Bombacation Summer: Bomba & Plena Classes and Events for Families

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 “El que dice que es Borinqueño por allá por lejanas tierras, lo tiene que demostrar bailando bueno la plena”
(Plena Borinqueñaattributed to Flor Morales Ramos "Ramito" and interpreted by Menudo)

School is almost out in the U.S. of A! Many families with children start vacations by breaking routines to explore new activities, attend summer camps and learn new things. All across the nation there is Bomba and there is Plena: classes, workshops and events to teach the little ones, and their families, a little bit about their culture through music, song, rhythm and movement. Perhaps you’ll have a chance to take a vacation to the island or to another destination, or perhaps you decide on a staycation. Either way, you should give a try to a bombacation. From the coast of California to the Atlantic Ocean, through Colorado’s mountains and Illinois’ planes and from Massachusetts' bay to the Florida peninsula, Boricuas are dancing, playing and teaching their children the rhythms that were born, deep, deep south on the island of Puerto Rico. We are here giving you a summer list of Bomba and Plena schools, workshops and events for children and families.

WEST (California, Colorado and Washington)
1-  Atabey Bomba 
(Los Angeles, CA)
This ensemble
promotes Bomba dancing, drumming and singing in Los Angeles since 2008. Founded by José Rodríguez, it was named Atabey after the Taíno deity of fertility and renewal.
Summer event: Their
next presentation will take place on Thursday June 11 at Mercado La Paloma (3655 S Grand Ave. Los Angeles, CA)                                              
Check their


2-  Bomba Liberté (San Diego, CA)
Founded in 2011 by San Diego Bomberas/os, its name refers to “the way that bomba has and continues to be used as a way to liberate us from historical and daily struggles”. They offer weekly bomba dance classes taught by Jade Power Sotomayor. Jade is a dancer, scholar and performer who “believes in the power of performance to help explore and articulate the multiple and intersecting identities that we all embody.”
Class: Bomba Dance
Date: Saturdays, 11:00am-12:00pm

Location: Centro Cultural de la Raza (2004 Park Blvd. San Diego, CA)
Fee: $5 per class

Check their Facebook 

3-  Las Bomberas de la Bahía (Oakland, CA)
These bomberas offer bomba dance classes taught by Julia C. Cepeda, daughter of Bomba Master Jesús Cepeda Brenes and the granddaughter of the Puerto Rico’s patriarch of Bomba and Plena, Don Rafael Cepeda. Live music by Denise Solis.
Class: Bomba and Plena
Date: Sundays, 11:30am-12:30pm (intermediate) 1:00pm-2:00pm (beginner)
Location: Studio Grand in Oakland (3234 Grand Ave., Oakland, CA)
Fee: $13 per class (package options available)

Check their Website

4-  Barrio E (Denver, CO)
Tamil Maldonado Vega, founder and director of Barrio E, is passionate about teaching the rhythms and songs, but also the history of Bomba. Barrio E offers after school programs, weekend classes, performances and workshops all year long.
Class: Bomba
Date: Saturdays, 10:00am (percussion), 11:00am (dance)
Location: McNichols Building (144 W Colfax Ave. Denver, CO)
$15 per class (package options available)
Summer event: Barrio E will perform at ‘A Taste of Puerto Rico Festival’ (ATOPR) on Sunday June 14. The largest Caribbean Festival in Colorado is celebrating this year it’s 10th anniversary and will take place at the Civic Center Park in downtown Denver.
Check their
Website and Facebook

5-  Grupo Bayano (Seattle, WA)
A Seattle-based Caribbean music and dance group hosted by the Center for Linguistic and Cultural Democracy (CLCD), a non-profit educational and cultural center. In addition to weekly Bomba classes, CLCD hosts several programs that range from a dual language model training for early childhood teachers education to a children’s Caribbean dance group called: Los Bayanitos.
Class: Bomba en Seattle
Date: Tuesdays, 7:30pm - 9:00pm
Location: MLK FAME Community Center (4301 East Republican Street Seattle, WA)
Fee: $12 per class or $40 per month

