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Returns July 2015

INSTRUCTORS (from 2013)


Susana Arenas began her artistry in dance at age 12 when she took the opportunity to study at the Casa de la Cultura in Matanzas, Cuba. Upon completion of studies in Matanzas, Arenas moved to Havana and joined popular, folkloric, and theater dance troupes, including Tierra Virgen, Alafia Ire, Oche Olorum and Oriki. In addition, she was a soloist for Compania Folklorica Raices Profundas, and has performed and taught in the U.S. and Europe. Susana Arenas in costume

Danys LaMora Perez

Danys LaMora Perez

Originally from Santiago de Cuba, Danys "La Mora" Pérez is an internationally renowned master of Afro-Cuban folkloric dance. Perez's special expertise as dancer, teacher, dance ethnologist, and choreographer is in the unique styles of her native region of the Oriente province in Eastern Cuba.

At 13, she was asked to join the renowned national folkloric ballet company, Cutumba, and toured internationally with the company for 18 years. In addition, while she was still dancing with Cutumba, she founded her own dance company, Adiro Omode in Santiago de Cuba. In 1998, La Mora was the founder of another dance company, the original Oyu Oro, with professional and amateur dancers which was also based in Santiago de Cuba.

Since her first visit to the States in 1996, she has taught at several universities such as Brown University, Cornell University, University of Wisconsin at Madison, Williams College, University of New Mexico, Wayne State University in Detroit, University of Michigan. She is the founder and artistic director of Oyu Oro, an Afro-Cuban Experimental Dance Ensemble in New York City.

Silfredo La O Vigo dancing
Silfredo La O graduated from the National School of the Arts in Havana Cuba in 1994 where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree as a certified dance professor and professional dancer. Since 1993, he has worked with the Cuban National Folkloric Company and Danza Contemporanea de Cuba and Cutumba: Ballet Folklorico Afro-Cubano, Santiago de Cuba. Currently residing in San Diego, Silfredo teaches at the University of California, San Diego and at Palomar College.


Lázaro Pedroso is a scholar of the song traditions of Yoruba-Lukumí. He is also a respected batá player, and an elder of the Yoruba-Lukumí tradition, with a half century of experience as a santero in Havana. Lázaro has been employed as Professor of folkloric percussion and Professor of the Escuela National de Arte, Instituto Superior de Arte, and senior adviser of the Centro Superior de la Enseñanza Artistica in Havana, Cuba. He has participated as a musician in festivals of music and dance throughout Cuba. He has also traveled internationally as a leading participant in a folkloric performance tour of France in 1994, a teaching and performance excursion to Mexico in the year 1992, and in 2001 to the United States to give performances, workshops and classes.

Lazaro Pedroso

Lazaro Galarraga singing into microphone

Lázaro Galarraga is a native of Havana, Cuba. He was a founding member of the Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba. A world-renowned teacher, performing artist, choreographer and writer of Afro-Cuban music, culture and folklore, he has recorded, performed and taught across the U.S. and worldwide. He is now the musical director for the Caribbean Crew and for the Percussion Artists Workshop (PAWS) Afro-Cuban Folklore ensemble in Los Angeles.


Ramon Diaz playing conga

Roman Díaz is a master percussionist from Havana, where he was trained by elders in the fine arts of classic Afro-Cuban musical traditions. He has performed with groups including Raices Profunda, Grupo T con E, Ochestra Sublime, Yoruba Andabo, and Grupo Anaki. In the U.S., Diaz has collaborated with many musicians including Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, Paquito D’Rivera, Juan Formell, Pedrito Martinez and Oriando “Puntilla” Rios.

Ramon Sandy Perez playing conga

Ramon "Sandy" Pérez joined Grupo Afro-Cuba de Matanzas at age 17, and within a few years he earned the positions of principal drummer and soloist. He was a featured artist at the 1996 Havana Jazz Festival and performed at the 1996 Afrocubanismo Festival in Banff, Canada. Although the roots of his techniques are founded in Afro-Cuban folkloric styles, Pérez's open-minded approach has enabled him to adapt to styles ranging from Cuban popular (salsa) to fusion and avant-garde jazz.

