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Juan Carlos Blanco: Afro-Cuban Music and Dance

The Center for World Music is delighted to profile World Music in the Schools teaching artist Juan Carlos Blanco.

Juan Carlos is an inspiring dancer/teacher whose creativity and knowledge is internationally noted. He is also a humble man and world class performer.

—Dolores Fisher, Educator, Blogger, Poet, Pianist

In his exuberant Afro-Cuban movement and music classes, Juan Carlos Blanco enjoys transmitting cultural knowledge of his ancestors through engaging community activities that focus energy and express joy. It’s hard not to have a smile on your face and a bounce in your step when visiting his classroom. At the same time, his teaching is not only about fun. Whether it’s dancing or drumming, for him it is also important to take the time to explain and convey historical and cultural context. This, he believes, allows students to gain a well-rounded appreciation of the new skills and art form(s) they are learning.

Juan Carlos was born and raised in Havana, Cuba, where he performed with several professional companies for over 15 years before coming to the U.S. In his youth, he began his performance career with the folkloric arts groups Cumballe and Oba Ilú in his hometown of Guanabacoa, a community of Havana known for its rich Afro-Cuban cultural traditions. He later joined one of Cuba’s most renowned folkloric companies, Raices Profundas (Deep Roots), soon becoming lead male dancer and soloist and touring Latin America and Asia.

Juan Carlos’s desire to deepen his knowledge and cultural expression inspired his involvement with several diverse art groups in Havana. He performed with Teatro de la Havana in a number of theatrical plays including “De Mi Tierra Vengo,” “Maria Antonia,” “Santa Camila de la Havana Vieja,” and “Requip por Yarini” with Arte Popular Theatre Company. He also spent several years working with the Franco-Haitian company Ban Rra Rrá as percussionist and instructor of Afro-Cuban dance.

While in Cuba, he was charged with the responsibility of training both professional Cuban dancers and educating foreign students through the Instituto Superior de Arte and the Escuela Nacional de Arte. He served as artistic director for the folkloric ensemble Arawe that toured Peru in 1997. He also choreographed several productions in Havana, including Afro-Peru, a collaboration with Peruvian singer Argelia Fragoso, and “Trilogia,” produced with Raices Profundas.

Since coming to the United States, Mr. Blanco has been featured in various Afro-Cuban productions in the California area, as dancer and guest choreographer for groups such as Olorun, Alafia, and Taifa. Most recently was the musical director for Onstage Playhouse’s 2021 production of “A People’s Cuban Christmas Tale.

In 1998 Juan Carlos founded Omo Aché Cuban Cultural Arts, a San Diego-based organization dedicated to preserving and presenting Cuba’s rich cultural heritage of music and dance. With Mr. Blanco as its artistic director, the Omo Aché Afro-Cuban Music and Dance Company performs in schools, universities, and multi-cultural venues throughout California.

 

Juan Carlos Blanco in class at Integrity Charter School, National City, CA

 

Mr. Blanco has traveled throughout the United States teaching master workshops in Afro-Cuban percussion and dance. In the San Diego area, he has taught through community classes and institutions such as UCSD, Palomar College, Grossmont College, San Diego City College, and Cal State San Marcos. For many years, he has dedicated himself to teaching kindergarten through 8th-grade students at King-Chavez schools as well as students in the Sweetwater Union High School District. In Tijuana, Juan Carlos has also taught percussion and dance to elementary students at Escuela Primaria Miguel Guerrero, Primaria Guadalupe Victoria, and other schools through WorldBeat Center’s bi-national cultural exchange partnership program with I.M.A.C. (Instituto Municipal de Arte y Cultura). His students have presented their work at community celebrations and festivals throughout the region.

Currently, under the auspices of the CWM’s World Music in the Schools program, Juan Carlos is teaching a residency in Afro-Cuban dance at the San Diego French American School. We are proud to have him in our roster of distinguished teaching artists.

Enjoy this glimpse into Juan Carlos’s life as an artist, a rough cut of a documentary by Lili Bernard:

Access for Seniors program with Sole e Mar, Lions Community Manor

Access to World Music for Seniors, Spring 2018

Access to World Music for Seniors is a new Center for World Music program presenting the world’s music dance, and related arts in affordable housing facilities for seniors with limited access to cultural enrichment. During Spring 2018, our Access to World Music Coordinator, Stacey Barnett, organized five special programs in residential communities around the San Diego area.