Summer event: CLCD is hosting the Seattle Caribbean Festival, on Sunday August 23 at Seward Park, Seattle.
Check their Website and Facebook


MIDWEST (Illinois)
1-  AfriCaribe (Chicago, IL)
AfriCaribe is a non-profit dedicated to the preservation, research, promotion and development of the Puerto Rican and Caribbean cultures through music, dance, theatre and other artistic mediums, created in 2000 by Evaristo “Tito” Rodriguez and his daughter Jessica Rodríguez.

Summer event: Africaribe' Monthly Bombazo is on Saturday, June 27 at 7:00pm (recital) and 8:00pm (Bombazo) at La Casita de Don Pedro (2625 W. Division St., Chicago, IL)
Check their Facebook    

Africaribe photo by Robert Carani    

2-  Las BomPleneras (Chicago, IL)
Las BomPleneras is an all female ensemble dedicated to the preservation, promotion and growth of the Puerto Rican culture through the music and dance of Bomba and Plena directed by Ivelisse Diaz & Jessica Rodriguez. They teach
beginner Bomba focusing on Sica, Yuba and Cuembe, in 6 weeks cycles. Ivelisse is also a founding member of the group Bomba con Buya.

Class: Beginner Bomba
Date: Thursdays, 6:00pm - 7:00pm
Location: Humboldt Park
(2547 W Division, Chicago, IL)
Fee: $15 per class or $60 for 6 weeks
Check their Facebook

SOUTH (DC, Florida and Virginia) 
1-  Cultura Plenera (Washington, DC)
Cultura Plenera is dedicated to the promotion and education of Bomba and Plena in Maryland, Washington DC, and Virginia. It is also home of Los Hijo e’ Plena, a Bomba and Plena performance ensemble led by Angel Rivera.
Summer event: Cultura Plenera will perform at LatinoFest, taking place on June 27-28 at Patterson Park in Baltimore, MD
Check their
Website and Facebook

2-  Bomba Body Dance Co. (Tampa, FL)
Jessica D. Albino has been dancing bomba since the age of 13. She teaches Bomba dance to children ages 3-15 on Saturdays and to youth and adults (ages 16 and up) on Wednesday nights.
Class: Bomba Body Dance for Kids
Date: Saturdays, 11:30am
Location: Taproot Community Cultural Center (1917 N. Howard Ave., Tampla, FL)
Fee: $10 per class
Summer event: Bomba Body Dance and Drumming Academy turns one and it’s celebrating it on June 20th, starting at 6:00 pm at Taproot Dance Studio (1917 N. Howard, Tampla, FL) RSVP by June 14th at:
Check their Facebook

3-  Semilla Cultural (Fredericksburg, VA)
Semilla Cultural was created last year by Isha M. Renta to cultivate diversity in the community through education and dissemination of the Puerto Rican traditions in the state of Virginia. They offer Bomba, Afro-Puerto Rican dance and percussion workshops throughout the area.
Summer events: On Sunday June 7 Semilla Cultural will offer a Bomba Dance workshop free to the public at the Strathmore's Rehearsal Room (402 in North Bethesda, MD). This workshop is part of the event Discover Strathmore: Colors of the Caribbean. Then on Saturday July 18 a Bomba Dance workshop will be offered, in collaboration with
Claves Unidos, at Dogtown Dance Theater (109 W 15th St. Richmond, VA)
Check their Website and Facebook


NORTHEAST (New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia and Rhode Island)
1-  Raíces Cultural Center (New Brunswick, NJ)
Raíces Cultural Center was founded by Francisco G. Gómez and Nicole Wines with the purpose of preserving the Caribbean cultures as reflected in music, art, dance, and the spoken word. They have a performance ensemble, organize cultural exchange trips and offer sustainability workshops. The Raícitas Youth Program offer dance and drumming classes for children and the youth in 6 weeks sessions and for at least 8 students. Workshops are organized trough community groups and classes are $12 per person per class. Feel free to contact Francisco should you wish to coordinate a class.
Check their
Website and Facebook

