Folklórico Dance Groups
Seeing a folklórico dance group is a definitive Santiago de Cuba cultural experience. The city is home to a dozen such groups (more than anywhere else in Cuba), which exist to teach and perform traditional Afro-Cuban bailes (dances) and pass their traditions on to future generations. Most of the groups date from the early 1960s and all enjoy strong patronage from the Cuban government.
A good place to find out about upcoming folklórico events is at the Casa del Caribe in Vista Alegre where many of the groups hang out and perform.
Santiago’s oldest folklórico group is the Conjunto Folklórico de Oriente formed in 1959. They perform a huge range of Afro-Cuban dance genres from gagá and bembé to tumba francesa at the Teatro José María Heredia. The Ballet Folklórico Cutumba is an offshoot of the Oriente group formed in 1976. You can usually see them rehearsing at their HQ, the Teatro Galaxia, from 9am to 1pm, Tuesday to Friday.
For pure tumba francesa dancing check out the Tumba Francesa La Caridad de Oriente, one of only three of these French-Haitian groups left in Cuba. They can be seen in their rehearsal rooms on Tuesday and Thursday at 9pm.
The Carabalí Olugo and the Carabalí Izuama are comparsas (carnival music and dance groups) who represent the Tivolí and Los Hoyos neighborhoods in Santiago’s July carnival. They are both descendants of 19th-century cabildos or mutual aid societies formed along ethnic lines, a factor still reflected in their music.
Compañia Danzaría Folklórica Kokoyé is a more modern group, formed in 1989 to promote Afro-Cuban dance to tourists. They can be seen performing on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon in the Casa del Caribe.