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Festival features lessons in many types of dance

Dance enthusiasts can learn congo, rumba, salsa, Afro-modern and other styles at the IFÉ-ILÉ Afro-Cuban Dance Festival on Saturday.

By Rodolfo Roman
Special to The Miami Herald
A piece of Cuban history will be taught and celebrated in South Florida on Saturday.

Interested dancers can learn a few Afro-Cuban moves at the 13th Annual IFÉ-ILÉ Afro-Cuban Dance Festival at Little Haiti Cultural Arts Center, 212 NE 59th Terr., from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 13. The all-day festival cost $88.

Nerri Torres, artistic director and choreographer, said the festival brings a missing artistic link to the community.

“I created an Afro-Cuban dancing company because I found we needed a representation of this form of dancing,” she said in a phone interview.

Torres, who is an adjunct dance and humanities professor at Miami Dade College Wolfson campus, created IFÉ-ILÉ, a non-profit Afro-Cuban dance company dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the art. IFÉ-ILÉ translates to house of love in Yoruba, a Niger-Congo language.

She has appeared in film and has travelled the world teaching dance.

At the one-day festival, participants will learn different genres of traditional African, Caribbean and Latin American dance and music together with local and visiting artists. There will be about eight 50-minute workshops, which are open to all levels of skill.

Not only is the festival a lesson learned, but it keeps the culture alive.

“It represents the real traditions of all groups and what they bring to the community,” said Torres, who lives in Miami. “You keep your tradition by sharing it with others.”

Anna Oppenborn, a teacher, has taken classes at the IFÉ-ILÉ for the past seven years.

“I always look forward to the festival, I consider it a form of professional development but also great fun and an opportunity to network with other dancers and re-unite with dancers from across the country that I have met at this and other festivals,” she said.

Torres and other instructors will teach sacred dances of the Orisha, a spirit, as well as congo, rumba, salsa, Afro-modern, drumming and other social dances.

During the day, visitors will enjoy workshops of Orisha dance, afro-modern, salsa-casino, drumming classes among others.

It’s a learning opportunity said Oppenborn.

“From the point of view of a student I look forward to intensive Afro-Cuban dance instruction but also encourage dancers from other genres to experience Afro-Cuban for the first time,” Oppenborn said.

After the festival, the IFÉ-ILÉ dance company will perform at the Cuba Ocho art gallery in Little Havana, 1465 SW Eighth St. at 9 p.m. Entrance for the performance will be $12. The audience will be able to take professional dancers’ place on stage for dancing, drumming and singing. There will be drinks for purchase and snacks.

The dance lessons are fun for everyone Oppenborn added.

“It attracts people from all over the country and the world,” she said.

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