2-  Segunda Quimbamba Folkloric Center, Inc. (Jersey City, NJ)
A percussion and dance ensemble performing authentic Bomba and Plena, founded by Juan Cartagena and his wife Nanette Hernandez as Los Pleneros de la Segunda in 1989 during the Christmas season to preserve the Puerto Rican tradition of parrandas. They offer drum and dance classes and will proudly represent our music and dance this summer to an international audience in Spain.

Class: Drum and Dance
Day: Sundays, until June 14, 2:00pm (dance) 3:00pm (drum)
The Cobra Fencing Club (629 Grove St. Jersey City, NJ) and Segunda Quimbamba Folkloric Center (279 Second St., Jersey City, NJ)
Fee: $15 per class or $130 for 10 classes
Summer event: Festival de Pardiñas will take place August 1- 2, in Galicia, Spain and Segunda Quimbamba will be performing in addition to offering an educational drum and dance workshop previous to the show. Other events include performances on Saturday, June 20, at El Lechon Asado in Livingston; on Friday, July 17A Summer Night Concert I at Barrow Mansion in Jersey City; and on Saturday, July 18A Summer Night Concert II, also at Barrow Mansion.
Check their Website and Facebook

Segunda Quimbamba photo by Mickey Mathis  


3-  Afrolatino Fest NYC (New York, NY)
The Afrolatino Festival NYC is a multi-day event (July 10-12) celebrating the contributions of Afrolatinos through networking, cultural exchange, artistic showcases, culinary presentations, and education. Their mission is to provide a positive public space to pay tribute to the African roots of people from Latin America and the Caribbean. On this 3rd year they also commemorate the International Decade for People of African Descent declared by the U.N. Children under 10 enter FREE accompanied by an adult. Tickets start at $30.00.
Summer event we recommend: On Sunday, July 12 a morning Carnaval will take place at Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza in Brooklyn. Milteri Tucker Concepcion and Bombazo Dance Co drummers will lead a community Bomba dance class introducing basic steps, timing, figure and posture. Class is open level for men and women aged 12 and up.
Check their Website and Facebook

4- BombaWorks (Bronx, NY)
BombaWorks' mission is to create awareness of the Afro Puerto Rican traditions, build cultural bridges and share through music reconnecting with our African ancestors. Norka Hernandez-Nadal, founder and director of BombaWorks and the Afro Puerto Rican ensemble Bámbula teach the classes.
Class: BombaWorks Sundays
Date: Sundays, 1:00pm (Afro Puerto Rican dance), 2:30pm (Bomba percussion) and 3:30pm (Plena percussion)
Location: El Fogón Center for the Arts (989 Home Street Bronx, NY)
Fee: $10 per class, $25 for all three classes
Check their

5-  Bombazo Dance Co. (Bronx, NY)
Bombazo Dance is a Bronx based dance company connecting audiences to their Caribbean African roots. The company creates new works, performs in local and international stages and advocate for dance education through their community dance and drumming workshops. Artistic director and teacher,
Milteri Tucker Concepcion offers weekly classes on Bomba and Plena and African dance for students ages 12 and up.
Class: Bomba and African Dance
Date: Saturdays, 11:00am-12:15pm
Location: Casita Maria (928 Simpson Street, Bronx, NY)
Fee: $12 (adults), $8 (children ages 12-17), $5 (seniors)
Check their
Website and Facebook

