The Carnival Exchange Program

The Carnival Exchange Program

By Angela Hernandez

Click aqui para español- >Proyecto de intecambio Carnaval

When it comes to Mardi Gras, local dance group Dile Que Nola, likes to celebrate it “a lo Cubano.” For the past three years, the rueda de casino group has worked to bridge the gap between New Orleans and Cuba through The Carnival Exchange Project.

According to Dile Que Nola’s Executive Director Nicole Goldin, the Carnival Exchange Project was created to celebrate and educate the community on Cuban culture. The five-day festival is not only geared towards education through dance but also as a means of cultural exchange between Cubans and New Orleanians. At the end of the festival, attendees parade on Mardi Gras day as one krewe during the Zulu parade.

"The project was an idea of my friend Abril Baloney. She has a company called Diaspora Travel Experiences and she has been hosting intercultural exchanges with Cuba,” said Goldin. Baloney’s idea for the first year was to bring a school from Cuba that would teach the Cuban folkloric dances. In return, New Orleanians would travel to Cuba to share their culture.

Although The Carnival Exchange Project’s inaugural year was a success, the festival hit a snag in its second year due to immigration sanctions. This made it difficult to bring one of the Cuban instructors. Sponsors also backed out, causing a financial strain, but the initiative continues.

Now in its third year, Goldin is hoping to bring instructors from Cuba if they can find sponsorships, and she encourages business owners, organization leaders and individuals to consider one of their different sponsorship levels to make the exchange with Cuba happen. The Carnival Exchange Project is a 501(c)(3) organization and the sponsorships are tax deductible.

If she can’t secure sponsorships, Goldin is determined to continue with the project and her alternative plan is to bring in Cuban nationals who reside in the United States or neighboring countries. “Regardless, we are going to bring Cuban talent, but ideally we would to give people from Cuba an opportunity to leave the island and share their traditions and dance skills with us,” said Goldin.

During the festival, attendees can expect several dance workshops and dance socials with the unique opportunity to truly get to know and teach one another. Instructors have been carefully selected not just because of their dance level but also for their ability to foster a sense of community.

There will be a daily beginners’ track for attendees who have never taken a dance class before. In preparation for the parade's choreography, Goldin plans on releasing the video tutorials in mid-December for those who are coming from out of state. Locals will be able to join in the practices in town at a location to be determined.

Those who would like to participate in the Carnival Exchange Project can buy their passes on their website at thecarnivalexchangeproject.com. Passes range from a $20 party pass to a $200 full experience pass.

You can find sponsorship information on the website and contact Nicole Goldin, by emailing her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Last modified onThursday, 29 November 2018 13:35
Angela Hernandez

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Publisher's Note

Mixing Traditions

It is no cliché. New Orleans has a wonderful mix of traditions that add to the charm of this amazing city. With the holidays in full-swing, we can enjoy holiday-centered, free events like simple walks around traditional neighborhoods to see the elaborate Christmas decorations, Caroling in Jackson Square, attending the gospel and jazz concerts at St. Louis Cathedral and St. Augustine Church, watching the technological light display during Luna Fête, and visiting the beautifully decorated hotel lobbies in town, among others.

 There is one tradition in Louisiana that is so unique and that I hope to experience this year: The Bonfires on the Levee. Just thinking about seeing the pyres, the fireworks display and its reflection on the river during a cold night and having a warm drink while learning about this tradition from our River Parishes' neighbors sounds like an amazing way to soak in some of the culture around us.

Though the original purpose of the bonfires is unconfirmed, fitting the storyline of Papa Noel following the lights on a pirogue being pulled down river by alligators to deliver presents is such a tale. It involves a mix of many elements that are unique to the culture that has shaped the city of New Orleans.

I just love being able to experience different traditions and learning about the ways diverse groups of people who have made New Orleans their home, celebrate the holidays

Happy Holidays!