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About Us

Alisa Froman
Alisa & Rumbatá singers

We are an organization of founders, friends and family who love the arts – particularly music and dance. Alisa Froman, Executive Director, established PlazaCUBA in the year 2000 and continues to be the visionary creator of projects and events. Alisa is an accomplished Afro-Cuban folklore and salsa dancer and performs in the Bay Area with various groups. She has studied Cuban culture and religion for many years and remains a knowledgeable and loving member of an international community interested in investigating and preserving Cuban culture.

Donald Gronberg
Donald Gronberg
Mardel Lescaille & Alisa Froman
Carmen & Alisa

Many people have been involved in the development and evolution of PlazaCUBA. We are appreciative of the constant support we receive from the following important contributors: Donald Gronberg, Melissa Daar, John Calloway, Vanya Goldberg, Ariana Hall, Don Skoog, Loralie Froman and Carmen Aguirre. Thanks to Mardel Lescaille and countless other friends on the island that have encouraged us to continue our work, including the excellent staff at the National School for the Arts, the filmmakers of ICAIC, members of music and dance groups Ban Rarrá, Rumbatá and Raíces Profundas, and the yogis and healers from the Cuba Yoga Association and Havana’s herbal medicine gardens and pharmacies. Special thanks to our web designer, Dana Smith and film editor Flecher Feludejon, along with hundreds of enthusiastic supporters that continue to help us enrich the community with Cuban music and dance.

Mardel Lescaille & Alisa Froman
Mardel & Alisa

Programs in Cuba
Over the years, PlazaCUBA has organized many trips to Cuba for individuals and groups. Our main focus has been music and dance, following in the footsteps of our predecessor Caribbean Music and Dance Programs (CMDP). For most of the 1990s and up until 2004, CMDP and PlazaCUBA were issued specific licenses for legal travel to Cuba in the “Educational/People-to-People” category, which enabled us to run programs in Cuba dedicated to the arts. Changes in travel regulations in 2004 led to the omission of legal travel for educational purposes. We continue to dedicate ourselves to bringing Cuban music and dance to our community, offering travel advisement to legal travelers and providing important information about Cuba and its culture on our website.

U.S. Tours of Cuban Groups
Before 2004, Cuban artists were also more easily able to obtain visas to enter the United States to perform, receive awards and display their work. During this period, PlazaCUBA played an instrumental role in many nationwide tours of Cuban artists, including Valle Son, traditional son group from Viñales; the dynamic folklore company Ban Rarrá; piano player Frank Emilio Flynn; Juan de Dios Ramos, Afro-Cuban dance teacher, lecturer, babalawo (priest); and Narciso Medina Contemporary Dance Company. See Past Events for more details.

Melissa Daar & Alisa Froman
Melissa & Alisa

Projects Inspired by our Work
Alisa Froman and Melissa Daar, through their work with CMDP and PlazaCUBA, have connected many Cuban and American musicians who share the common goal of investigating and preserving Cuba’s important musical traditions. Here are just a few examples, Roberto Viscaino, percussionist and teacher, was brought annually to Cleveland by the Contemporary Music Project to teach and perform. Music course participant and professor Chris Brown brought ethnomusicologist, Miguel Angel Garcia to Mills College in Oakland. Dean Anderson of the Berklee School of Music in Boston met Enrique Plá of Irakere on a CMDP music program and invited Plá and other percussion masters to Berklee for the International Percussion Conference. Yosvany Terry taught at the Stanford University Jazz Workshop on the invitation of Jim Nadel, Stanford music professor and the jazz workshop director. We are proud to have contributed to these valuable cultural exchanges between artists and to the development of many long lasting friendships.

 

Past Events

Valle Son Tour, August 2003
PlazaCUBA booked Valle Son’s Bay Area appearances during their extensive tour of the U.S. and Canada, in collaboration with Michael Cherashore of SalsaBlanca. Valle Son is an eight-piece band from Viñales, a rural town on the western side of the island. The group is rooted in a traditional son style, while incorporating modern elements like jazz and mambo.  

Juan D’ Dios Ramos
March 2003/August 2000
We arranged classes, lectures and workshops for Juan D’ Dios Ramos on both his visits to the United States. Mr. Ramos is one of the founding members of the Conjunto Folklorico Nacional and director of Raíces Profundas, highly acclaimed Afro-Cuban dance company. He is a balalawo (priest), with a reputation as one of the Cuba’s oldest living experts on the musical genre, rumba.

Raíces Profundas and Paul Waldman, 2002
PlazaCUBA sponsored an exchange between New York visual artist, Paul Waldman and folklore company, Raíces Profundas. This project mixed visuals arts like masks, props, paintings and slides with the group’s folkloric music and dance presentation of palo. It culminated in a short film and opened the door to other projects for the Cuba-based folklore company.

Ban Rarrá Tours
February 2001/June 1999

PlazaCUBA collaborated with Michael Cherashore of Salsa Blanca on two U.S. tours featuring the well-known folkloric dance group, Ban Rarrá. Group director, Isaias Rojas is originally from Guantanamo and the focus of the group’s music and choreography stems from this connection to the eastern region of Cuba and its rich Haitian influences.

Alafia - ODC Theater San Francisco, May 2000
Event produced by PlazaCUBA. The group, Alafia, was made up of an all-star line up of performers, including special guests: Regino Jimenez and Sandy Perez, as well Michael Spiro, John Santos, Jesus Diaz, and dancers Susana Arenas, Jose Francisco Barroso and Juan Carlos Blanco, directed by Alisa Froman. The series included performances, a rumba party and salsa dance workshops.

Frank Emilio Flynn - Bay Area, 2000
PlazaCUBA brought Cuban piano player Frank Emilio Flynn to San Francisco to make a rare Bay Area appearance. Flynn, a classically trained child prodigy, was considered the godfather of Cuban jazz piano. His amazing ear and ability to improvise gave him opportunities to play with Antonio Maria Romeu, Sonora Matancera and Septeto Nacional at a young age.

Narciso Medina Contemporary Dance Company Tours, 1998/1999
In 1998, Melissa Daar brought the Narciso Medina Contemporary Dance Company to the United States. The group performed and taught workshops in schools and universities throughout the western U.S. Melissa and Alisa jointly produced a similar tour the following year using members of Narciso Medina’s group, as well as teachers from the National School of Dance in Havana.

 

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