October 2018 in Cuba brings the best of Cuban culture expressed in a diverse number of ways. 20th October marks National Cuban Culture Day but in the island, they like to prolong the party or, in this case, start it earlier (around 10th October) to ensure enough time is devoted to a variety of celebrations islandwide. From Havana to Bayamo (the latter has a starring role this month as the birthplace of Cuba’s national anthem 150 years ago) there will be plenty of entertainment options allowing a full immersion into Cuban aspects, some well-known others rarer and hardly experienced b, foreign visitors and holidaymakers. So there’s your unique chance to squeeze the life out of this eventful, Cuban-to-the-core month in which all Cubans celebrate who and how they are.
Oh, and Matanzas is also turning 325 years old, so there’s another great free and public party to enjoy at one of its most picturesque squares. Scroll down to find out more about this and many other special events, concerts, dance performances and celebrations in Cuba this October if you’re lucky enough to be enjoying a holiday there this month. If I could, I would be there in a heartbeat myself.
Top Calendar Picks in Cuba this October
Laura Alonso Ballet special at Havana’s Teatro Marti (12 and 13 October)
In celebration of Cuban Culture Day 2018 (Dia de la Cubania) this October and the upcoming 500th anniversary of Havana’s foundation, the Laura Alonso Ballet company, part of Centro Prodanza, will be giving two performances. Also paying tribute to emblematic Cuban female poet Carilda Oliver Labra (1922 - 2018) the programme will include universal classics like Swan Lake’s Pas de Trois, as well as the debut of new pieces like “Involuntario” with choreography by Mariem Valdes, third place winner at the Gran Prix Mijail Malakhov dance competition held last month (which we told you about in our previous edition). Valdes’ winning piece includes fragments from Carilda Oliver Labra’s poems, among other surprises.
Litz Alfonso’s Dance Cuba company will participate as an invited guest with artistic direction by Ernesto Farinas Garcia and genera
Performances are scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on both days and tickets can be bought from the theatre’s ticket office (which opens daily from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.) starting 9th October. Please note that the ticket office won’t open on Wednesday 10th October.
Celebrating Cuban Culture countrywide (10 to 20 October)
The period stretching from 10th to 20th October is known in Cuba as “Jornada de la Cultura Cubana” leading up to the celebration of the Day of Cuban Culture on 20th October, which commemorates the first time Cuba’s national anthem, La Bayamesa, was sung.
This celebratory period is celebrated islandwide with a series of concerts, workshops, art exhibits and more. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the national anthem, the 70th anniversary of Cuba’s National Ballet Company (Ballet Nacional de Cuba) and the 90th anniversary of Ernesto Che Guevara’s birth, so the celebrations will reflect all these milestones in different ways.
Watch this space as the month unfolds to find out what will happen where, we will post updates as they come.
Camaguey celebrates local culture with citywide celebrations (10 to 20 October)
Starting 10th October, Camaguey is celebrating regional Cuban culture in a big way with a kick-off gala at the centric Parque Agramonte. The “Jornada por la Cultura Cubana” in Camaguey will take over the city with the celebration of numerous public acts, concerts, shows and performances.
Among the many daily events, we highlight a few below.
The Ballet de Camaguey will dedicate a special programme to the festivities, with a series of performances at Teatro Principal on 14th and 15th October, while Sunday night on 16th October will see vocal group Desandann and Coro de Camaguey take to the stage at the gallery inside the Consejo Provincial de Las Artes Plasticas.
On 15th October, the grand staircase at the Preuniversitaro Alvaro Morell college school is the site chosen for a public concert celebrating local avant-garde artists.
The next day, starting 10 a.m. talented young artists Joel Jover and Jorge Artiles will put on a collaborative exhibition at the Museo Provincial “Ignacio Agramonte”.
To put the finishing touch these two weeks of non-stop celebrations, Camaguey’s Orquesta Sinfonica (Symphonic Orchestra) will give a special concert at the recently renewed and revamped Teatro Avellaneda.
Celebrating Matanzas 325th birthday with a grand street gala (12 October)
This month Matanzas kicks off 325th-anniversary celebrations with a grand gala at Plaza de la Vigia, a leafy square facing the recently refurbished and legendary Teatro Fausto.
This is Matanzas’ birthday party and as such hand-picked local talent will pay tribute to a milestone anniversary for their land with a series of concerts, dance performances and shows.
In the gala’s first part traditional music genres that rarely see the light these days will return to the stage, with the presence of country folk music and the performance Gonzalo Roig’s “romanzas matanceras”. Children will have their space too with the performance of students from vocational art school “Alfonso Perez Isaac, with the participation of dancers and a choir.
The third part of the gala will be dedicated to contemporary acts, with performances from Atenas Brass Ensemble, pianist Alejandro Falcon. It will all end with a big “rumbon” where everyone will be dancing along to the sounds of Matanzas’ biggest, oldest and most legendary music band, Los Munequitos de Matanzas, followed by Afrocuba and Los Jovenes Reyes del Tambor, adding a touch of flavourful Afro-Cuban folklore to this grand celebration.