Pictured above is our first event, a Mother’s Day celebration, May 9 at the Lion’s Community Manor, Market Street, San Diego, featuring Sol e Mar musicians David Shyde and Brian Pierini.

The series continued with a Memorial Day program, May 25, at the Escondido Garden Apartments, North Midway Drive, Escondido, with American roots and country music by Gemini Junction.

Access for Seniors program with Gemini Junction, Escondido Garden Apartments

Then a coffee hour on June 4 at Sorrento Tower Apartments, Cowley Way, San Diego, with Will Marsh performing “Lutes of the World” on guitar, Indian sitar, and Persian setar.

Access for Seniors program with Will Marsh, Sorrento Tower

Residents of St. John’s Plaza Apartments, Lemon Grove, enjoyed another coffee hour on June 13. This event featured Latin/Cuban music with drummer and CWM teaching artist Mark Lamson and guitarist Israel Maldonado.

Access for Senior program with Mark Lamson, St. John's Plaza

Finally, the season ended with a social at Guadalupe Plaza, San Diego, on July 2, featuring African American spirituals by Delores Fisher, member of the CWM’s Artistic Board.

Access for Seniors program with Delores Fisher, Guadalupe Plaza

Buena Vista Social Club

Buena Vista Social Club Bringing Back the Sounds of Old Cuba

The famed Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club, whose 1997 1997 Grammy Award-winning album went platinum in the United States and sold more than eight million copies worldwide, have reunited for their “Adios Tour” of North America. Vocalist Omara Portuondo, sometimes called the “Billie Holiday” of Cuba, told the Washington Post:

Music is the language of all the people in the world, not just in Cuba, but also in the United States and Europe. It helps people to understand each other better. When you do music, people enjoy it so much that it doesn’t matter what countries they’re from.

Read the full WP story here.

Afro-Cuban Drums

How Santería Seeped Into Latin Music

As part of “Beat Week,” National Public Radio does a segment on the connection between Santeria and Cuban music . . .

The sacred and the secular have shared a place in Cuban music going back to the 19th century — and, in fact, sacred music with roots in west Africa informs a lot of Cuban popular music.

Read (better, listen) to the story at NPR.org.

Las Parrandas

In the Days Before Christmas, Cuba Erupts in a Celebration of Lights

Seasons Greetings from the Center for World Music!

As our thoughts turn to Christmas, and celebrations, why not look at Christmas celebrations in Cuba, also on the horizon these days?

In 1820, as the story goes, a young priest noticed diminished attendance at mass from December 16 until Christmas. Hoping to attract parishioners, he instructed children to go out into the streets with cans, horns, bugles, rattles or any kind of noisemaker, hoping that the raucous noise would attract churchgoers. As the tradition evolved, organized bands began playing music in the streets, competing with each other for the honor of best performance.

Along with music, [the town of] Remedios—still home to the country’s largest and most popular Parrandas—fills with light during the festival.

At Smithsonian.com.

Events

Layo Ni Yoko

Layo Ni Yoko: Afro-Cuban Music and Dance

The 2015 SDSU-CWM World Music Series

Layo Ni Yoko: Afro-Cuban Music and Dance

Admission: $10 college students • $15 seniors (62+), active military, SDSU affiliates • $20 general

Free Admission for elementary/middle school/high school students

Cosponsored by the SDSU School of Music and Dance and the Center for World Music.

Directions: SDSU Parking Map and Instructions.

Layo Ni Yoko

Layo Ni Yoko: Afro-Cuban Music and Dance

The 2017 SDSU-CWM World Music Series

Layo Ni Yoko: Afro-Cuban Music and Dance

Admission: $10 college students • $15 seniors (62+), active military, SDSU affiliates • $20 general

Free Admission for elementary/middle school/high school students

Cosponsored by the SDSU School of Music and Dance and the Center for World Music.

Directions: SDSU Parking Map and Instructions.

World Music at Mingei International Museum

The Center for World Music proudly announces its Spring 2022 concert season, “World Music at Mingei,” presenting an inaugural series of six performances at Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park. The series includes music and dance traditions, both classical and folk, that will introduce the audience to the sounds, aesthetics, and cultural significance of the music of select regions from around the world.

Ticket Packages

General Seating Package: SOLD OUT
VIP Seating Package: SOLD OUT

Individual Tickets

General Seating: $20
VIP Seating: $40

To purchase tickets to individual events, please visit the links below.

