KARLA BLANCO

Member of the Casino Stars, Karla has presented shows in over 200 festivals throughout Venezuela and in many countries around the world, among them: Aruba, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Italy, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Spain, and the US; for the latter, in Florida, New York and Texas. Her world class experience pulls from many styles: ballroom dancing, ballet, jazz, hip-hop, salsa, bachata, Latin hustle, west coast swing, kizomba to traditional folkloric dances. In addition, she coaches and is a fitness trainer which contributes to making her one of today’s best female dancers. She has worked with several legends of Latin music among them: El Gran combo, Celia Cruz, Cheo Feliciano, Ismael Miranda, La Sonora Ponceña, Victor Manuelle, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Oscar D’Leon. As an individual dancer and as part of Casino Stars, she has been the recipient of multiple awards and top placements in several world events.

ROLY MADEN *

Rolando Maden, known as Roly Maden, was born in March 1, 1971 in the city of Havana, a small district called "10 de Octubre". His passion for dance was evident from an early age, when we would dance whenever he hear music. By strong recommendation by this by his teachers, Roly began to take dance classes. After great effort and sacrifice his dreams started to become reality and at the age of 12 he won a scholarship with a dance company and began to travel around the world. Today he lives in Italy, where he teaches salsa, son and rumba. A strong and solid prepar wherever people call him. The basis of his preparation are the result of many years of study by different disciplines: classical Ballet, modern dance, contemporary, funky, hip hop, folklore. But what most distinguishes him,it 's the passion and the desire to convey what he learned. All his personal style is known as "Roly Maden Style": here technique, movement, originality and elegance blend with the love for his culture and passion for his Art...

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TONY PARANA

Brazilian Artist, professional musician, and capoeirista, Tony Parana’s music knowledge was shaped primarily in the streets of Bahia – the epicenter of Afro-Brazilian music and dance, and in the giant cultural metropolis of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Samba, candomblé, maracutu, maculêlê, where among the many rhythms he learned first-hand from the masters found in these cities as these traditional celebrations continue to be passed on from generation to generation. This ‘street conservatory’ shaped his passion for music and dance, making him the musician he is today. In 2002 he moved to the US resulting in performances from the Latin Grammys with John Legend to the American Folk Festival in Montana to Dance Africa in Denver to Jones Hall in Houston. Living in New Mexico, California and now Texas, his engagement in the Brazilian community, and larger art & music scene, has always been one of positive impact. Tony is passionate about continuously involving himself in cultural projects that bring people together and strengthen communities. Establishing deeper roots in Houston since 2007, he has been instrumental in the advancement of many disciplines and founded the Montrose Arts Society Artists (MASA), which hosts showcases for artists, and presents programs at schools and in the community. Through his work with the Brazilian Arts Foundation team (Houston) he taught music, Brazilian rhythms variations (samba, samba de roda, samba-reggae, and others), was a percussion leader in the organization’s band, performing around the city at venues such as Jones Hall, Discovery Green, Jones Plaza, Houston Latin Festival, Houston Brazilian Festival, International Festival and several more. Paraná first began his journey in Capoeira 12 years ago, and today he leads his own capoeira projects in Houston as a Graduado of Capoeira Luanda in Houston. Tony maintains an active artistic calendar that includes live performances, visual arts exhibitions, and regular trips to his native Brazil, which keep him connected and up-to-date with the new developments in the culture’s artistic expressions.  

