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Conjunto Folklórico Nacional: The then and now of a 60-year-old company

Anniversary National Folk Ensemble

The celebration of six decades compromises its history to a greater defense of the traditions of Hispanic, African origin and of other regions of Latin America and the Caribbean.

A trip to the year 1962 serves to locate the date of the emergence of the Cuban National Folk Ensemble, and likewise for the remembrance of its founding fathers: the Cuban folklorist Rogelio Martínez Furé and the Mexican choreographer Rodolfo Reyes Cortés.

At that time, there was no group in the country where the most traditional dance and musical manifestations of the country were represented. Thus begins a path of uncertainties, but with a spirit of entrepreneurship in favor of the development of Cuban traditions.

santiago alfonso
In the Photo: Santiago Alfonso

The choreographer and dancer Santiago Alfonso, recalls how the group outlined a different projection to that of the Modern Dance Ensemble, led by maestro Ramiro Guerra. However, both had historical aspects in common. “For the black dancers it meant acceptance within that manifestation of art. The presence not only racial, but also aesthetic… cultural ”.

“There were racist thoughts, questions about whether men and women with dark skin could elevate their cultural expressions to great art; but through sustained work the members of Folklórico put before the eyes of the people and the criteria of criticism all the values ​​they defended "He says.

Thus they consolidated a style in pursuit of the theatricalization of popular roots and the reflection of the syncretism of the Hispanic, African and regions of Latin America and the Caribbean. At the same time, the music assumed those same principles within the company. The son, the mambo, the danzón, the peasant genres and the rumba complemented the sense of Cubanness of the group, although they emphasized the rhythms and songs of the cultures transplanted to America such as the African.

Throughout its evolution, townspeople made up the casts. They themselves assumed the roles of educators of the youngest or organizers of the first shows where creations were shown that showed elements and stories from their roots and even related to the most genuine of a religious philosophy.

The memory of many in Cuba and the world reaches the works Captives, Alafin of Oyo y Rumbas and Comparsas, Aará Cycles, Yoruba Cycle, Rumba de los Muertos, Eastern Triptych, Dahomeño, Eshu, Oriki to Obatalá, Obatereo, French Tomb, Abakuá, Gagá y rumberos just to mention a few titles, since the performances of the Folkloric of Cuba have reached more than 80 countries on all continents.

“Among the 56 members of the beginning of the group there were those who knew about demonstrations such as the Yoruba, Congo, Abakuá and Rumba. They contributed experiences, knowledge and experiences Rogelio Martínez Furé, Zenaida Armenteros, Silvina Fabars, as well as other leading figures ”, acknowledges the current Director of the National Folk Ensemble, Manolo Micler.

In the photo: Leyván García

Syncretism acquired other forms in dance, but respect for the legacy of parents and grandparents is sacred, says choreographer Leyván García, a young man who is also committed to renovations.

“It is essential to be clear that I am defending my identity and that of my ancestors. But I don't like to hear that folklore is still the same. So I have had to go back to tradition. There is the basis of everything, but first I force myself to understand what happens in the street, what the people enjoy and live today in order to enrich the patrimony and inheritance from the theatrical demands of these times ”.

As Fernando Ortiz said: "The National Folklore ensemble is a river of ever-renewed waters, faithful to its original sources, but also open to bustling life."

At the gates of his 60 years, he boasts in his list of awards and recognitions the following awards: the Gold Barrel and the Silver Necklace, awarded by the Festival of the city of Dijon, France; the Golden Temple, from the Almond Blossom Festival in Agrigento, Italy; the Silver Tray, from the Birmingham Festival, Great Bretaña; Irsuta de Oro, from the Arequipa Dance Festival, Peru; and the Fernando Ortiz International Award in 2007, among others.

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