IFE-ILE Afro-Cuban Dance & Music
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press & testimonials

IFE-ILE has earned much recognition in the press, as well as testimonials and kudos from our audience members and workshop/class participants. Below are several articles abour our organization and festival, as well as testimonials from festival and workshop participants.


"Whoof! What a weekend! www.colorado.edu/theatreda...ban07.html.

The group - IFE ILE came from Miami to grace our presence from Thursday night Aug. 31st - Sep. 2nd with workshops everyday three times per day. The group included instructors Neri Torres, Ezequiel Torres, Yofvany Gonzalez, and Yanitzia Mizrahi.

The first night was a movie made by Lazaro Ros, which I unfortunately couldn't make. My friends said it was really awesome, and that it would be a good one to try to snag somewhere.
Then, they came to the CU campus where they first gave a full production show on Friday night with lights, sound, costumes, dance, drum and song on stage. It was really good and reminded me of the Humboldt Afro Cuban camp's productions - though on a smaller scale.

Then, They gave workshops for the next two days on Rumba and Orisha dances, bata drumming, and Chekere. Several of us local tumberos accompanied the musicians each time they gave a dance class. They somehow recognized that I could play and let me join them every time. They were amazingly nice and open as well as being very accomplished. Last night we ended the festival with a big 'Rumba Dance Jam'.

I met a bunch of new interested folks who may join our study group, and got re-aquainted with several of the extended parties who come and go from our Afro-Cuban local music scene.
Wow! What a great weekend!"

-- Dave in Colorado

“Mi name is Julie LeBrun, I’m Canadian and I have a Latin dance school which specializes in teaching Casino (Salsa Cuban style). As a teacher, I have to continue to learn and when I went to Miami, I wanted to know more about Casino’s roots such as Son, Guanguancó and also about Cuban folklore. I took private lessons with the Ife-Ile Dance Company’s director, Neri Torres and I have been very impressed by the quality of her classes and dance technique. It’s an honor for me to have an apprenticeship with the great Neri Torres in my CV and for sure, I’m going to take more classes with her to continue as my teacher and Latin dance mentor.”

Julie LeBrun
Tumbao Cubano dance school
Montreal, Canada

"I think that it is vital to share and spread the root culture of the dance that I fell in love with only 7 years ago. Your workshops [at the 2006 Ife-Ile Afro-Cuban Dance & Music Festival] were amazing and each instructor was far beyond any expectations I could have had. I was honored to be among the participants. And for anybody that needs to know: since you showed Maribel –my partner - and I those 8 thousand 8 hundred and eighty eights, our movement has gotten 100% better. I would just like to add as an instructor that I think to better overstand your future progression of the dance you must understand its history. Thank you for everything. Ache.

Duane Wrenn
Energetic Soul
Detroit, Michigan


Cuban choreographer shares knowledge of dance

Published February 27, 2006 in the Oklahoma Daily O'Collegian

A Cuban choreographer talked about the origins of salsa dance and music in Cuba during her speech Friday in the Student Union Theater ... “It [dance] is the spirit of our people wanting to be free,” Torres said. “We got that ... Everybody has red blood and one heart,” Torres said. “We just have to find our own beat.” ... more

A Moving Force
In the country's biggest minority, Latino artists fight stereotypes that blur their artistry and their diversity

Published June 2005 in Dance Magazine

"In this multiethnic society, our struggles at times seem more difficult -- due to differences in culture, language, temperament," observes Torres, looking back on her career since arriving in the U.S. in 1991. "But our differences are positive," she considers. "We must keep these idiosyncracies. They're what define and make us unique." ... more

A Feast for the Spirits
AfroCuban culture takes center stage at the first festival to celebrate the traditions and lifestyles of blacks from the island

Published September 21, 1999 in the Miami Herald

By Fabiola Santiago
Herald Staff Writer

When dancer-choreographer Neri Torres launched her Afro-Cuban dance troupe five years ago, she searched the tongue of her ancestors, the Yorubas of Africa, for a meaningful name.

