Crossing Boundaries

Crossing Boundaries

Performing a new work entitled "Obatala/Danbala: An Encounter" at Dixon Place, 161A Chrystie St. between Rivington and Delancey in Manhattan, NY. With Jennifer Brogle, Kayla Jewette, Christopher Oriz, Jose Conde, Obanilu Ire, and Rodolphe "Neg Mawon" Pierre.

Cuba: La Habana, Matanzas y Vadadero, Camaguey, Guantanamo, Santiago, El Cobre

I recently traveled to Cuba with Danys “La Mora” Perez, members of her Afro-Cuban folkloric dance ensemble Oyu Oro and other researchers and dance students. The trip involved a rigorous schedule of daily dance and song classes by teachers and performers from some of the most prominent Afro-Cuban folkloric companies based in Havana, Matanzas and Santiago. Additionally, we saw folkloric performances in Camaguey, Santiago, and El Cobre as well as two modern and contemporary modern companies based in Santiago. The two week journey included ceremonies or toqués, a contemplative visit to a sacred site, much live music, and many deep connections. My intro here is a bit dry in that I'd like to document briefly some of the highlights of especially the educational aspects of this journey. But, it must be stated that this trip to Cuba was extremely profound for me and moved me...inspired me...changed me...spiritually, emotionally, physically. Sunrise, Bay of Havana.


La Habana: We danced with Ildolivia Ramus Jàne of Raices Profundasthe Havana-based folkloric dance company directed by Juan de Dios, whom I had studied with on my first trip to Havana in 2006. Our lead musician, Eduardo Aguiero used to perform with Raices Profundas and currently plays with Clave y Guaguanco. He lectured on aspects of La Regla de Lucumí and especially the importance of Elegua, for which he taught a couple of songs to go with the Ñongo rhythm. Ildolivia led us through Lalubanché, Ñongo, and Chachalokafún for Elegua, zapateos de Ochún, Yemayá Chikini variations all within the Yoruba tradition and Afrekete and Mase from the Arará lineage. We learned Palo Trillado from Pinar del Rio. This style seemed similar to Palo but a little slower. However, by the time we finished this style felt just as strong and intense as Palo. She also introduced us to Kongo/Bantu styles from Trinidad, Cuba. These included Milena, Dilen Dilen, Vamos a Jugar, and Kin Van Bara. Alexander La Rosa Pérez, of Ballet de Oriente in Santiago and La Mora's nephew, warmed us up and taught salsa choreography.

Eduardo Aguiero

Ildolivia with Josephine and Mirtha in our studio in Vedado.

Sunset from the Malecón, La Habana, Cuba.

Next stop, Varadero.


Varadero is a resort town on the northern shore of Cuba. The sea is sweet here and tranquil. Clear, turquoise, blue on the horizon...soft white sand and sea grass. The sea feels supportive and it's hugging me. It's less salty than any other water I've been in this summer from the Terrenean Sea to Virginia Beach to Miami. It tastes good on my lips.

IMG_3447 IMG_3489

We studied with Grupo Afro-Cuba de Matanzas. I had studied with them two years ago and was looking forward to working with Antonio Figueroa master dancer and Menini artistic director again. Our drummers were Rances and Diosvanni, both sons of Menini I believe and Ignacio Calderon Osborne, musical director for Afro-Cuba de Matanzas.

with Figueroa, amazing to dance with him again two years later!

Rances, Ignacio, Diosvanni on congas

Rances, Ignacio, Francisco Mora Catlett (top), Menini, Diosvanni, Karen.

