1:30 pm — Afro-Cuban Folkloric Dance, taught by La Mora @ Cumbe Center for African and Diaspora Dance
The experience at Cumbe is total immersion. From the moment I walked in the door, I was engulfed in a community-like atmosphere. The pulse of rhythmic joy can be felt even in the hallways as people greet each other and share their enthusiasm to be back, once again, to dance. As a newcomer, that enthusiasm was infectuous. Even still, I was not completely prepared for what I was to experience in La Mora’s class….
La Mora, who also teaches at Alvin Ailey, takes Afro-Cuban dance to a whole new level, bringing in the old dance styles and traditions from Cuba and making them accessible to modern day hustling bustling New Yorkers. Her class evokes the dominant presence of the Orishas — spirit kings, queens and warriors of Cuban Santería based on the traditional Yoruba pantheon of West Africa. The class begins easily enough, with stretches and rhythmic exercises to live drumming and singing. All fairly standard routine for the opening of a good African dance class of any kind. With La Mora welcoming us all the while with her gorgeous and enticing smile.
And then…. she shouts, to be heard above the drums: ‘across the floor!’ and all the dancers, led by those who have been there before, line up into rows of three, waiting for the moves that will take us across the floor diagonally. Some of La Mora’s movements are flirty and seductive. Some of her movements are fierce and in attack mode. All of her movements require singular focus, fortitude, and stamina. You can not cross the floor with these movements without feeling some kind of conviction. Whether you believe in Orishas or not, the power is in the movements themselves, with the cutting of sugar cane, the brandishing of machetes, the charging, the retreating, and the constant undulation of the back providing an ever-present undercurrent of the rolling sea.
I walked into class expecting typical fare and walked out a princess warrior. It was fantastic and fantastical! Best of all were the moments of waiting in between where I could watch others dance and see how they took the movement into their bodies, punctuated by my own moments of bliss and exhaltation as my turn came to go across the floor.