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Background Information

In one branch of Afro-Cuban dance known as Bailes de Santería the dancers interpret different Orishas. The Orishas are the deities of the religion, specific to Cuba, known as Santería. Santería had its beginnings during the colonization of Cuba when the slaves syncretised their Yoruban gods with Catholic saints in order to continue practicing their faith unbeknownst to their owners. The interpretation of the Orishas through dance and music has developed into two branches: one is specifically religious and the other is solely artistic. Iré Omó is focussed on presenting the latter.

The principal Orishas, or deities, can be likened to the ancient Greek pantheon of gods in that they each have dominion over specific elements and aspects of nature and in that there exist many myths regarding their interaction with one another. The songs and rhythms narrate different events in the lives of the Orishas or are hymns praising their powers. The dances that accompany this music are pantomimic and specific steps correspond to each rhythm. The dancers wear costumes specific to each Orisha and carry some of the items attributed to them. Some dance movements represent the hunt, others war or divine punishment of wrongdoers and others agricultural activity.


Iré Omó Afro-Cuban Drum and Dance Ensemble was founded in Toronto in May 2000, under the direction of Cuban teacher dancer and choreographer Sarita Leyva. The ensemble is dedicated to researching and developing the traditions of Afro -Cuban music through the performance and teaching of dances, music and songs of Afro-Cuban origin, such as Yoruba, Congo, Arara, Abakua, Afro Haitian and some other indigenous rhythms of Cuba, (Rumba, Bailes Campesinos, Comparsa, Pilon, Mozambique, etc.).

With roots style singing, drumming and dancing Iré Omó will introduce you to the universe of gods, magic and African-rooted rituals.

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