Again, like in Havana, we danced morning and afternoon. Figueroa worked us through the orishas Elegua (with alubanché, la tokpa, chachalokafún), Ogún, Ochún, Yemayá, and Oyá. Menini led us in songs for Elegua, Ogun, Yemaya, and Shangó. Figueroa gave us a lot of information through his sequences and the subtleties of his torso, shoulders, and feet. In Yemaya's chikini section he keeps his feet very connected to the floor to improvise and play with the rhythm, but he also lifts up to sustain the rhythm. Menini's song classes continued with Arará songs for Afrekete, Hebioso (Jevioso), and Sobo. I thought it was interesting to hear about Sobo, as the Arará rhythm reminds me of a rhythm from Souvnans in Haiti and Sobo is also a lwa in Haitian Vodou. Menini explained that Sobo is aligned with fire like a volcano and its color is red wine. In the Yoruba tradition Sobo is Agayu. He wears nine colored handkerchiefs on his waist and his tool is a big headed axe.


The night of August 8th we went to Matanzas to participate in a ceremony for Obatala, Menini's orisha, in Menini and Mima's home.

La Mora and her daughter Mihalia at Menini and Mima's house for the toqué for Obatala.

Batá players and Akpwón. I met Nelson in blue before the toqué at his house.


Jose Martí and la plaza de la Libertad, Matanzas.


La rueda dentada

Descriptions and pictures of Camaguey, Guantanamo, Santiago, and El Cobre to come...

ArtPile: Performance at Fawn Street


ArtPile an evening of experimental music and dance The performance will be at 2501 Fawn Street, Norfolk, VA Sunday December 2, 2012. Doors open at 6.30pm/performance starts at 7:00pm. Tickets are $5 General Admission and can be purchased at the door.  For additional inquiries please contact

ArtPile is a group of performance-based artists in Hampton Roads who present original works created in the spirit of collaboration. We are dancers, choreographers, musicians, composers and visual artists committed to fostering a sense of community and visibility for art in Hampton Roads. ArtPile is: Rachel Thorne Germond, Dale Lazar, Ann Mazzocca, Kelly Rossum, Megan Thompson, and Suzanne Wiltgen. Additional guest artists include musicians Annie Stevens, Johnny Finn and the Steve Thorne 3 Jazz band and dancers Jen Clark Stone and Kayla Jewette. December 2nd will be ArtPile’s first event. The evening will be a combination of experimental dance and music performances.


RACHEL THORNE GERMOND is current adjunct faculty in the Old Dominion University Department of Dance. She has been dancing, choreographing and presenting work (primarily in Chicago and New York City) since 1990. Ms. Germond is a graduate of Cornell University and achieved an MFA in dance and choreography at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana in 2000. She formed her Chicago-based dance company, RTG Dance in 2004.  Rachel will be teaching a movement/alignment dance class on Wednesday nights in January at TR Dance (Todd Rosenlieb Dance) on Granby Street. See for more information.

DALE LAZAR  is the principal accompanist for the Modern Dance Technique classes at Old Dominion University. He has also accompanied for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the American College Dance Festival, and the annual high school dance festival hosted by Todd Rosenlieb Dance Academy. Dale has performed with Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Symphonicity, Virginia Winds, and Norfolk Chamber Consort. Currently, he composes and performs with the Jen Stone and Megan Thompson Dance Project, Steve Thorne 3 jazz group, and teaches for Community Music Division at ODU. Interested in all forms of percussion, Mr. Lazar is a student of the North Indian tabla and has studied under Kumar Das and Pandit Samir Chatterjee. Dale holds a  B.A. in Percussion Performance from Old Dominion University.

ANN MAZZOCCA relocated to Norfolk from Brooklyn, NY in 2011 to join the faculty at Christopher Newport University in Newport News as Assistant Professor of Dance. She has toured nationally and internationally with Haitian and Cuban dance companies based in NYC and has presented her scholarship and choreography nationally in cities including Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and Miami. Inspired by the communal living and intimacy that she encountered in Haiti and her experiences in the diasporic Haitian folkloric dance community, her work approaches Haitian dance through Western contemporary dance methods.

