Ada Ara: She Who Is Queen

Ada Ara: She Who Is Queen, a new work by Arenas Dance Company. Choreography and direction by Susana Arenas Pedroso. Run time: Approximately 75 min, no intermission.

June 10-12, 2022 at Z-Space, SF. Premiere presented by CubaCaribe Festival of Dance and Music.

June 16, 2022 at the Raven Theater, Healdsburg. Encore performance presented by the Healdsburg Jazz Festival. Bill shared with Bobi Cespedes.

The creation of this work was made possible in part by support from CubaCaribe, Gerbode Foundation, Zellerbach Family Foundation, California Arts Council, CA$H, and Dance Mission Theater.


Ada Ara is a new work by Arenas Dance Compay that honors the resilience, strength, sensuality, and vibrancy of Cuban women. They are our workers, sisters, grandmothers, neighbors, politicians, artists, friends. The performance numbers move between Afro-Cuban folklore and popular (i.e. social) dances to bring together the powerful spiritual and joyful aspects of la mujer Cubana.

The opening invocation draws from Lucumí, the Cuban religion based on Yoruba traditions carried West by enslaved West Africans. A call and response between lead singer and dancers dressed in sacred white invites in the ancestors (egun), honoring legacy.

The evening continues by paying homage to female orishas (deities) and recognizing the different expressions of womanhood. Ochún, orisha of sweet waters, sensuality, and honey; Yemaya, orisha of salt water and motherhood; Oyá, the rainbow-hued warrior of winds and markets. We tell the patakín or folktale of when Ochún takes the crown the Changó (orisha of male virility), making herself queen.

The night accelerates to guaguancó, the rapid-fire Rumba typically danced between couples. The dancers create polyrhythmic patterns with brooms. They celebrate work as spiritual practice. 

Arenas Dance Company is known for having women on the drum. Although a growing number of women have recently crossed gender boundaries, it is still rare to see women playing Batá drums and Rumba in both Cuba and the USA.


Rumba, danced to the secular conga and clave rhythms, was born in late-1800s Havana and Matanzas from Bantú, Abakuá, and Spanish musical strains. Pedroso calls it “the attitude of the people.”   In contrast, the Batá drum trio and rezos (prayers) are descendants of Yoruba traditions. Batá drums salute the egun and recount sacred narratives, evoking the spiritual presence of orishas. 

A Website.

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