Cuba’s musical heritage spans a spectrum of sensual sounds and fuels a dizzying panorama of dance forms. The entire island sways to tropical rhythms, while classical genres thrive thanks to the state-sponsored promotion of the arts.
The Ballet Nacional de Cuba and Ballet de Camagüey are among the world’s top companies. The country’s leading venue for ballet is Havana’s Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso, named for Cuba’s prima ballerina.
This slow, formal 19th-century dance form is kept alive by elder Cubans. A Caribbean and Creole adaptation of European country dancing, danzón is marked by elegant set footwork and long pauses. You can see couples swaying daily in Santa Clara’s Casa de la Cultura, off Parque Leoncio Vidal, and during the Danzón Habana Festival, which is held every June.
The precursor to salsa, son was born in Eastern Cuba and evolved to become the national music form. It was adopted by big bands and spawned the cha-cha-cha and mambo. Check it out at the Casa de la Trova in Santiago de Cuba.
Salsa is the sensual dance of choice in Cuba and almost every nightclub features sizzling salsa sounds. Why not learn some moves before giving it a go? Book classes with La Casa del Son (www.bailarencuba.com) or Club Salseando Chévere (www.salseandochevere.com).
Cubans adore choral and classical music, which is kept alive by choirs and ensembles nationwide, who sometimes play music by home-grown composers, such as Guido López Gavilán. In the capital, Teatro Nacional (www.teatronacional.cu) and Basílica de San Francisco offer year-round programs, while Santa Clara’s Teatro la Caridad also stages opera and other classical music.
Working-class parties keep alive Afro-Cuban folkloric music and dance forms, such as yambú, columbia and the salacious guanguancó. Together, these different traditions make up the rumba genre. A great place to dance rumba is Havana’s El Patio de EGREM (410 San Rafael).
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