She found it in ife ile, a phrase that means house of love, expanding lands.

''Ife is a kingdom in Nigeria where, the Yorubas believe, God created man,'' Torres said. ''It's the Olympus of the Yorubas.''

Torres is now taking the phrase and her love for her native culture another step in her adopted Miami as the energetic mastermind of a week-long festival, which starts Saturday and runs through Oct. 2, to celebrate the traditions and lifestyles of black Cubans.

The first AfroCuban Festival Ife-Ile promises to be anything but conventional.

Although the event features the traditional menu of music, dance, art, food, film and panel discussions, most of the content spotlights matters of the occult shrouded in mystery, and until now, seldom exhibited in such a public event.

A series of panel discussions, for example, features scholars of the AfroCuban santeria religion and people who have been initiated as spiritists and babalaos, santeria priests. Exhibitors at a street fair will include botanicas, the shops where people buy potions, herbs and other materials for santeria rituals. Art installations include altars to the goddesses Ochun and Chango, offerings and all.

Even ''tabaco para que la gente se despoje'' -- cigars to be used in cleansing ceremonies -- will be available, Torres said.

Waving for thunder, lightning

And prepare to join a procession to celebrate Chango and to dance a spirited conga along the streets of downtown Miami waving a red handkerchief in salute to the goddess of thunder and lightning. (You can buy the hankie at the fair or bring your own).

''I want to bring the joy and spontaneity of this culture to everyone,'' Torres said. ''The black class has always been mistreated and poor and seen as second-class. But despite all that, it has contributed a lot to universal culture, and this is the moment to come out and say that.''

The event comes at a time when AfroCuban culture is in vogue.

A staple of the new Cuban literature making its way around the world, AfroCuban culture, and especially the practice of santeria, has been recently the subject of art and photography shows in South Florida and nationwide. The religion also has found a worldwide audience on the Internet, where many santeros have set up several Web sites to promote the santeria and sell its wares.

''It has become popular because it is a very spiritual culture,'' Torres said.

Most significantly, Torres' idea to stage a large-scale festival that would open up the culture to others in South Florida has found support from mainstream institutions.

Among those who contributed some $25,000 in funds are the Florida Humanities Council, the Miami Beach Cultural Arts Council, the Miami-Dade Cultural Affairs Council and the State of Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.

Held at college downtown

The project is a collaborative effort of Miami-Dade Community College, where most activities are being held in its downtown Wolfson campus, the Artemis Performance Network, a service organization specializing in grant-writing, fund-raising and project management, and Torres' dance troupe, Ife-Ile AfroCuban Dance and Music Ensemble.

''Neri approached the college to see if we were interested, and we jumped on the idea,'' said MDCC professor Mercy Quiroga, interim director of cultural affairs. ''We thought it was something that had not been done, a unique event. Given the interest manifested in this one, we will probably work on making this an annual event.''

The response from the arts community also has been generous, organizers said. Most of the professionals involved in the festival -- storytellers, musicians, dancers, scholars, artists -- are donating their services.

''The AfroCuban culture is very under-represented in Miami,'' said Susan Caraballo, executive director of Artemis. ''Elements of racism come into play but within the last few years, there has been a keen interest in developing the African traditions. The focus [of the festival] is to keep the authenticity of it.''

A panel on Yoruba cooking, for instance, will explore the relationship of food to worship.

''In the Yoruba culture, food has a dual role -- as sustenance and as offerings to the gods,'' said Natividad Torres, Neri's sister and a Yoruba specialist, writer and poet. ''People cook both to eat and to make an offering.''

Among the tidbits to be learned: Chango's favorite dish is quimbombo con harina, okra with cornmeal. Ochun, the goddess of love, prefers arroz con pollo, chicken with yellow rice.

'Arroz con pollo' feast

On the last day of the festival, a giant pot of arroz con pollo will be cooked and served to the street fairgoers.

