Get your culture groove on this weekend

Conjunto Folklorico Omo Oddara
Fri 7 p.m.
Smith Center Ballroom.
$12 general
$8 students.
Folkloric class: 12 – 2 p.m. Sat
Popular dance class: 12 – 2 p.m. Sun
Stott Center 207
$16 general,
$14 faculty, alumni non-PSU students
$10 PSU students.

Attention students: you’re here to get educated, cultured and have some fun, right? Why not leave the couch and get healthy in the process? This weekend is your golden opportunity for that accomplishment. Live and direct from Cuba via Montana, Conjunto Folklorico Omo Oddara will not only entertain, educate and enlighten, but also host two dance classes, on Saturday and Sunday.

Consisting of seven performers, the traditional Afro-Cuban performance takes place Friday night in the Smith Center Ballroom. A Folkloric dance class will take place Saturday from noon to two. Then on Sunday a workshop featuring popular dance forms will take place.

“It’s amazing, the real thing,” said Chrisine Stapleton, coordinator of Portland State’s World Dance Office. Afro-Cuban dance, especially in its traditional form, is infectious and uplifting, think salsa patterns intertwining with West African tribal rhythms. The dancing will no doubt be as energetic and exciting as the repetitive drum-driven rhythms.

Omo Oddara is a Cuban folkloric music and dance group led by Jesus Alfonso, the lead percussionist, musical director and composer of many of the ensemble’s songs. Alfonso also led the acclaimed Cuban rumba/folklore group Los Munequitos de Matanzas, which was nominated for a Grammy. This group is said to be one of the most well known and longest continuous-running groups of its style in Cuba. With almost 50 years of collaboration encompassing three generations of traditional folkloric artists, the group originated in the Abacua and Santeria religious music of their ancestors.

Also included in the lineup are Teresita Perez, principal dancer of the Afro-Cuba de Matanzas and three of the leading members of Havana’s folkloric group Raices Profundas: lead drummer Miguel Bernal Nodal, and master dancers Jose Francisco Barroso and Susanna Arenas Pedroso.

Translated to English from traditional Yoruban, Omo Oddara means “sons of goodness.” Miguel Bernal Nodal founded Conjunto Folklorico Omo Oddara in the spring of 2001. Nodal is a master folkloric percussionist, singer and dancer with 20 years of professional experience. He has performed and taught throughout the world including Japan, Europe, Russia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Colombia and the United States. This is Nodal’s third trip to the United States and Omo Oddara is a direct result of this trip.

A group of musicians and dancers from Missoula, Mo., called the First Day Project, brought Nodal up from Havana to teach for six months.

Previous shows consisted of a two-hour exposition of the evolution of Cuban folklore.

From its roots in the African religious sacred songs and dances set to the sacred music of the bata drums to the hybrid rhythms of the mescla of slaves and the colonial Europeans. Songs are sung, danced and drummed in the popular forms known as Rumba, with a finale of the parade-style comparsa, sometimes followed by some salsa dancing.

All proceeds of the Friday night performance will go to the performers so they can continue to tour the states. A good turnout for the classes will help the WDO continue to bring quality dance instruction to campus.

The student-run group brings instructors from all over the world to teach. Aside from a couple of P.E. classes the WDO has been the only bastion of dance at PSU since the college cut the major eight years ago.

“We’re doing the job of a dance department,” Stapleton said, “and we need dance.”

There are few better ways to exercise the ticker and move the body in new and exciting ways while listening to music.

The WDO is currently hosting hip-hop dance classes every Tuesday and Thursday nights. Call 503-725-5670 for more information.

Conjunto Folklorico Omo Oddara performs from 7 to 9 p.m., this Friday at the Smith Center Ballroom. $12 general, $8 students.

Classes are noon to two, Saturday and Sunday in Room 207 of the Stott center. $16 general, $14 faculty, alumni and non-PSU students and $10 for PSU students.