Fiesta del Tambor, a dance festival as well
BY MARY COUTO / PHOTOS: JOSÉ (TITO) MERIÑO
The popular Fiesta del Tambor, celebrated in Cuba for the last two decades, besides being a faithful exponent of percussion, also offers an important space for dance, mainly in the casino and rumba genres.
These styles of dance, among the most popular on the Caribbean island, reflect the cheerful idiosyncrasy of the Cuban people, and are therefore a fundamental part of the festival competitions, every year bringing together many dancers of all ages, both Cuban and foreign.
Casino is a ballroom dance that emerged in Havana in the late 1950s as a form of entertainment for couples and, sometimes, in groups of couples, called rueda de casino. Rumba, declared Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2016 by UNESCO, originated in Cuba during the 19th century and its roots are African. This genre is considered the mother of many Latin rhythms and dances, as is the case with salsa.
Given the importance of these rhythms, the Fiesta del Tambor program includes dance competitions with a splendid jury: Jennyselt Lázara Gálata Calvo, Johannes García and Domingo Pau, great exponents of dance in the largest of the Antilles.
For Jennyselt Lázara Gálata Calvo, currently with the company Antonio María Romeu as an independent solo dancer, being a member of the jury of the dance competitions of this important event is a great honor, as it reflects the recognition of her career in the world of dance.
“For me this work is of vital importance for the development of dance and folklore in general in my country, because it gives an opportunity to those interested, from an early age and even adults, to express through dancing their motivation for these genres,” she told this magazine.
In her opinion, the Fiesta del Tambor upholds the traditions, both musical and dance, of Cuban folklore and, she added: “It is worth highlighting that thanks to Gerardo Piloto, the rumba, which is already Intangible Heritage of Humanity, can be practiced and studied by children and adults, thanks to the workshops included over the last two years”.
Johannes García, lead dancer of the Conjunto Folklórico Nacional and founder of the company Danzas Tradicionales de Cuba, considers his role as judge at this meeting as very important, because the Fiesta del Tambor “deals with the essence of the folkloric dances performed with this instrument and contributes to preserving folkloric dance, the popular dance which in Cuba is very diverse”.
This event, he considered, is very relevant, starting with the diversity that the drum has given to all the Cuban rhythms and because it tries to exhibit all those that we enjoy in the world today. The prestige achieved by this festival is seen in the wide participation of musicians from many countries, so it is important to get more support to grow it.
With a life dedicated to Afro-Cuban folklore (56 years), Domingo Pau, another member of the prestigious jury of the Fiesta del Tambor in the dance competitions, said that this event is extremely important, since it has allowed the participation not only of percussion students from different schools, but also young people with no academic training, which shows that “the percussion in the country is enjoying success”.
Another aspect highlighted by Professor Pau is that the festival “permits the showcasing of our people’s popular traditions relating to rumba and shows that the effort of those men and women who knew how to preserve it until now have earned the right to their heritage with the certainty that our youth will not let it die”.