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.