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Afro-Cuban Drum and Dance ensemble to perform

BY JASMINE PUTNEY | DECEMBER 11, 2014 5:00 AM

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As a palm collides with the surface of the drum, a deep bass reverberates. Dancers raise their arms, moving with the music. And as singing voices rise above the beat, a trifecta of Afro-Cuban folkloric tradition is brought to life.

At 2 p.m. Saturday, the Afro-Cuban Drum and Dance Ensemble will perform in Space/Place. The ensemble was created in 2003 after co-creators Paul Cunliffe and James Dreier were inspired by a trip with their students to Cuba. After this experience, Cunliffe and Dreier melded their studies of Afro-Cuban music and dance into an interdepartmental class.

“Afro-Cuban folkloric music is obviously very much influenced by West African elements of music and dance, in that they are all considered to be one thing,” Dreier said. “Drumming, dancing, and singing all go together. It’s hard for people in those traditions to think as one of those as being separate. They all interact and influence each other.” 

The Afro-Cuban Drum and Dance Ensemble has performed all over the state in various venues, including performance centers, high schools, and the River Music Experience in Davenport.

Dreier said the introductory classes are not requirements to become involved with the group.

“It’s open to anybody, and we're always looking for interested students,” he said. 

The performance is an excellent opportunity to gain insight into not only the Afro-Cuban culture, Dreier said, but one’s own cultural influences.

“Because of the connection between Cuba and New Orleans in the early part of the 20th century, there were a lot of rhythmic influences that came from Cuba effect the music on jazz, funk, rock, and blues,” he said. “And that music and that sort of rhythmic gene is firmly embedded into hip-hop, rap, funk, and dance music at the club. This is all really a part of the culture and the history of the music of most University of Iowa students.”


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