The gala, completely free for all to attend will offer outsider and visitors a very raw, real and authentic taste of true Matanzas, what it was, what it has been and what it is today. A rare cultural immersion to make the most of if you’re in Matanzas or nearby Varadero this month.
Danza Fragmentada debuts new seasonal programme in Guantanamo (11 to 14 October)
Danza Fragmentada, a contemporary dance company from Guantanamo founded in 1993 by Ladislao Navarro, the same teacher, dancer and choreographer who has directed the company since its birth, is a rather unique dance group that mixes regional cultural elements, music and dance moves from autochtonous genres like changui, santeria and tumba francesa. So the fact, that they’re presenting a new seasonal programme this month is indeed great news. Not only that, they’re accompanying it with daily seminars, conferences and workshops.
From 11th to 14th October they will perform at a different venue in the city of Guantanamo each day.
Thursday 11th October
At 7 p.m. a photographic exhibition documenting Danza Fragmentada’s history will open at Galeria de Arte del Palacio Salcine.
Following that, a group of dancers will parade down the streets with living statues, dancers on stilts and a Moda Ikari theatre group. The parade starts at Pasacalle and ends at Danza Fragmentada’s headquarters in Los Maceo Street, between Aguilera and Crombet streets.
At 8:30 p.m. and also at Galeria del Arte del Palacio Salcine, a dancing duo from Danza Fragmentada will take to stage along with Danza Libre, Ballet Folklorico Babul and Medula to perform “Impromtus del Cuerpo” (Body Impromptus) with music by Quinteto de Saxofones Conatus and a male choir, paying tribute to Danza Fragmentada’s founder Ladislao Navarro.
Friday 12th October
In the morning, at 10:30 a.m. the Jose Marti park, in an area under a ceiba tree will host presentations from a variety of dance companies as well as dance students from the Alfredo Velazquez Carcases School and the Youth Academy of Danza Fragmentada (Academia Infantil y Juvenil Danza Fragmentada).
Then at 8:30 p.m. events move to Teatro Guaso, which will host a series of dance performances by Danza Fragmentada, Medula and Danza Libre with the debut of “Entropia” and “Encuentro de Abanicos” as well as “Eucarionte” and “Axioma #1”.
Saturday 13th October
For another day, Teatro Guaso will host dance performances, this time with a presentation from Santiago de Cuba’s Ad-Libitum dance company and Danza Fragmentada, who will stage the debut of two new productions: “Cardiopatia” and “Isla”. It’s on at 8:30 p.m.
Sunday 14th October
To close off this four-day dance extravaganza, a series of performances will be presented to the audience at Teatro Guaso starting 8:30 p.m., with the participation of Ballet Folklorico Babul, Ad Libitum and students from the Escuela Profesional de Danza “Alfredo Velazquez Carcases”. As a finishing, Danza Fragmentada will perform its piece “El puente de Aguilera” for the second time.
Havana’s Teatro Nacional de Cuba hosts National Symphonic Orchestra (14 October)
Also in celebration of the National Day of Cuban Culture, the island’s National Symphonic Orchestra will give a special concert at the capital’s Teatro Nacional. The Sunday performance starts at 11 a.m. and comprises a varied programme with pieces by Cuban composers Lopez Gavilan, Roig and Caturla as well as by Russian composer Prokofiev. Young talent Rodrigo Garcia will be at the piano under the direction of Maestro Enrique Perez Mesa. An uplifting morning medley and ideal way to get acquainted with quality Cuban classical music.
Explosion Danzaria in Nueva Gerona (16 October)
Not many holidaymakers head to Cuba’s Isle of Youth unless they’re keen divers (given the popularity of Punta Frances for its pristine scuba diving conditions, international PADI diving centre and amazing marine world) but those that do would do well to hed to Teatro Victoria in Nueva Gerona on 16th October to enjoy a folkloric dance performance by local dance company, Carapachibey, Raices de Espana and Indigo. The show starts at 9 p.m.
Fiesta de la Cubania in Bayamo (17 to 20 October)
All kinds of Cuban artistic expressions will come together in the eastern city of Bayamo (part of the Granma province) this month to celebrate the birth city of Cuba’s national anthem, a.k.a “La Bayamesa”, written and sung here for the first time 150 years ago and thus kick-starting Cuba’s Independence Wars against the Spanish colony.
The cultural calendar and events programme comprises around 230 different activities, workshops, concerts, shows, art exhibitions and dance performances. Highlights include concerts by legendary salsa band NG La Banda, Grammy-winning Eliades Ochoa (famous for being part of the Buena Vista Social Club, Pancho Amat, the popular Buena Fe duo, Original de Manzanillo, Grupo Moncada and El Nino y La Verdad.
Also giving a one-off performance is Candido Fabre (known as The King of “Repentismo” and famous for his improvisational skills and ability to get people on their feet and dancing). Fabre and his group are one of Cuba’s most international and longest-established charanga bands that have performed around the world (including in Britain with around 80 concerts.
There will also be an artisanal fair with traditional Cuban plates available for sales.
Bayamo’s Fiesta de la Cubana brings three days of joyful festivities, Cuban pride and widespread glee, packed to the brim with all manner of events to absorb authentic Cuban culture and provincial life in a little-explored part of Cuba.