Rogelio Kindelan

Rogelio "Noño" Kindelan was the principal music director and a professor of percussion with Ban Rra Rra as well as a member of the Escuela Nacional de Arte in Havana. He studied percussion with Julian Gali and worked asa director of La Escuela de Arte de Nivel Medio. Currently, he teaches percussion classes at the University of Santa Clara and other schools in the San Francisco bay area.

Jesus Diaz at drum kit

Jesus Diaz is a native of Havana, Cuba. He has taught and performed in the S.F. Bay area since 1980. He also performs and teaches internationally with his all-percussion group Talking Drums. He has made over a dozen recordings and co-founded Bombo Music Productions in 1993, producing four records under the Bombo music label. Jesus has toured with Dizzy Gillespie, Bobby Womack, Tito Puente, Pete Escovedo, Sheila E, Carlos Santana, Conjunto Cespedes, Jose Luis "Changuito" Quintana, Giovanni Hidalgo and Celia Cruz.

Miguel Bernal playing conga

Miguel Bernal Nodal, Cuban native, has professional percussion experience dating back to 1985. He was a member of Conjunto Folklorico Cumbaye and later, principal percussionist for Raices Profundas (Havana). He taught Afro-Cuban percussion at University of Arizona (2003), Portland State University (2003), University of Montana at Missoula (1998, 2002), University of Minnesota (2002), Humboldt State University (1996, 1999) and has toured internationally with Raices Profundas. Miguel was a 2006 winner of the International Fiesta of the Drum (international drumming competition hosted in Havana, Cuba) and has been the featured percussionist in albums such as Drum Jam, Caramelo and It’s Heaven I Surmise.

Michael Spiro with batá

Michael Spiro is an internationally recognized percussionist, recording artist, and educator known specifically for his work in the Latin music field. He studied for seven years in an apprenticeship with Francisco Aquabella. He has studied in Cuba with musicians such as Jose Luis "Changuito" Quintana, Esteban "Cha-Cha" Vega Bacallao , Daniel Diaz, Juan "Claro" Blanco, Regino Jimenez, and Los Muñequitos de Matanzas.

John Santos playing conga

Five-time Grammy nominee John Santos is a major bandleader, composer, producer, percussionist, and educator in Afro-Latin music for over 35 years, having performed and/or recorded with masters such as Tito Puente, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Cachao, Eddie Palmieri, Patato Valdés, and Carlos Santana. He teaches at the Berkeley Jazz School and the College of San Mateo, and has lectured and conducted countless clinics in the United States, Europe and Latin America, including such prestigious institutions as Yale, Stanford, UCLA, the Manhattan School of Music, and the Berklee School of Music in Boston. He was founder and director (1985-2006) of the internationally renowned, Grammy-nominated Machete Ensemble, and currently directs the Cubadisco-nominated, John Santos Sextet and the two-time Grammy nominee, Coro Folklorico Kindembo.

Octavio Rodriguez

Octavio Rodriguez Rivera is a hidden treasure and considered one of the foremost authorities on Afro-Cuban folkloric and popular music. He began his study of percussion in the 1970s with master and Omo Aña drummer Papo Angarica. He then studied with Pancho Quinto, Puntilla , El Gago, and Juan Raimall (El Negro) with whom he learned the art of making batá drums. He was a professor in Havana at the Escuela Nacional de Arte (ENA) and he participated for a long time in carnivals in the comparsas of Andrés Escandon (BAYOYA). Currently Octavio is the musical director of Obba Irawo and Obba Ilu in Havana, Cuba.

David Penalosa playing conga

David Peñalosa brought Afro-Cuban drumming to Humboldt County in the late 1970s and has taught each year at Explorations in Afro-Cuban Music and Dance. David is the author of the books The Clave Matrix and Rumba Quinto.

Howie Kaufman at microphone

Howie Kaufman is the founder and coordinator of Explorations in Afro-Cuban Dance & Drum. He is a lecturer in percussion at Humboldt State University, where he directs the world percussion ensemble. Howie has studied in Cuba and the U.S. with musicians such as Regina Jimenez, Mario (Aspirina) Jauregui, Esteban "Cha Cha" Vega Bacallao, Angel Bolaños, Roberto Vizcaino, Jesus Alphonso, Pello Tapanez, Poncho Terry and more.