The warmer temperatures outside might just be the Caribbean breeze brought from one of the headlining acts at this year’s Festival of Nations at Dollywood. Hailing from the beautiful city of Havana, Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba’s “Cuba Vibra!” show is 45 minutes of nonstop music, high-energy dancing, acrobatics, beautiful costumes and an array of vibrant colors.
Some background: Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba is a world-renowned dance company in Havana, Cuba. The company’s multiple touring acts have performed across the globe (in five continents!) since 1991. The company also has its own dance academy, which typically enrolls around 1,000 students each year. This is the company’s first extended stop at a theme park.
Admittedly, I wasn’t sure what to expect as I took my seat in DP’s Celebrity Theater. I knew I was in for a good show, but I wasn’t well-versed in Cuban culture or music.
I was blown away.
The show was electric from start to finish. From the moment the 17 dancers entered the stage until they took their final bow, there were few slow moments. The show incorporates a wide spectrum of musical and dance genres including the Spanish flamenco, ballet, Afro-Cuban rhythms and many more. With each costume change, I felt like I was being transported to another part of the world. If the music and dancing weren’t enough, the acrobatics were incredible — the dancers flipped, spun and jumped across the stage throughout the show. I was exhausted just watching!
A full house band and a few very talented singers supported the dancers to elevate the show to produce something truly awe-inspiring. Specifically, the drum solo sequence was amazing.
Another one of my favorite things about Cuba Vibra! was the colorful set behind the performers — a giant screen showcasing beautiful, slowly-moving visuals designed by a Cuban graphic designer who I had the chance to meet after the show. The imagery changed with each song and coincided with the dancers’ costumes. It added another rich layer of multicultural flavor to the show.
In the video below, see just a tiny sample of the music, vocals, dancing and more that you’ll see during Cuba Vibra! at Dollywood.
After the show, I had the chance to go backstage and learn more about Cuba Vibra! and the woman behind it all.
Just behind the curtain, I saw the setup that allows for the many quick costume changes made between each set. Every outfit was carefully placed on the backs of folding chairs. The dresses, shirts and pants were layered with fine precision so that the dancers could swoop in, change and not miss a beat.
Later, I met company manager Juan Carlos Coella and the legend herself: Lizt Alfonso, the international award-winning founder of the dance company who also directed and choreographed Cuba Vibra! They were both incredibly kind and gracious. They even let me practice my Spanish with them!
I learned that the show draws heavily from Cuba’s rich history with African and Spanish influence such as the Spanish foot-tapping Flamenco dance. But it also draws inspiration from other areas such as China and even American rock-n-roll.
Celebrating that global fusion is at the core of the company’s mission.
“That’s what Cuban culture is today,” said Juan Carlos. “We are a mixture of everything — of races, of color, of culture.”
This is one of the many reasons why I love visiting Dollywood’s Festival of Nations. The park does a wonderful job of celebrating the Great Smoky Mountains and East Tennessee, but it goes even further (literally) to bring us cultures from around the world.
I’ve seen many, many great shows at Dollywood over the years, and Cuba Vibra! is undoubtedly one of the best. It’s a must-see!
Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba performs “Cuba Vibra!” at Festival of Nations three times daily now through April 14.