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 The Ballet Folklórico Cutumba is undoubtedly one of Cuba’s most vibrant folkloric dance companies. Based in Santiago de Cuba in the Oriente province of eastern Cuba and founded in 1960, Cutumba performs Afro-Cuban-Franco-Haitian dance and music with a special focus on preserving the rich heritage of the region. Cutumba recreates the key elements at the heart of the Afro-Cuban and Afro-Franco-Haitian traditions – adding its own fresh interpretation through stunning theatricality, intoxicating vocals and rhythmic percussion.

Rich, vocal music peppers Cutumba’s extensive repertoire, which includes the captivating Orisha dances which honor the divine beings of the Yoruba pantheon, as well as jubilant Haitian dances such as the sensuous gagá and masún which now form a part of the cultural heritage of eastern Cuba. The mesmerizing cutara, with its dynamic rhythms tapped out by the wooden soles of the dancers’ sandals, is intriguing and the tajona, with its precision choreography of interlacing ribbons building to a frenzied climax around the maypole, is absolutely unforgettable.  From the world famous Santiago de Cuba Carnival celebration, the spectacular Conga Santiaguera with its blaze of color, complex polyrhythms and sensual movements, has the entire audience up on their feet and dancing.

On stage, Cutumba brings to life the African and Haitian cultures intrinsic to Cuba’s living legacy. Off stage, the ensemble brings the energy and exuberance contained in their performances to a host of residency activities ranging from dance, vocal and percussion workshops to lecture-demonstrations. These activities provide an even greater opportunity to experience the richness of Cuban culture and are designed for people of all ages and levels of experience.

Cutumba has been touring extensively since 1991 to venues and festivals in Europe, New Zealand, the Caribbean, South America, Canada and the U.S. They first toured in the U.S. as part of Festival Cubano in Philadelphia in 2001. In the spring and fall of 2002, Cutumba performed in the DanceAfrica festivals at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Columbia College Chicago.  In each city, the public performances were part of multi-week residencies. Members of this 55-person dance troupe continue to train and perform on a regular basis in Cuba and abroad.


José Alfredo Carrión, born in Santiago de Cuba, began his career as a professional dancer when he was invited to join the Ballet Folklórico Cutumba in 1980 at the age of 17. After only three years of hard work, Jose was recognized as a “primer bailarín.” The following year, in 1984, after an evaluation by a national panel of Cuba’s most distinguished specialists in music and dance, José was honored with the title of professor and specialist in Cuban dance. In 1999, after almost twenty years of being a soloist for the dance troupe, José became Cutumba’s principal dancer.

Over the years, multi-talented José has also contributed to Cutumba as a choreographer, percussionist and researcher. José’s choreographies include Guiro para Elegguá, Baile Campesino, Son Tradicional and Fin de Fiesta, which are currently performed together as Fiesta Cubana. He has played percussion in a number of Cutumba productions and can be heard on several recordings including Ritmos Cubafricanos Volumes 1 and 2 which he helped produce.

As a professor, José has trained generations of dancers, many of whom still perform with Cutumba, others who continue their work as dancers abroad. Besides teaching professionals, José has a tremendous amount of experience working with children and young adults. He has taught extensively in Cuba’s school system in the primary schools, high schools and universities. José has also brought the joy of music and dance to children with special needs.

Jose has traveled extensively during his years with Cutumba. He has performed and given workshops in many different countries including England, Scotland, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand, Guadeloupe & Martinique, Surinam, Canada and the US.

Invited by Chuck Davis to perform in the DanceAfrica festivals of 2002, José had the opportunity to teach in several schools and community centers in Chicago, Philadelphia and NY. In July 2004, as a guest of Groupe de Danse Mondial of Montreal, Quebec, José taught members of Philadelphia-based Kulu Mele African American Dance Ensemble in an intensive workshop which included an original choreography Jugando with Elegguá. Jose has given master dance classes at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Center for Creative Education in Stone Ridge, NY and Columbia College Chicago. Most recently, in October, 2005, he was the artist-in-residency at Williams College in Massachusetts.

After 25 years of researching, collecting, conserving, revitalizing & presenting the folkloric manifestations of Afro-Franco-Haitian-Cuban origin found primarily in Cuba's Eastern (Oriente) provinces, José has retired from Cutumba. In April 2005, he moved to the United States to live with his wife. He is now the co-director of the Academy of Cuban Folkore and Dance in Seattle, Washington. Since his arrival, he has been busy teaching - with much love, patience and dedication - the music & dance traditions of the Yoruba, Kongo and Dahomean people. In addition to the dances of the Orishas, palo and vodú, José teaches other folkloric dances such as gagá, congo layé, masún, tajona, tumba francesa, as well as the popular traditions of rumba, son, salsa & conga santiaguera.

Naomi Bierman & José Alfredo Carrión
Academy of Cuban Folklore and Dance
, Washington


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