KELLY ROSSUM is an international trumpet artist, improviser and composer. He has been invited to perform at multiple International Trumpet Guild Conferences, including Sydney, Australia and Bangkok, Thailand as well as repeat appearances at the Festival of New Trumpet Music and the Atlanta Trumpet Festival. He has performed everything from lead trumpet at New York’s famed Birdland jazz club, to natural trumpet in Bad Säckingen, Germany. As a recording artist, Kelly has released four albums as a leader and has appeared on over 40 recordings as a sideman.Dr. Kelly Rossum is currently Assistant Professor of Trumpet and Director of Jazz Studies at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia.

MEGAN THOMPSON is a full-time lecturer in Dance at Old Dominion University. She has danced professionally in the noranewdanceco, the Li Chiao-Ping Dance Company, the Maida Withers Dance Construction Company and currently with RTG Dance. Her own work has been presented in Chicago, IL, Madison, WI, Richmond, VA, Washington, D.C. and Krasnoyarsk Russia. In 2009, Thompson, along with performing artist Jen Stone, created the Jen Stone and Megan Thompson Dance Project. Together they have taught master classes and presented their work internationally in Guatemala and Mexico and locally in Norfolk and Richmond, VA. Megan holds a BS in Dance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MFA in Dance from the University of Maryland and is certified in the Pilates Method of Body Conditioning.  

SUZANNE WILTGEN earned her MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and her BA in Dance from Mount Holyoke College. Through the generous support from a fellowship from the Henry Luce Foundation, she lived in Korea and studied with Sin Cha Hong and Laughing Stone Dance Theatre, and then in Malaysia where she taught and performed under Mew Chang Tsing of RiverGrass Dance Theater. She moved to Minneapolis in 2000, where she co-founded the Three Dances collaborative modern dance company with Brinsley Davis and Jamey Garner. In 2009, Suzanne relocated to New York City, and now is based in Newport News, VA.

Crossing Boundaries at Dixon Place

On May 29th I'll be presenting a new work at Marcia Monroe's curated showcase "Crossing Boundaries" at Dixon Place. I'm working with dancers Rainy Demerson and Jennifer Donello, musician, singer and dancer Michele "Buffy" Drysdale, and musicians and vocalists Neg Mawon and Yatande Boko who I have had the privilege to work with for close to 10 years now. I'm exploring the meaning held within and projected onto the folkloric skirt that is integral to sacred ceremony and folkloric representations of the female lwa and orishas of Haitian Vodou and Cuban Yoruba traditions. The piece reflects my ongoing investigation into the meeting of contemporary approaches to choreography, composition, movement, improvisation, tradition, folklore, and experience.

"Crossing Boundaries," May 29th 7:30pm at Dixon Place, 161A Chrystie Street (btwn Rivington and Delancey) in the lower east side of Manhattan. Tickets $12 advance/$15 at the door. The Dixon Place Lounge is open before, during, and after the show. Proceeds directly support Dixon Place's artists and mission. The creation of this piece is supported by a Faculty Development Grant from Christopher Newport University.

A Delicate Balance and Crossing Boundaries

This spring I will be presenting two new pieces for Christopher Newport University's 3rd annual dance concert "A Delicate Balance." A new Haitian-inspired piece will incorporate Yanvalou to express the ceremonial devotion, creative spirit, and communal heart of a place that continues to pulse with energy and activity despite the devastating earthquake of two years ago. "Ritmo y Sabor Afro-Cubano" will incorporate Jose Conde's song from (R)Evolution and is inspired by two dear friends -- my teacher and dancing partner Felix "Pupy" Insua and Allison Notter -- who both passed away last year in Havana, in the midst of their passionate lives pursuing knowledge and sharing their gifts of love and dance.

A Delicate Balance will occur Thursday and Friday March 22nd and 23rd at CNU's Ferguson Music and Theater Hall. Jose Conde and Neg Mawon will be guest musicians.

On May 29th I will present a new work at Dixon Place in NYC as part of Crossing Boundaries, a showcase curated by Marcia Monroe.

