The Heart of Cuba

It’s been close to a decade since Christina Monneron has visited the bayside suburb of Frankston, let alone dance on the waterfront. This year, the wise and worldly Afro-Cuban dance teacher is thrilled to perform at the opening of the Ventana Fiesta with a traditional Santería Cuban beach ceremony to celebrate the beauty of the environment through ritualistic chanting and drumming.

“I was actually living in Melbourne and started the Cuban Dance Academy in 1999, performing in the first Ventana Latina Fiesta in Frankston,” said Christina, who has since made her home on the Gold Coast. 

Mauritian-born Christina studied with a principal artist of Cuba’s National Folkloric Dance Group in Sweden in 1996, beginning a journey that included participation in an intensive Afro-Cuban workshop held in Denmark and joining a dance troupe and dancing Afro-Cuban and Popular Cuban rhythms (salsa, cha cha chá, mambo, conga) all over Scandinavia.

“I joined a cultural exchange program in Havana in 1998 where I studied Afro-Cuban dance, Yoruba spirituality and Santería religion which led to my full initiation as a priestess of Santería,” she said. 

It’s been quite the journey for the 50 year old who moved to Australia with her parents when she was six years old. 

“I came to Cuban dancing purely by chance. I was working in pharmaceutical research in Sweden when I was looking for something to do in dancing to move my body as it was so cold there. I felt like I had found my true calling in Cuban music as it was spiritual and sensual and empowering all at once. Everything about it drew me in,” said Christina, who loved it so much she relocated to Cuba for almost a year. 

“Ending up in Cuba led to a journey of self-discovery and connection to the spirituality of the place and its people which changed my life,” said Christina of the dancing and ceremony that introduced her to the sensuality and the rhythms of Cuba and its people. “It is so much more than just dancing. Of course there is salsa dancing which is fun and vibrant and a great way to move your body, but Afro-Cuban dancing is a whole other thing, where your spirit takes over and empowers you in your femininity through the Afro-Cuban Goddess dances. It also has the ability to empower men in their masculinity through the Warrior dances.”

Discovering Afro-Cuban dance while working in Sweden transformed the dance teacher in such a way that it changed her life and direction.

“It was the first time I felt truly present in my body with that particular dance style and I felt it my mission to take on board as much as I could possibly learn and then teach others about it,” said Christina who learnt from the masters and became a priestess. 

The Mauritius-born dancer says it is like coming back to her roots after all the time spent abroad.

“It’s the connection to my homeland and the ancestry coming from Africa, particularly after being in Australia for a great part of my life,” she said. “The music is like the rhythm of the earth and the rhythm of life. The feeling of connection to the sense of community and ancestry is overwhelming through the dance and music, which made me aware of living in the moment and how important that was.”

Determined to continue her ongoing commitment to spread the culture and rhythms of Cuba throughout Australia, performing the Afro-Cuban beach ceremony is a wonderful way to introduce the spiritual dance experience to the peninsula, one of the first areas that Christina began fulfilling her soul purpose of empowerment and self-awareness.

The Afro-Cuban Beach Ceremony on the Frankston Foreshore, next to the Lifesaving Club, Saturday March 16, 4-430pm.

Free, no booking required.

First published in Peninsula Essence – March 2019