Another highlight will be the premiere of the dance Guaguanco Oyelo Bien (Guaguanco, Hear It Well), directed and choreographed by Torres, a former dancer with the National Cuban Ballet, and performed by her multicultural dance troupe.

Torres, who came to Miami in 1991 after a spectacular defection in Italy that included press reports of attempts to kidnap her and take her back to Cuba, is dedicating the performance to her late mother, ''who taught me my first rumba steps.''

In the opening scene of Oyelo Bien, ''a futuristic'' Yemaya, goddess of the sea, appears on stage as if in a silver dream.

''I wanted to present her in a modern form that would be accessible to people here, different from the way she has been seen up to now,'' Torres said.

The choreography spotlights Cuban cultural idiosyncrasies.

A dancer, for example, will appear on stage carrying on his head a glass of water, the traditional offering to deities, which is often kept in Cuban homes as a way to ward off evil spirits.

And every rhythmic movement, every drumbeat weaves a story.

''This work presents the history of rumba from the time of slavery to the present,'' Torres said. ''I want to take out of anonymity the people who have shaped this dance. The rumba was a way for black Cubans to deal with adversity. The rumbas told the stories of what was happening in the barrios, the solares -- everything from love stories, to neighborhood chronicles, to odes to saints. The way of coping was to drink rum and dance.''

Miami Art Festival
An exhibition of Afro-Cuban Art will be presented including works by prominent Cuban artists

Published September 19, 1999 in the Miami Herald

Activities celebrate Afro-Cuban culture

Miami-Dade Community College's Wolfson Campus, Artemis Performance Network and Ife-Ile will salute the Afro-Cuban heritage with the Ife-Ile Afro-Cuban Festival, a series of cultural events from Saturday to Oct. 2.

The activities will include dance and music performances, film screenings and panel discussions, culminating in a street fair on Oct. 2. They will be staged in Miami Beach and Coral Gables, with most taking place at the Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami.

Ife-Ile will open with the first-ever performance of Guaguanco Oyelo Bien, a Cuban dance and music performance tracing the development of the rumba. It will be choreographed by Cuban-born choreographer and artistic director Neri Torres and performed by the Ife-Ile Afro-Cuban Dance and Music Ensemble.

Other festival activities will include Words and Music, an evening of poetry readings and music by performance poets Adrian Castro and Lourdes Simon; master classes in dance taught by Neri Torres; dance and drum workshops; panel discussions addressing issues that have affected the evolution of Afro-Cuban culture; and an exhibition of the works of Cuban artists Leandro Soto, Felix Mas, Jesse Rios, Ezequiel Luis Torres, Xavier Cortada, Luis Molina and Santiago "Chago'' Rodriguez.

The final day of the Ife-Ile Afro-Cuban Festival will include an all-day fair on and around the Wolfson Campus of Miami-Dade Community College, 300 NE Second Ave., when Afro-Cuban traditions and musical history will come alive.

Visitors can look forward to outdoor musical performances, Afro-Cuban cuisine and the sights and sounds of drum-making demonstrations and vendors specializing in traditional Afro-Cuban crafts.

Children will be entertained with storytelling, face painting, puppet shows and other fun activities in a designated kiddies area.

The highlight of the day will be a brightly costumed conga performance. It will feature traditional characters from the original comparsa -- the ragged, the marquises, the zebra and others.

"Miami-Dade Community College welcomes this opportunity to share the rich Afro-Cuban history with the community. Learning about each other's culture leads to a better understanding of the people we live and work with -- especially important in a culturally diverse society such as South Florida's,'' said Eduardo Padron, community college president.

