Erika Bartelemí Espinosa
Erika is the young talented flamenco dancer from two of the most prestigious flamenco academies in Cuba - Lizt Alfonso, responsible for the famous video Bailando, and Eduardo Veitia, founded by the former director of the National Ballet of Cuba.
Erika has performed in Cuba´s most important theaters such as Teatro Melle, Teatro Nacional, Teatro America and Teatro Carl Marx in Havana.
She has also created her own choreographies that are heavily marked by the traditional rumba/tango flamenco rythm and styles combined with modern Cuban music. Erika´s style is very similar to the one at Salsa & Flamenco Dansakademi enjoyed working together and exchanging our knowledge about the Rumba Flamenca fusioned with Cuban music and dance.
Erika participated in our promotional video shoot in central Havana and performed together with our youth and adult team in Teatro America. She furthermore created a stunning choreography that our performance team will showcase next year in Sweden and granted us a detailed interview.
Full name - Erika Victoria Bartelemi Espinosa
Dance Academies - Litz Alfonso/ Eduardo Veitia
Current occupation - Lead dancer
Theaters - Teatro Melle, Teatro Nacional, Teatro America, Teatro Carl Marx
Erika dancing with Salsa & Flamenco Dansakademi in Teatro America, Havana
Erika participating in our video shoot in old Havana
Exclusive interview with Erika about flamenco in Cuba
Tell us more about your love to flamenco...
At what age did you start dancing flamenco? - When I was 7
Which flamenco styles have you danced so far? - Rumbas, Tangos and Sevillanas.
Which other dance styles are you well familiar with? - Salsa, raggaeton and pilón.
What is your favourite dance style apart from flamenco? - I guess it's raggaeton.
And when it comes to flamenco, which is your favourite? - Well, same as you - tangos and rumbas, the compás of 4 is what really makes me wanna dance.
What made you fall in love with flamenco? - The fact that it is so delicate and yet so strong and powerful at the same time.
Is there any song that you particularly like? - Yes (smiles) , Rosa María (the one that we danced together in Havana's historical centre together)
Let's talk about the difference between flamenco in Cuba and in Spain...
Flamenco academies in Spain are usually structured in levels. Beginners level usually includes rumbas and tangos and often focuses on the compás of 4. Sometimes Alegrías with the 12 compás and sevillanas with the 3 compás are included at improvers or even beginners levels, and very little footwork is incorporated for beginners.
How are the schools structured in Cuba? Is it the same or could you spot major differences? - Well, here in Cuba the compás of 4 is the most common one. Some schools don't even work with other rythms. And we start with really fierce footwork already at the beginners level. It is a lot abour footwork, and we spend a lot of time practising it.
Which complementary subjects are there at Litz Alfonso and Eduardo Veitía flamenco academies? - At Litz Alfonso there are other dance types, a lot of Afrocuban and folklore. At Eduard Veitía it is other local Spanish dance, not only flamenco.
How would you define the body language of flamenco in Cuba? It is either strong and sharp, or soft and sensual, or can you find both types? - You can find different styles. Some dance school have rather sharper expressions, while others like Irene Rodriguez, who also mixes flamenco with Afrocuban dance, has a very soft and sensual style.
What about the hips? - Here in Cuba we always use the hips a lot.
Flamenco Rumba in Cuba...
Is Rumba Flamenca taught as a proper palo flamenco in Cuba? - Yes, we just call it simply rumba. If we want to specify that it is the Afrocuban Rumba, we rather call it by it's specific name, like guaguancó.
What type of music is used for Rumba classes in Cuban academies? In Spain the rather older rumbas from the sixties are used, which is not the type of Rumba that I like. - No no, we only use modern music for Rumbas, and it is Cuban music most of the time, not Gypsy or Spanish.
Do you use any dance accessories for Rumbas, like skirt, fans, shawls, castanets, handkerchiefes etc? - Sometimes we use fans, but never the big ones like pericón, only the small fans. Skirts are used a lot as well, but I would say the most used dance accessory is the shawl.
When it comes to fusion...
