ZDF/Arte, Unitel

Cuban Dances – A Musical Road Trip with Sarah Willis

After the brilliant success of her “Mozart y Mambo” project, Sarah Willis is returning to Cuba. This time the Berlin Philharmonic hornist sets out together with the “Havana Lyceum Orchestra” on a musical road trip to showcase the traditional Cuban music, bringing viewers and listeners into even more intense and lively contact with its roots and traditions.
With them, the musicians bring a very special commissioned work. Sarah Willis has commissioned six young Cuban composers to compose a “Cuban Dance Suite” in six movements – for strings, Cuban percussion and solo horn in a fresh and modern adaption of traditional Cuban dances: Son, Danzón, Guaguanco, Cha-Cha, Bolero and Changüi.

And so the “Cuban Dance Suite” not only provides the musical thread to the film, but also the road map for Cuba and its musical heritage. Together with the “Havana Lyceum Orchestra” and the composers, Sarah Willis sets off on a journey across Cuba – all the way to Guantánamo and Santiago de Cuba. The individual movements of the dance suite are premiered at the places they originated. The result is a composition in six movements that simultaneously draws a map of Cuba and of its history.
Documentary footage follows encounters with local musicians who have known and played the respective rhythms for generations. The audience learns even more about the inhabitants of the country, their lifestyle and why Cuban music is such an important part of Cuban life and history. Sarah Willis meets, for example, the legendary güiro player of the “Buena Vista Social Club”: Enrique Lazaga Varona. And Ana Pérez Herrera, the singer of one of Cuba’s most famous rumba groups “Los Muñequitos de Matanzas“.


Broadcasting premiere on ARTE: December 4, 2022

Sarah Willis, French Horn
José Méndez Padrón, Conductor
Havana Lyceum Orchestra

Guests: Ana Pérez Herrera, Enrique Lazaga

Ernesto Oliva
Jorge Aragón
Pepe Gavilondo
Wilma Alba Cal
Yasel Muñoz
Yuniet Lombida

Author & Director: Magdalena Zięba-Schwind
Camera: Christopher Rowe (BVK), Lena Hernández Rodríguez, Jochen Beckmann
Editor: Nina Mühlenkamp
Music Editor: Christoph Franke
Sound Engineer: Julian Schwenkner
Sound   Interviews: Gustavo Caraballoso
Re-recording Mixer:Pierre Brand
Colour Correction: Jan Hartmann

Production Assistant: Marguerite Kleinknecht
Production Manager: Mária Géczi
Commissioning Editor: Katharina Klaas
Producers: Bernhard von Hülsen, Maria Willer
Special Thanks: Charles Adriaenssen, Roland Göhde

A production of 3B-Produktion in coproduction with Unitel and ZDF in cooperation with ARTE and Alpha Classics supported by Goethe Institut and Göhde Foundation.