YENI MOLINET *

One of Cuban dancing most prominent figures of today, she began her artistic career at the age of 5, at "Casa de la Cultura" of Placetas (Villa Clara, Cuba). This was the beging of an amazing preparation that included Escuela Profesional de Arte Samuel Feijoo, Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba; in addition, her preparation included working under Cuba's most prominent artistic figures, events and places such as: "Oriki to Obatala"with the participation of the famous Cuban folk singer Lazaro Ros; "Sabado de la Rumba", a national tour with performances at theaters Gran Teatro de La Habana, Karl Marx, Garcia Lorca, Teatro America, and others. Also performances for dignataries that included former President of Cuba, Fidel Castro. Her preparation continued with intenset studioes through classroom and performances, among them: Obatereo; Ciclo Yoruba "Yemayà"; Musica popular "Mambo y Descarga" (Salsa Cubana); Danza de las Canastas "Ochun"; Danza de los Apalencados "Bailes Congos"; Yoruba "Iyesa"; Tumba Francesa; Oya de 9; Dahomeño; Rumba y Comparsa. Performances under Santiago Alfonso (teacher, choreographer and former director of the "Cabaret Tropicana de La Habana") - Domingo Pau (founder, teacher and choreographer in the "Conjunto Folklorico Nacional"), Rogelio Martinez Furè (founder and professor in the "Conjunto Folklorico Nacional"), Manolo Micler (director, teacher and choreographer in the "Conjunto Folklorico Nacional"), Zenaida Almentero (legendary singer of Cuban Folklore.  the "Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba", she also became the selector judge in the"Escuela de Variedades y Espetaculos Nacional" in the specialty of "Folklore".These years of studies and perforamnce led to mastery of Cuban folk dances, ranging from Danzon, Son, Tumba Francesa, Mambo, Cha cha chá, Rumba (Yambú, Guaguancò, Columbia), Comparsa, Congo dances (Palo, Makuta, Yuca) and of course Casino (Salsa cubana), Reggaeton and others. In 2007, she moved to Italy, continued studies and obtained a Masters of Caribbean Dance "Gold", the highest level of  the Italian Federation of Dance FIDS/CONI. Today, she is a sought instructor and perfomer at some of the world's most important festivals and is Member N° 13667 of International Dance Council (CID) - U.N.E.S.C.O. She is recognized for her great artistic skills, professionalism, experience, charisma, grace and elegance and is widely credited as being one of the best dancers and teachers n the contemporary world of Cuban culture. 

NEL LOPEZ *

Nel Lopez was born and raised in Vedado, La Habana. At the age of 5, she performed for the first time in the National Theater of Cuba. She continued to study and dance Ballet and Contemporary dance until she was 10 years old. At the age of 11, she began dancing with a local female group that performed Cuban Traditional dances that included, Mambo, Cha Cha Cha, Rumba and Salsa. In 2004 she began her studies at the National School of Arts, “ENA”, and graduated in 2008. Upon graduation, she became a dancer in Cuba’s most famous and coveted cabaret, Tropicana. In 2010 Lopez relocated from Cuba to Italy to further her Dance education and perform in the Latin Dance genres. Lopez now resides in Houston, Texas where she has become a very popular professional and social dancer. She continues to perform and teach Latin Dances, especially the Dance genres from her native Cuba.

SANDI MORALES

One of Strictly Street Salsa’s principal choreographers and teachers, she has studied dance with some of today’s most prominent names, among them: Yeni Molinet, Roberto Borrell, Katia Hernández, Wilfredo Guilbiac Rodríguez, Ramón Ramos Alayo, Madeline Rodríguez, just to name a few. She has debut works choreographed for her at Salsa y Salud, the country’s first event of its kind and Texas’ largest live salsa and health event (Miller Outdoor Theatre). In 2014 and 2015, she choreographed Strictly Street Salsa’s performances at the San Francisco Rueda Festival, the country’s largest Rueda and Cuban salsa event. She is the director and founder of the Mira Chiqui Chiqui, Strictly Street Salsa’s all ladies team. In addition, multiple television appearances among them KPRC Local 2, UNIVISION, and Houston’s # 1 talk show, Great Day Houston.

RAUL ORLANDO EDWARDS

Panamanian native, recipient of a Certificate of Congressional Recognition (US Congress) and a Jefferson Award (the nation’s highest award for service in the community), Raúl founded Strictly Street Salsa, Houston’s 1st official salsa studio with the goal of offering Houstonians a program that focused in presenting the traditions and dances as they are done in Latin countries. His high commitment to excellence, performing and teaching has led to engagements at prestigious institutions and events, among them: the Houston Ballet, the Houston Grand Opera, Society for the Performing Arts, Houston Symphony, Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, the Ensemble Theatre, the University of Houston, the San Francisco Rueda Festival, Conference on the Fantastics in the Arts, Sam Houston State University, Miller Outdoor Theatre, among others. Over 35 television and radio appearances and over 25 articles have been done about his work culminating with Mayor of Houston, Bill White, declaring him as ‘One of Houston’s leading authorities in the area of Latin dance’ (2009). He is the creator of programs such as Salsa y Salud, El Festival de la Salsa, Festival del Sabor, the Afro-Latin Dance Fest, Navidad Latina, and others.