Have you ever seen any type of fusion between the Rumba Flamenca and other Cuban dance styles like salsa or rumba? - Yes, Litz Alfonso works a lot with this type of fusion.
When creating such a fusion, how does it work? - Most of the times you use a music mix containing different styles, and then they are choreographed accordingly.
Have you ever seen a choreography with different dance styles at once? I mean that while some are dancing flamenco in flamenco costumes, others would dance salsa or rumba with different costumes, but all within the same choreography and at the same time? - Yes, I have seen that a lot, especially in Litz Alfonso.
What do you think about our Flamenco Rumba style? - It is very passionate and very delicate, with very pronounced hip movement.
Have you ever seen this style or a similar one here in Cuba? - Yes, your style reminds me a lot of Irene Rodriguez. She has the passionate and sensual style
Do you like flamenco rumba with modern Cuban or with the more pure Spanish/Gypsy music? - I like both, but I relate more to the Cuban music, of course.
During this last decade their has been an increased implementation of flamenco elements into the Cuban music. Among them we could name Gente de Zona with songs like "Bailando" and " Macarena". Chacal also created several flamenco flavoured songs like "Tropical" and "Llegaste tú". Do you know any other artists that interwire the rumba flamenca into the Cuban music? - Yes, the former Orishas member Baby Lores and his song "Por un beso"
Apart from that, I have seen a lot of colaboration between Cuban and Spanish musicians recently, for example Gente de Zona with Los del Río, Rosario Flores, Melody, Enrique Iglesias etc. What do you think about this musical and artistical fusion? Does it inspire you to fusion the Cuban popular dance with flamenco? - Oh, it does inspire me a lot. Especially when it comes to salsa and flamenco.
Flamenco dress in Cuba...
Most flamenco students in Cuba have to buy their own clothes. Where do they get them from? - There are actually no shops where you can buy flamenco clothes. You have to order them from a specialized dressmaker.
What are the most common dance costumes for flamenco dancers in Cuba? - It is mostly dance leotards combined with skirts, with are more tight fit for women. The skirts we use have usually regular waist, not the high waist popular in Spain right now, we don't have it here. The use of ruffles on skirts is also rather limited. We seldom use lace in fabrics, but we do use tassels now and then.
What are the colours that are popular for flamenco costumes in Cuba? - White, red, black and pink quite a lot as well.
Do you ever see mint, turquoise or aqua colours for flamenco costumes here? - No, that's not common at all.
What about the flamenco accessories like flower, earrings and flamenco comb? - We allways use flowers and earrings, that´s like mandatory, but the comb is rather optional.
And the colour combination - do you rather use monochromatic look or two or more colours can be used for aperformance costume? - The most classical and common combination is the black and red one, but other colours can be used in different combinations as well. Flamenco here is rather colourful.
When you have group choreographies, do all flamenco dancers wear the same costumes? - Not necessarily, it depends. Mostly the dancers will all wear the same dress, but the main performer may wear something different in order to stand out from the crowd.
What is your favourite colour? - yellow
And what colour combinations do you like for flamenco outfits? - I love the combination of black and yellow.
And what type of dress or costume do you generally prefer? - My favourite is ruffled skirt and a bolero, because it is so adjustable.
Last questions about your plans and future...
What would you like to do dancewise in near future? I would like to become the lead dancer at Lizt Alfonso and then open my own flamenco school with my own name, but not here in Cuba, maybe somewhere in Europe.
What is your dream? - I would love to travel around the world, but at the same time I would also like to have a carreer enabling me to work anywhere in the world. Also, I'd love to have my own family by the age of 25.
And what would you consider as your greatest success within your dance career? Like it could be a world tour, travelling to Japan, be the main dancer of a famous video or sth like that? - My dream is that the entire world gets to know me and my love for dance.
You are the lead dancer at one of Cuba's most prestigious flamenco schools. Would you like to create your own choreography there? Which song would you choose then? - There is one song I am really in love with, and I created my own choreography to it. The song is "Culpables" by David Bisbal. And it is not the fist choreography I created.
Would you like our team to perform one of your choreographies? - I would really love it. That would be a dream of mine coming true.