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Tania Santiago
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About Me

Tania was born and raised in Salvador, Bahia, Tania Santiago grew up in the heart of African Brazil. In Brazil she has taught, danced, and choreographed for many well-known companies including Olodum, an arts group famous for its Carnaval parade performances and credited with developing the music style known as samba reggae. While her specialties are folkloric and contemporary Afro-Brazilian dance, Santiago is also conversant in jazz, ballet, West African, Afro-Cuban and modern dance forms. Santiago has resided in California since 1997, and has taught packed classes regularly at ODC School & Rhythm and Motion Dance Program since 2005. In 2001, Santiago received a three-year grant from the California Arts Council to teach young people throughout the San Francisco Unified School District. In addition, Santiago performs with her own company Aguas (formerly known as Aguas da Bahia), the Ramon Alayo Dance Company, and Deep Waters Dance Company. Santiago's choreography has also been performed by many local groups including Loco Bloco, Axe Abada, Kuumba, Quimbanda Grupo Carnavalesco, and Abada Capoeira. Each year in San Francisco, Santiago teaches a performance workshop in the Bahian Carnaval tradition. The workshop culminates in the annual Carnaval parade in May. Santiago also leads annual dance intensives in Salvador, Bahia as part of her cross-cultural work.


United States

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My past trips

February 2018 - Carnival with Tania Santiago
February 2018 - Carnival with Tania Santiago
Salvador - State of Bahia, Brazil
Feb 03, 2018


Here is a little reflection I wrote about out Brazil trip. I highly recommend going!!! ~~~ We look at each other awkwardly, wondering, “Is this when we take off our clothes?” A group member says, “Let’s do it” and bravely starts taking off her shirt and walking towards the pond. I giggle and start to disrobe. The other dancers and I form a line. Our bare bodies look beautiful against the bright green pond vegetation. Our varying shapes and sizes seem perfect in this setting, just as they are meant to be. I walk forward, towards Tania who is standing at the end of the pond. She fills a ladle with cold pond water and gently pours it over my shoulders, neck, and then head. She then fills a ladle with warm water that has been boiled with aromatic leafs and ceremoniously pours it over my head. The pungent smell makes me feel alert, but relaxed, reminding me of eucalyptus and molded holiday spices. After we have been cleansed, we put on white clothes, inviting forth positive energy. I look around at my fellow dancers, feeling grateful to be part of this group of women who are adventurous, confident, and kind. We start to walk up a leafy hill, where we will rejoin the men in our group. The babalao, or Candomble priest, we are visiting sings out to us. Ofolu o lele ai lala Baba que ye ye ei jibu A smile spreads across my face as I realize that this is the same Yoruba song I sang in Tania’s performance workshop almost a year ago. We form a line, and the priest brushes us, one-by-one, with two branches. All in white and still damp from my herbal bath, I join in song. This song has crossed many continents, language barriers, and cultural differences, and now links my dance community in San Francisco with our new friends in Salvador. Through this traditional art form, I feel a deep sense of connection to the people around me and to the Divine. This is just one of many special moments I experienced in Salvador, Brazil with Tania Santiago. This trip has helped me gain a deeper understanding of the cultural and historic significance of the dances Tania teaches. The choreography is not only a collection of beautiful movements, but a beautiful expression of Afro-Brazilian spirituality, resistance, and empowerment. More than anything, I have come away from this trip with a deep sense of appreciation for role Afro-Brazilian folkloric dance has played in maintaining, cultivating, and sharing cultural traditions in the face of slavery and massive injustices. As a White American, I feel humbled and honored that I get to learn this type of dance, which was not created for or by people who look like me. Returning to class in San Francisco after the trip felt like a homecoming. I was once again reminded of the warmth and power of our ODC dance community. Going on this trip has made me feel closer to this dance form and community. I would highly recommend this trip to all dancers and musicians interested in improving their craft, learning about the African diaspora in Brazil, and building local and international community. Thank you Tania, Bae, Mattie, Aimee, Ann, Alix for providing time and space to laugh, reflect, explore and dance on this trip.