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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 5, 2007

UI Afro-Cuban Drum and Dance Ensemble performs Oct. 19-21

The University of Iowa Afro-Cuban Drum and Dance Ensemble will perform at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 19 and 20, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21, in the Space/Place Theatre of UI North Hall.

The performances will feature music, song and dance from the Afro-Cuban folkloric tradition, performed by students from the Afro-Cuban Drum class offered by the School of Music and Afro-Cuban Dance class offered by the Department of Dance.

The program will include pieces that reflect the distinctive cultural mix of Cuba:

--"Elegua," a piece that usually opens concerts or ceremonies, represents the Oricha (deity) of the crossroads.

--"Ogun," from the Yoruba tradition, is a warrior's dance and features a solo performance done with a machete, danced to bembe drumming.

--"Arara" reflects the religion of Ewe people of the Dahomey Kingdom, brought to Cuba with the cane-field slaves.

--"Rumba Yambu" reflects Cuba's mixture of Spanish and African traditions in a dance that depicts the interactions of the sexes.

--"Oshun" honors the patron saint of Cuba, known as "Our Lady of Charity," who is believed to reign over love, intimacy, beauty, wealth and diplomacy.

--"Makuta" embodies the traditions of the Bantu people from West Africa.

The Afro/Cuban Drum and Dance Ensemble was founded six years ago after School of Music drummers James Dreier and Paul Cunliffe attended a workshop in Matanzas, Cuba, led by the internationally recognized rumba group Los Munequitos de Matanzas.

Since then, the ensemble has grown and developed into an interdisciplinary class drawing on resources of the School of Music and the Dance Department -- the first interdisciplinary class that was developed after the creation of the UI Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The group performs community outreach programs through UI Arts Share for schools throughout Iowa, and was chosen to perform at the 2004 Percussive Arts Society International Convention in Nashville.

The ensemble studies the folkloric music and dance traditions of Cuba, which has greatly influenced the music of North America and the world. The styles studied by the group include rumba, guiro, bembe, palo, mozambique, conga de comparsa, arara, yesa and bata.

Dreier, Cunliffe and Dance Department faculty member Daniel Stark journeyed to Cuba again in 2002 with 10 UI dance and percussion students for another workshop in Matanzas.

World-renowned percussionist and Afro/Cuban scholar Michael Spiro has made frequent trips to the UI for clinics and workshops with the ensemble. In December 2003, Spiro, along with Cuban dancer and percussionist Roberto Borrell, were visiting guest artists of the UI Dance Department, giving master class and assisting in the creation of instructional materials on folkloric Afro/Cuban drum, dance and song.

Admission will be $12 (UI student $6; free admission for children under 12).

Tickets may be purchased in advance from the University Box Office in the Iowa Memorial Union. In addition to window sales at the Iowa Memorial Union, the University Box Office may be reached by phone at 319-335-3041 or toll-free 800-346-4401. The fax number is 319-335-3407. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday. In addition to cash and checks, the University Box Office accepts MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover cards.

Any remaining tickets will be on sale at the door.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Daniel Stark, Dance Department, 319-335-2228,; Winston Barclay, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0073 (office), 319-430-1013 (cell),