follow up with an additional three performances scheduled for the next weekend, which would be October's firs.


Las Tunas celebrates “Portus Patris” Literary festival in Puerto Padre (27th to 30th September)

The humble, unassuming province of Las Tunas is scarcely known to travellers or tourist visitors on holiday in Cuba, yet if you happen to be close to this eastern part of Cuba towards the end of the month, it might be worth it to pop in and check out the pretty colonial seaside town of Puerto Padre, host of the Portus Patris Literary Festival.

 Concerts, workshops and conferences, as well as community-based activities, will all be part of this four-day celebration, where the local community comes together and you can get a rare insider’s perspective on an off-the-beaten-path town. The festival is a great excuse to get acquainted with this forgotten part of Cuba, not once mentioned in travel guides. Puerto Padre as it happens has a rich history dating back to the 16th century and it flourished after its industrialisation with the arrival of sugar mills. Telling more would be spoiling it…go on and get to know it!

CUBADISCO Festival celebrates Cuban music in Havana with gigs and galas (29th to 30th September)


Following a week of celebration of Cuban music as part of Havana’s 22nd International Forum of Music - Cubadisco 2018, which kicked off on 23rd September, an award-giving ceremony will culminate the festivities at Teatro Astral on the last Saturday of September. The gala starts at 8:30 p.m. and during it the winners of the nearly 40 categories will be announced. Once the awards ceremony is over, the party continues in La Piragua, facing the glorious Malecon seawall, where a tribute will be paid to Cuban musician Pacho Alonso on his 90th birthday, with the performances of legendary local bands like Manolito Simonet and his orchestra, El Tosco, Lazarito Valdes, Pupy and Kelvis Ochoa among others.

But the musical celebrations don’t end there either, as also on Saturday, preceding the awards ceremony, two young and talented Cuban jazzists, Hector Quintana and Yoandry Argudin will be performing in Pabellon Cuba’s La Pergola hall at 4 p.m. and their act will be followed by that of jazz star Roberto Fonseca and Temperamento, taking to the stage at the YARA cinema from 6 p.m. On Sunday, at the same cinema and at the same time it will be Septeto Santiaguero’s turn to woo the crowds.


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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