Kennedy Center to celebrate Cuba in two-week festival in May

The Malpaso Dance Company performs “24 Hours and a Dog.” (Bill Hebert)

 December 6

The Kennedy Center will explore Cuban culture and its many influences in a two-week festival of performing and visual arts May 8 to 20.

“Artes de Cuba: From the Island to the World” will spotlight the music, theater, dance, visual arts and film of Cubans and Cuban Americans. The lineup includes singer Omara Portuondo, the popular band Los Van Van, the Malpaso Dance Company and the award-winning Argo Teatro.

“One of the things I’m trying to connect is the fact that the United States has Cuban music and Cuban arts in its DNA,” said festival curator Alicia Adams, noting that Cuban influences can be found in American going back to the 19th century. “Looking at all of that is what’s fascinating to me.”

The two-week festival will feature nearly 50 events — including about a dozen free ones — showcasing the ethnic influences of Africa, South American, Europe and the Caribbean, Adams said.

“We’re doing our best to bring as much of Cuba here as we can,” she said. “It’s a very dynamic place to be. It’s bursting with energy.”

Among the events will be a piano marathon featuring jazz artists Aldo López-Gavilán and Jorge Luis Pacheco, drummer Yissy Garcia and her band, Bandancha, and multigenre musician Aymée Nuviola with Ed Calle. There will be exhibitions of visual artists Roberto Diago and Emilio Perez, a mini-film fest commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Havana Film Festival and a multimedia installation from the American Museum of Natural History.

There also will be a free Family Day on May 12 and eight free performances on the Millennium Stage.

After the festival ends, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba will begin a six-day run on May 29, performing “Don Quixote” and “Giselle.”

“That was as good as we could do in terms of proximity to the festival,” Adams said. “But it’s there. People will know about it.”

The Kennedy Center has produced 20 festivals since it opened in 1971, featuring the countries and regions of Europe, African, and Central and South America.

Festival tickets will go on sale Thursday at the Kennedy Center box office, kennedy-center.org or 800-444-1324.

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