The festival schedule is:

  • Sept. 25: World premiere of Guaguanco Oyelo Bien, The Colony Theater, 1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach, at 8 p.m. Repeat performance 7 p.m. Sept. 26. Tickets available at theater box office or Ticketmaster.
  • Sept. 27: Screening of film De cierta Manera by Sara Gomez, 8 p.m., Wolfson Campus Auditorium. No charge.
  • Sept. 28: Panel discussion on ``Yoruba as a Way of Life,'' 6 p.m., Wolfson Campus, Breezeway Room. Screening of Tropicola by Steve Fagin, with English subtitles, 8 p.m., Wolfson Campus Auditorium. No charge.
  • Sept. 29: Panel discussion on ``Oracle and Divination,'' 6 p.m., Wolfson Campus, Breezeway Room. Screening of Oggun by Gloria Rolando, 8 p.m., Wolfson Campus Auditorium. No charge.
  • Sept. 30: Panel discussion on ``Yoruba Cuisine,'' 6 p.m., Wolfson Campus, Breezeway Room. Screening of Si me comprendieras by Rolando Diaz, with English subtitles, 8 p.m., at the Wolfson Campus Auditorium. No charge.
  • Oct. 1: ``Words and Music'' with performance poets Adrian Castro and Lourdes Simon and music by the Ife-Ile Afro-Cuban dance and Music Ensemble and the Bafoons; Ponce de Leon Circle Park, four blocks south of Miracle Mile, Coral Gables. Outdoor event is open to the public.
  • Oct. 2: Street fair, Wolfson Campus.
    For more information on the Ife-Ile Afro-Cuban Festival, call Miami-Dade Community College at 305-237-3659.

Afro-Cuban Culture is Celebrated:
Afro-Cuban dance troupe IFE-ILE performed Saturday at the Miami-Dade Public Library as part of the many events and exhibitions being featured during Hispanic Heritage Month

Published October 21, 2004 by The Miami Herald

By Yolanda Sanchez

Laughing aloud, Neri Torres grabbed the bottom of her golden-colored dress and twirled seductively, flirting with the audience as her bare feet kept pace with the rhythm of the drums.

She is Ochun, the Yoruba goddess of love, Torres explained prior to her performance Saturday at Miami-Dade County's Main Library. "Ochun is all women. She is mother and daughter.''

The afternoon was filled with dance and cultural information provided by Ife Ile, the Afro-Cuban dance troupe that has taken on a mission to promote Afro-Cuban culture throughout South Florida.

''It is important to promote the culture as we are part of the Hispanic community,'' Torres said. ''We are a minority inside a minority,'' she said estimating that only about 20 percent of Florida's Cuban population is of African descent.

"Our job is to educate people and support all of the happenings of the community.''

Torres, who began dancing at the age of 12 in Havana, formed the group in Miami in 1994. Two years later she officially founded the organization to promote and develop cross-cultural understanding. The group consists of 11 dancers and six musicians, who also have toured with singer Gloria Estefan, Torres said.

During Saturday's performance, a CD player provided the music for the four Ife Ile dancers who entertained an audience of about 40 at the library, 101 W. Flagler St. The presentation was one in a series of programs the library is sponsoring during October to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Other activities include lectures, plays, book readings, cooking lessons and a pre-Columbian Caribbean exhibition entitled "Taino.''

''We are really into diversity in the Miami-Dade public library because we are providing services to all areas,'' said Marivi Prado, marketing and media relations coordinator for the library.

Ife Ile's performance was featured in the library's main auditorium, which is showcasing the photography exhibit ''Presenting Celia Cruz.'' Enveloped by photos of the salsa diva, the group performed dances such as the Son Montuno, which Torres explains, is known as "the father of salsa.''

The Son Montuno is danced in a different beat then the salsa, the downbeat, said Torres. Because people could not hear this down beat, they created the salsa that is known today, Torres said.

When the dancers performed the rumba, which Torres calls ''the heartbeat of Cuban music,'' Torres guided the audience to clap in sync with the beat. By the end of the one-hour performance the audience joined in a conga line then danced in a circle, lifting one leg and hopping to the center of the circle with the other.

''I learned a lot about my roots that I did not know,'' said Delia Bugallo, a resident of Coconut Grove who came to Miami from Cuba, 35 years ago. ''I am prouder today then I was yesterday,'' she added.

Hispanic Heritage Month events continue at libraries throughout Miami-Dade. For information, call 305-375-BOOK or visit www.mdpls.org.