JUEGO DE MANI- CUBA

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JUEGO DE MANI DANCE, CUBA

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Created by fusing elements of “martial arts” as well is a style of dance known as Juego De Mani. This “Latin American” dance form is said to have its origin in Cuba, and is also commonly referred to as “Baile de Mani” which when translated means “dance of war”.  Apparently, this extremely unique dance form is said to have been developed by slaves belonging to Africa. Furthermore, it is said to have its roots deeply embedded in the “Kongo-Angola” culture. In addition, the teachers/practitioners of this style of dancing are known as “maniseros”.

a. History/origin of the Juego De Mani:

It was during the 16th century that African slaves were transported to European colonies (such as Cuba) in large numbers. It is the arrival of African slaves on the shores of Cuba that then led to a creation of this dance style that also included elements from martial arts. However, it was only in the 19th century that this unique dance style eventually took shape from the sugarcane plantations in Cuba.  In addition, this style was created to give slaves an opportunity to disguise their fighting techniques (practiced usually during spare time) in the form of a dance.

b. Costumes used in the Juego De Mani:

The performers include male as well as female so the costume worn varies accordingly. They are as follows:

1. For females:

The costume worn includes a short skirt and minimalistic use of use of garments to cover the upper body.

2. For males:

The costume worn includes a long “pyjama” like trouser, no garments covering the upper body, a headgear worn by the lead male dancer, and a stick.

c. Music involved in the Juego De Mani:

The music used in this style of dancing belongs to an Afro-Cuban religion known as “Palo Monte”. In addition, drums are mainly used to produce music for this dance style.  Furthermore, the accompanying “mani” song commonly used in this dance style is called “Vamos a la guera si mani” which means “We go to war if there is mani”.

d. Training availability and the technique involved in the Juego De Mani:

In terms of technique, this dance involves performers expressing martial arts moves such as low kicks, foot sweeps, punches, elbow strikes etc in the form of a dance in complete synchrony to the rhythm of the music i.e. beats of the drum. This dance also includes the dancers using a stick of about 16 inches long during the performance. As for training centres/schools, there is a grandmaster (locally called maniseros) in Cuba by the name of Juan De Dios Ramos Morejon who not only teaches this unique style, but is also the founder-director of a folkloric dance company called “Raices Profundas”.

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