Mingei Members receive a 10% discount.

The ticket price includes admission to the performance and access to Mingei International Museum’s Gallery Level ($14 value) after 4 PM on the day of the performance. The Commons Level is free for all.

Please purchase your tickets early. These performances sell out well in advance. 

Proceeds support hands-on world music and dance programming for San Diego students in schools underserved by the arts.


Master of the Ghanaian Gyil: SK Kakraba
Friday, February 18, 2022, 7:30 PM

Let Your Spirit Soar: Afro-Cuban Music, Dance, and Culture with Omo Ache
Friday, March 18, 2022, 7:30 PM

Maqāmāt: Pathways to Beauty in Arab Music with the Al-Salam Ensemble
Friday, April 15, 2022, 7:30 PM


The Music and Dance of Bali: I Nyoman Wenten and Gamelan Burat Wangi
Friday, May 20, 2022, 7:30 PM

Flamenco with Lakshmi “La Chimi” Basile
Friday, June 17, 2022, 7:30 PM

Expressions of Joy: Festival Music and Dance of Korea with the San Diego Korean Pungmul Ensemble
Friday, July 8, 2022, 7:30 PM

Health and Safety

Proof of vaccination is required to attend these performances. Please bring a picture of your vaccine card or the card itself.

Masks are required indoors for all guests (ages 2+) regardless of vaccination status. For more information about visiting Mingei International Museum, please visit their website.


Co-Sponsor

Mingei Logo

Major Grant Sponsor

 

Financial support provided by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.


Become a Sponsor

For details on sponsorship opportunities, please visit the Center for World Music’s 2022 World Music at Mingei Sponsorship Information.

 

A Celebration of Afro-Cuban Music, Dance, and Culture: Let Your Spirit Soar

Omo Aché Afro-Cuban Music and Dance Company

A Celebration of Afro-Cuban Music, Dance, and Culture: Let Your Spirit Soar

Join Omo Aché Afro-Cuban Music and Dance Company for an evening’s journey of the tapestry of Cuba’s cultural richness through its music and dance traditions. This exciting program invites the audience on a journey through the evolution of Cuban culture, from its African roots to today’s most popular urban expressions. 

Tickets

General Seating: SOLD OUT
VIP Seating: SOLD OUT

Mingei Members receive a 10% discount.

The ticket price includes admission to the performance and access to Mingei International Museum’s Gallery Level ($14 value) after 4 PM on the day of the performance. The Commons Level is free for all.

Proceeds support hands-on world music and dance programming for San Diego students in schools underserved by the arts.

 

Juan Carlos Blanco – Master Artist and Artistic Director

Juan Carlos Blanco has dedicated his life to preserving the African roots of his Cuban cultural heritage through performance, choreography, and teaching throughout the U.S.A.

Born and raised in Havana, Juan Carlos danced professionally in Cuba for fifteen years before coming to the U.S. in 1997. While in Cuba, Juan Carlos was the lead dancer for the Afro-Cuban folkloric company Raices Profundas, directed by Juan De Dios Ramos. During his time with Raices Profundas, he toured Asia, Central, and South America. Juan Carlos also performed and taught for several other Cuban dance companies, including BanRraRra, Cumballe, Oba Ilu, Arte Popular, Arawe, and Alabama.

The name Omo Aché comes from Lucumi, the Yoruba language, as it is preserved in Cuba. Omo means children, and aché is a positive spiritual energy that brings good fortune. Mr. Blanco chose this name to recognize the importance of the youth in the preservation and development of culture. Mr. Blanco takes pride in cultivating a deep understanding of this rich cultural art form by emphasizing historical context, precision, spirit, and character.

Master Artist Juan Carlos Blanco talks about the meaning of “ache”.

Health and Safety

Proof of vaccination is required to attend these performances. Please bring a picture of your vaccine card or the card itself.

Masks are required indoors for all guests (ages 2+) regardless of vaccination status. For more information about visiting Mingei International Museum, please visit their website.

We highly recommend purchasing tickets in advance to minimize your wait.


Co-Sponsor

Mingei Logo

Major Grant Sponsor

 

Financial support provided by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.


Become a Sponsor

For details on sponsorship opportunities, please visit the Center for World Music’s 2022 World Music at Mingei Sponsorship Information.