Afro-Brazilian and Afro-Cuban

History of Afro Cuban and Afro Brazilian Dance

From the religions of Santeria (Cuba) and Candomble (Brazil) the Orixá/Orishas are deities. Each has a character, a dance, a colour and a song.

Afro-Brazilian dance is composed of a group of different dances which were created in Brazil in many regions at different times. These include:

The dances of the Orixás from the religion Candomble: Candomblé (meaning dance in honor of the gods ) is a religion found primarily in Brazil with a number of elements derived from African cultures. It not only incorporates some religious aspects of Yoruba, Bantu, and Fon African societies, but it gradually integrated some characteristics of Catholicism as well.  Each deity has their own steps, own colors, own songs and rhythm. Oxum, for example, the goddess of fertility and sweet waters, dresses in yellow as she performs her steps. The gestures, footwork, torso isolations and rhythmic patterns of the orixá dances allude to specific legends, struggles and beliefs.

Capoeira: A game, a fight, and a dance, composed of kicks, acrobatics, and traditional Kongo dance movements. One doesn’t speak of  dancing or fight­ing but rather of playing capoeira (jogar capoeira). One popular conception of cap­oeira is that it was developed as a means of self-defense for slaves hoping to escape to independent black communi­ties in the backlands of the agricultural states.

Afro-Cuban dances include a huge group of Cuban dances that reflect the four main groups of Africans that were transported to Cuba: the Kongo-Angola of west-central Africa, Arará (descendants of Fon and other ethnic groups from what are now Benin and Togo), Yoruba (largely from Nigeria), and Carabalí (from the Calabar River regions of Cameroon and Nigeria).

The best-known dances are attached to the Yoruba-based Afro-Cuban religion of Santería:

Santería is a syncretic interlacing of intra-African and Roman Catholic belief systems and religious practices. Both men and women sing and dance, but only men traditionally play the sacred batá drums that accompany the rituals. The percussive rhythms, songs, and dances of Santería are meant to please the orishas (deities) and to persuade them to join the celebration; their acceptance is signaled by their manifestation within the dancers’ bodies, what participants often describe as possession.

Afro Cuban dances also include: Rumba:

Rumba: Originally, the term rumba was used as a synonym for party in northern Cuba. Traditionally, the three main styles of rumba are Yambú, Columbia and Guaguanco, each of which has a characteristic dance, rhythm and singing.

Columbia: A style of Rumba, The Columbia is a virtuosic solo dance, generally though not always performed by males as a competition.  The dance of the Columbia is acrobatic, mimetic, and competitive; one dancer follows another, each trying to outdo the rest. The Columbia is the most virtuosic showpiece for the rumba dancer, with a wide vocabulary of movements that can include gestures from Abakuá, Congo, or Yoruba dancing; Tumba Francesa from Oriente (which is to say, Afro-Caribbean Domingan / Haitian influence); Spanish dancing; pantomimes and mini-dramas that can involve boxing, household tasks, or memories of slavery days; and moves from later genres like tap or breaking (breakdance). Women also insisted on dancing columbia, traditionally the province of the male dancer. The most famous Columbiana was Matanzas’s Andrea Baró, but Moliner and Gutiérrez also recall the names of Chaní, Concepción, Sombí and Aguedita

Guaguancó: Is a style of Rumba, a couple dance of sexual competition between the male and female, often in a circle. The male tries to “catch” his partner with a single thrust of his pelvis. This erotic movement is called the vacunao (‘vaccination’ or more specifically ‘injection’), a gesture symbolizing sexual penetration. The vacunao can also be expressed with a sudden gesture made by the hand or foot. The drummer often accents the vacunao. Holding onto the ends of her skirt while seductively moving her upper and lower body in contrary motion, the female “opens” and “closes” her skirt. The male attempts to distract the female with fancy steps, until he is in position to “inject” her. The female reacts by quickly turning away, bringing the ends of her skirts together, or covering her groin area with her hand (botao), symbolically blocking the “injection.” Most of the time the male dancer does not succeed in “catching” his partner. The dance is performed with ‘good-natured humour’ David Peñalosa.

as well as Son, Makuta and many more.

The dances of the Orixá/Orishas are a major component of our teaching programme and with language, geography and history elements are a fantastic study for educational purposes. 

We also offer workshops in Spanish, Portuguese and French.