The thrilling and spiritual celebration of AfroCuban culture comes to Westbury Theatre
By Sophia Yang | April 14, 2022
The overflowing, vibrant energy in Leo Gonzalez’s dance made me realize how privileged I was to witness this thrilling celebration. The drums rumbled, as he poured his soul to the rhythm in a deity costume.
Out of the stage light, I saw Gonzalez smiling humbly as he tried to catch a breath from the dance. Beside him stood producer and script writer Cecilia Ferreyra, who just gave a solemnly powerful monologue beneath the spotlight.
The Power of the Drum is a one-of-a-kind theatre experience combining dance, drumming and the power of AfroCuban spirituality, presented by Cuban Movements Dance Academy. It also includes a pre-show Oricha exhibit by Tyler Baker Photography co-created with Harold Ferran Molina and Diosleydis Hardisson, principal dancers of the Conjunto Folklorico Nacional De Cuba, and shot in Havana.
As we talked, the ceremonial altar for the sacred drums soon grabbed my attention. The shrine-like altar is surrounded by portraits of the original dancers of Oricha.
“The altar represents the private religious ceremony within Cuban culture,” explains Ferreyra. “Drums play an important role in the ceremony, as they are the connection to the divine.
“People may already have the knowledge that there is Black heritage in Cuba, but I don’t know how much people have realized the richness in this culture, until they get to see live performances. These values and traditions come from so many aspects, and they continue to be important in Cuban culture. You need to be immersed in the environment to get the essence.”
To Ferreyra, it is her duty to let the audience know The Power of the Drum is not a common Latino dance entertainment, but a solemn, spiritual memorial to the AfroCuban roots.
In over seven years of performance at Cuban Movements in Edmonton, this is the first chance for Gonzalez, the Havana-born choreographer and director, to weave an AfroCuban component into his choreography.
“The more important it is to myself, the more stressed I feel when producing. Because it is my culture, and I wanted to represent it in its entirety and reality. It’s a huge responsibility,” says Gonzalez.
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The Power of the Drum is on until April 17 in Westbury Theatre, located in the ATB Financial Arts Barns Building, 10330 84 Ave. NW. Parental guidance required. ASL Interpretation available April 16.
The performance is produced by the Cuban Movements Dance Academy, and presented through RISER Edmonton 2022 in partnership with Common Ground Arts Society and Why Not Theatre.