JORGE ORTA ‘CRO CRO’

Venezuela percussionist, Jorge is a former member of the legendary Grupo Niche. He has performed with some of Latin music’s legendary and upcoming stars, among them: Celia Cruz, Pete “Conde” Rodríguez, Mimi Ibarra, Viti Ruíz, Ismael Miranda, Lefty Perez, Henry Fiol, Luis Felipe Gonzáles, Maelo, Kim de los Santos, Paquito Guzmán, José Bello, Wichie Camacho, and others. World tours include countries such as Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panamá, Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, Italy, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, United Kingdom, France, Africa, Aruba, Curacao, and the U.S. Currently, he is working of his well received CD Capitan de mi Barco with his band’s, Tumbaká. He serves as music director for the upcoming Salsa y Salud and Festival del Sabor.

LUANA MEIRELES DA SILVA Luana Da Silva is a Brasilian dancer and musician based in Houston, TX. Originally from the city of Brasilia, Luana grew up dancing and performing. She began her formal training in classical ballet, which she studied for 7 years. Feeling the need to experience something new, she began taking Hip Hop classes at age 12. Aside from taking classes in dance, Luana also grew up dancing samba and other Brasilian rhythms - as most children do in Brasil. She always felt strongly connected with the rhythms of Bahia. After moving to the U.S. as a teenager, Luana felt the need to feed her soul by involving herself in Brasilian cultural art forms. She became one of the founding members of the U.S.'s first-ever Afro-Bloco (samba reggae) Group in Washington, DC. Through this experience, Luana began to flourish as a musician, too. When she moved to Houston in 2010, she then became involved with a local Brasilian cultural organization as a member of the performance group. During 4 years she continued to expand her dance and musical repertoire by taking master classes and workshops with world renowned Brasilian dancers and musicians, focusing primarily on traditional and folkloric Brasilian arts forms, such as Samba de Roda, Maracatu, Afoxé, Afro-Brasilian, and Capoeira. Today, Luana continues to practice Capoeira as well as teach and perform dance and music throughout Houston. At any given moment, she is involved in several arts projects, and always seeking new challenges and growth opportunities as an artist. Luana is grateful to all those who have shared their talent, passion, and knowledge with her throughout the years. "Cultural exchange is a powerful tool and practice for building healthy communities based on respect, inclusion and diversity."

EL GATO VOLADOR - DJ * (Afro-Latin Fest's Guest DJ)

Began his career in the year 1999 with profound knowledge of popular Cuban music who he trained on site for many years in Cuba.Since 2006 he is professional DJ super specialist in Cuban Music with great experience in many festivals, congresses and events around the world, where he entertains the audience with his Timba Cubana and more. He has become so famous for his Djing skills, that he is continuously mentioned in many Cuban Salsa and Timba songs.With his professionalism, his extraordinary musical repertoire and his appropriate choices in the context, he engages listeners and dancers alike in nights of pure aural pleasure which culminates in partying, dancing and fun animations. He also works as an audio assistant in the workshops to ensure high quality lessons of the Artists.These are some events where he is named as official DJ, among them:Festival Ritmo Cuba (La Habana  Cuba), Salsa Rueda Festival (San Francisco,U.S.A.), Poland, Canada, Russia, Serbia, Mexico, United Kingdom, Brazil, Spain, Montenegro, France, Germany, Chile, Tunisia, Italy, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, Cyprus, and many others. 

COURTNEY NED *

Courtney has branded her own "Adult Dance Fitness" classes promoting health and wellness through movement art form. Her innovative style is demonstrated through her signature classes viewed online and taught in the Houston area. As a professional dancer and choreographer from Cypress,Texas, Courtney takes her vast worldwide experiences of diverse dance styles and combines them into a fun, cardio burning, electric class. he has graced the stage as international performer in Europe and Asia, collegiate dance member of the Oklahoma State University Pom Squad, NFL and NBA pro dancer finalist and as a background dancer performing live with major recording artists. Her background also includes collegiate coaching at Lone Star College, studio teaching for 10+ years in Oklahoma and Texas, and award winning solo and group choreography. Throughout her classes, Courtney encourages attendees that "Confidence is YOUR sexy. So OWN IT! Its not about your size or build, but about YOU! So, When you enter her class, it's time to 'Feel The Music. Let Loose. And HAVE FUN!" 