6-  Caribbean Cultural Center (New York, NY)
CCCADI is dedicated to promoting the cultures of people of African Descent through the arts. They host concerts, gallery tours, workshops, performances, conferences, professional development sessions, spiritual gatherings, and teaching artists residencies across New York.
Summer event: The Festival of Santiago Apostol commonly known as the Loiza Festival del Barrio will take place July 24-26 at 105th St. between Park and Lexington avenues. This year’s festival madrina is the Afro Puerto Rican songstress, Cita Rodriguez and the participation of local and international performance groups of Bomba and Plena including Los Hermanos Fraternos de Loiza is anticipated. This is a free event.
Check their Website and Facebook

7- La Casita Cultural Center (Syracuse, NY)
La Casita is a program of the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University, established to advance a cultural and educational agenda of civic engagement through arts, media, cultural heritage preservation and research, bridging the Hispanic communities of Syracuse University and Central New York. They offer Bomba & Plena workshops for community members (ages 5 to college students) led by La Casita’s youth programming coordinator, Luz Encarnación, in partnership with the University dance troupe Raíces.
Class: Bomba & Plena Workshops 
Date: Monday and Fridays, 5:30pm
Location: La Casita Cultural Center (109 Otisco St., Syracuse, NY)
Fee: Free
Check their
Website and Facebook

8-  Los Pleneros de la 21 (New York, NY)
Founded in 1983 by Juan Gutiérrez, Los Pleneros de la 21 ("LP21") is a non-profit community based organization and music ensemble located in the heart of El Barrio (Spanish Harlem). They are dedicated to fostering awareness, appreciation and understanding of the richness of Puerto Rican artistic traditions of African descent, and to promote their development. They offer since 1989 Bomba & Plena Community Workshops on Saturdays for children and adults.
Class: Bomba & Plena Community Workshops
Date: Saturdays (October to June), 11:00am
Location: Julia De Burgos Cultural Center (1680 Lexington Ave. New York, NY)
Fee: Ask about rates
Summer event: ‘Legados y Culturas Cantadas’ is a family day celebration where the Workshop’ students perform for an audience. Honoring this year the legacy of Don Rafael Cepeda and the poetry of Luis Pales Matos, on Sunday June 7
, from 12:00pm to 5:00pm at East Harlem Center (103 E. 101 St. El Barrio). Recommended donation $5.
Check their Website and Facebook

9-  Instituto Puertorriqueño de la Música (Philadelphia, PA)
Alberto Pagán-Ramírez is the founder, director and one of the instructors at Instituto Puertorriqueño de Música. He started studying music and percussion at age 14 in music schools in Ponce, PR. He has been teaching Bomba and Plena in Philadelphia for the past 14 years.
Class: Bomba & Plena music, drums and songs

Date: Fridays 5:45 pm (children), 6:30 pm (teens and adults)
Puerto Rican Institute of Music (2661 N. 5th Street, Philadelphia, PA)
Fee: $15 per class
Check their
Website and Facebook

10-  Puerto Rican Institute for Arts and Advocacy (Providence, RI)
Lydia Pérez is the founder and director of PRIAA, a non-profit dedicated to promoting civic, cultural awareness and advocacy for the Puerto Rican and Latinos through the arts since 1994. PRIAA offers after school programs in Bomba and Plena with a social studies curriculum for students grades PK to 8th grade year round in Rhode Island, Springfield and Connecticut.
Summer Event: Flora y Falda, a Bomba and Plena Workshop & Performance will be presented by PRIAA on Friday June 26, starting at 8:00 pm at the Black Box Theater (95 Empire St., Providence, RI).
Get tickets here.
Check their
Website and Facebook

This is just a taste of the centers, events and teachers actively offering summer events and classes. We suspect there are much more Bomba and Plena going on around the mainland. Do you have a class you love? Did we miss a family friendly event? Let us know through social media with the tag #bombacation and don’t forget to tag us on Facebook or Twitter.

© Center for Puerto Rican Studies. Published in Centro Voices on 5 June 2015.

Centro Voices (ISSN: 2379-3864).
The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of Centro Voices, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies or Hunter College, CUNY.