60 years of the Conjunto Folclorico Nacional de Cuba

Acto por el XX Aniversario de la Independencia de Namivia. Conjunto Folclorico Nacional. Foto: Roberto Suárez

This year Cuba’s national folkloric group celebrates its 60th birthday and despite the restrictions of the Covid pandemic it has been able to spend 2021 performing at virtual and face-to-face events inside and outside the country, still finding new ways to bring together the best traditions of Cuba’s cultural heritage into shows that combine dance, theatre, singing and playing instruments.

Founded on May 7, 1962, by the exceptional Rogelio Martínez Furé, an expert on Afrocuban folklore, and Mexican choreographer Rodolfo Reyes Cortés, the renowned company has developed a unique performance style. Its repertory reflects Cuba’s diverse cultural roots; from its European and African heritage, to influences brought from other Caribbean islands.

The Conjunto Folclórico Nacional has graced stages in over 45 countries across Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia; while audiences around the world have enjoyed the profoundly national art of this company which continues to uphold the legacy of its founders.

The Folclórico Nacional’s repertory includes songs and dances representing the very best of the country’s folklore traditions, including rumba, guajiras comparsas, habaneras, danzones, sones, pregones, among other genres, not to mention Afro-Cuban expressions in the form of dances like that of Yemayá, Changó, or Babalú Ayé.

In the book Dialogos Imaginarios founding maestro Rogelio Martínez Furé explains what the aim of creating the National Folkloric group of Cuba was:

‘to erase the position of the “I”, to replace it with “we” ‘. 

A community/ an us that has led to “an irreplaceable knowledge around Cuban folklore that, although changing, never loses its essence, but circulates like the current of a great river of always renewed waters.”

After 60 years the company continues to reinvent itself in its historic role as an ambassador of Cuban culture.

Today the company is directed by Manolo Micler, winner of the National Dance Award in 2017.

Over the last year, one of its youngest dancers and choreographers, Leiván García, winner of the Ramiro Guerra Special Award, premiered his work ‘Bara’ that has a fresh take and addresses social issues. In a recent interview he said the piece identifies “the philosophical concept of Eshú and Elegbá in Cuban society. [the all powerful orisha or god who polices the universe and the orisha of the crossroads, protector of itinerants] For this, songs, dance, music, costume designs inspired by the folkloric focus are used, but with contemporary nuances…collecting the musical-dance traditions created by the people and bringing them to the stage on the most modern theatrical terms.” Garcia has said “The task of transcending the legacy [of the Conjunto] delivered by our predecessors is one of my first goals”.

Link to report by Radio Cadena Habana in Spanish

Link to interview with Leivan Garcia by Cubaescena in Spanish