TRACIE JACKSON (Intuitive African Dance and Drum Culture)

Founded by Tracie Jackson and Mechelle Smith, the Intuitive African Dance and Drum Culture was created to preserve and cultivate the art and spirit of West African dance, drum and culture and its transitions through education and performance. Transplants to Houston from New Orleans, Louisiana, Tracie and Mechelle have, individually and collectively, over twenty years of West African (including Senegalese, Guinea), Afro-Cuban and Afro-Haitian dance performance experience.  Tracie and Mechelle both or independently have performed with Wonlande Dance and Drum Company of Houston Texas, directed by Mohammad Diaby; Kuummba House, Houston, Texas, directed by Dr. Lendi Yeni; N’Kafu of New Orleans, directed by Ms. Mariama Curry; Tekrema Arts and Dance Center of New Orleans, Louisiana, directed by Greer Mendy and Kumbuka African Dance and Drum Collective, New Orleans, Louisiana, directed by Ausetua AmorAmenkhu.

ROYLAND LOBATO

Royland Lobato is a professional dancer with an expertise in Afro-Cuban folkloric and Cuban popular dance. A graduate of the Escuela de Instructors de Arte de la Ciudad de La Habana (School of Arts Instructors in Havana) with a degree in Dance Education, Royland has participated as a principal instructor and performer in dance festivals all over the US, Cuba, and Mexico. Originally from Guantanamo, Cuba, Royland is a founding member of the Havana-based dance company, 7 Potencias, an Afro-Cuban Folkloric dance and music ensemble that is considered one of the most creative and acclaimed Cuban folkloric ensembles both in Cuba and internationally. Presently, Royland is proud to call the Bay Area his home as he teaches his Cuban heritage to students through his weekly classes, workshops and demonstrations. He is also one of the few instructors to incorporate live music into his teachings.

DJ FRANKY (Afro-Latin Fest's Official DJ)

Frankie Mejia, DJ Frankie, launches his career as a professional DJ at Club D'Lido in La Ceiba, leading to opportunities at some of the best clubs in his native Honduras such as Tropical Beach, La Costa, and Coco View.  In the 90’s he moves to Houston, Texas, continuing his trajectory at one of the top Latin tropical clubs in the city, Coco Loco, under the tutelage of DJ Cubanito, with whom he learns many skills, such as, beat mixing, harmonic mixing, programming and basic crowd reading. In 2000, he establishes his entertainment company, BM Entertainment, providing professional DJ services for private and corporate events with a culturally diverse clientele. He has worked at some of the most popular and influential dance clubs in Houston such as T-Town, Elvias, Ruggles, Club 112, South Beach, Hard Rock Cafe, Tropicana, Crystal, Babilonia, Soho, Rumba Club, as well as special events around the city; providing DJ support for events with artists such as Fulanito, Willie Colón, Juanes, and Victor Manuel have, maintaining his relevance and demand as one of Houston's most solid and sought after DJ in the city. During his tenure at Babilonia Night Club, he was Univision's 104.9 FM Saturday night DJ for their live club broadcast. DJ Frankie looks forward to rendering his professional service and expertise, whether in a private or public event or club experience, Tropical Latin, Latin Pop, Top 40, Arabic, Hindu, EDM, 70s, 80s, and 90s, DJ Frankie will deliver a memorable experience with musical satisfaction and high professional energy level.

AFRO-LATIN FEST INSTRUCTORS

ANGEL YOEL MULEN-ROBERT

Mr. Mulen-Robert learned traditional and popular Afro-Cuban, percussion, and song

from master musicians and dancers while growing up in Guantanamo, Cuba. He is a

respected lead vocalist and percussionist of Afro-Cuban Yoruba, Abakúa (Calabar),

Rumba, Arará (Dahony), and Palo (Congo). He is also a lead vocalist for traditional dance music: Boleros, Son and Changuí. Before coming to the United States in 2013, he worked with Danza Libre of Guantánamo and Habana Solar Dance Company, both in Cuba. During this time, Mr. Mulen-Robert travelled extensively abroad for performances and workshops in the UK (Royal Opera House), Spain, France, Italy and Portugal. In addition, Mr. Mulen- Robert has worked with Siete Potencias Dance Company in Havana, Cuba right before coming to US. Since his arrival in US, Mr. Mulen-Robert continued teaching song classes, performing at local dance theaters, and playing with a local music bands throughout the bay area.

REINALDO COSTA *

A que hora es la practica?

* Afro-Latin Fest debut