Since decades the beautiful Yorùbá traditions have been developed on the Arts Universities and in state-run dance companies by professional Modern “bailarines”.
Orisha dance is part of everyday life in Cuba, from nationwide TV-show entertainment to local performances of school groups, honoring Yorùbá culture - known as “Lukumí” - as part of the cultural heritage.
Characteristics, which became contemporary choreographies, are described in detail below. The last Olokun mask dancer was Eworio Rodriguez “Tata Gaitan” and died in 1944, with him vanished the knowledge of these rituals.
Today every Cuban is used to watch sacred Yorùbá dances, that in the past were known only to a marginalized part of the society: Black Afro-Cubans.
In the setting of a ritual, created by a community of people, the Yorùbá deities called Orisha are invited to mount their initiates’ bodies.
A detailed article on this story is published in the blogpost Communism and Yorùbá Culture.
This is one of the reasons why sacred Orisha dances exist outside of their ritual context today.
Popular Cuban dance is deeply rooted in African cultures and especially Salsa dance also quotes styles from other genres, like Rumba or Orisha dance.
It is through their physical experience that many people enter the folkloric Afro-Cuban world. I want to give here an introduction to the Afro-Cuban Orisha dance, an overview for the ones who are new to this “genre”.
With the success of the island’s music, Cuban dance styles spread around the world.
In every major city worldwide, from Accra to Zagreb, passionate Latin dancers are learning Salsa, Son and Rumba.
The standard Yorùbá dances today, as taught by the Conjunto Folklórico Nacional de Cuba, include the following Orisha: Elegba, Ogun, Oshosi, Shango, Obatala, Yemaya, Oshun, Oya, Babalu Aye and the rarely danced Aganju Shola.