Cuba: La Habana y Matanzas

I just returned from a brief but productive week in Cuba studying Afro-Cuban dance traditions from the Yoruba, Arará, and Kongo traditions to Rumba and Son. The trip was organized by Danys "La Mora" Perez, Artistic Director of Oyu Oro: Afro-Cuban Folklore Experimental Dance Ensemble, originally from Santiago de Cuba currently based in Manhattan, and included over 20 students of dance (mostly professional) from the US. We traveled under a general license. The trip was dance-focused however in these Afro-Cuban forms the songs and rhythms are inextricably intertwined and you cannot understand one without the others. Our days consisted of percussion classes, song classes, warm ups in Afro-Cuban technique, and multiple dance classes. We had live batá and conga accompaniment for every class and an array of established professors and performers from both Havana and Matanzas.

In Havana: Yohani Ofarril, Yoruba and Rumba. Barbara, Afro-Cuban technique and Son. Natividad Shivas de la Cruz, Yoruba and Rumba songs.

In Matanzas: Members of Afro-Cuba de Matanzas Antonio Figueroa (33 years dancing with the company), Arará, Yoruba, Rumba, and Son. Menini and Mina, Yoruba cantos.

In the evenings we had some time to explore Havana. The first night we were able to find members of Yoruba Andabo leading a Rumba in someone's home after a Toque. The first song was the most energetic explosion of Rumba in a space I have ever experienced. After the first explosion, following a 10-minute break, the next songs were more relaxed. Saturday night I went to their formal/weekly performance at Cabaret Las Vegas and Genniselt Gallata performed the most brilliant Yemayá performance I have ever seen (including past performances of hers). I wish so much I had captured it on video but I selfishly did not want to place a device between myself and the magic she was creating. They also performed Eleguá, Ogún, and Shango. The second half was a short Rumba set consisting of audience dance participants. It was a much shorter show than the one I had seen five years ago.

Here is a YouTube video of Yoruba Andabo's produced performance video of Yemayá. Jennyselt Galata is performing Yemayá and it features the same female lead singer that performed this weekend in Havana. Unfortunately the video cuts out right at the beginning of el aro - the climactic ending to the dance where the ending prayer (rezo) is sung slowly over the quickening rhythm and circular movement of Yemayá.


In Matanzas we saw a performance by a children's company called Mordella de Raices. This name refers to the children of San Lazaro. This company is directed by Ana Pérez Herrera, a member of Los Muñequitos de Matanzas. To see children as young as four years-old perform exquisite rumba and an older boy execute the most beautiful lines and grace in his modern solo, was a testament to the traditions ingrained from the womb and also the support of family and community in cultivating the performing arts. La Mora communicated her commitment to the children to support the company and audience members who were visibly touched/emotionally affected also expressed their gratitude for the performance and encouraged the children to continue dancing. The children seemed pleased but were also excited to the receive the cola and galletas that were being passed out during this exchange.

Red Eyes (Je Wouj)

Red Eyes (Je Wouj), a piece I recently choreographed in collaboration with Annie Hollingsworth of Mayami Folklorico will be performed in process by members of Mayami Folklorico this Friday, July 29th for The Games We Play performance at The Little Haiti Cultural Center in Miami, FL. Please see the Miami Herald post for more information.

Haitian Celebration! A Neg Anba Fundraiser

Neg Anba's First Official Fundraiser!

Join us for a music and dance filled evening at Tammany Hall. RSVP on Facebook

Live music by Haitian Roots band Bwa Kayiman with special guests including Chico, FanFan, Monvelyno, Yatande, Jose Conde, Peter Barr, and Marko Pankovich.

DJ Geko Jones

Haitian folkloric dance performances by Mikerline Pierre and Dancers.
Happy Hour from 6-8pm 

$15 minimum suggested donation

Help the non-profit organization, Neg Anba, build a Haitian-run cultural center/school in Cabaret, Haiti to provide academic, artistic, and sustainable agricultural programming as well as meals, daily structure, and community support to children who cannot afford tuition at local schools.