2019 Festival Applications are open now!


This pioneering humanitarian cultural exchange first took place in 2016, the result of a return to Havana to revisit a community that was built from a belly dance workshop in 2006. The festival hosted 50 women and girls from Havana and the surrounding areas for 3 days of dance workshops, lead by several leaders from the international belly dance community, as a way to empower cultural exchange. Havana Habibi Festival was held again from April 19-23, 2018, with the best and brightest talents across continents, disciplines and genres. Hanan Arts was able to expand this program thanks to The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Knight Arts Challenge Grant, with matching funds from the Ware Foundation and sponsorships from the arts communities in Miami and Havana.

This is deep cultural work, conducted in a non-commercial format to offer an educational, cultural exchange and solidarity model. We are proud of the trailblazing work we have been doing on the ground since 2002! We are even more proud of Cuban Bellydance pioneer Gretel Sanchez Llabre and her company Cuban Soho- Cuba’s first and preeminent Bellydance school, professional dance company and live music performance group. 

We will return to Havana in 2019. For updates on how to register and more, join our mailing list or follow us on Instagram.


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Havana Habibi Festival photos through the lens of our participants! Share your Festival photos with us by tagging your Instagram posts with #havanahabibifestival.


Meet our Teachers


An intimate portrait of a group of women coming of age through dance and struggling to navigate a charged political and cultural divide.
— The Miami Herald



In 2003, Tiffany Madera, aka “hanan,” enraged her Cuban family in Miami by getting on a plane to Havana to participate in an artistic exchange that led to the formation of Cuba’s first Arabic dance troupe; Grupo Aisha Al-Hanan. The troupe founded by hanan was composed of eight women at the University of Havana’s History Department. A live band of musicians shortly followed from Havana’s colorful and diverse music scene. Guided by hanan, Grupo Aisha Al Hanan; quickly gained notoriety around Cuba despite its departure from State- Sanctioned Culture and Art models. A grassroots cultural movement ensued. 

For hanan’s family, her returning to Cuba was an act of support for the Communist Revolution that drove them from their island to Miami. Havana Habibi begins three years later, following hanan’s visit to Havana for the International Dance Festival and workshops with Grupo Aisha Al-Hanan. We meet the ensemble and see the sacrifices they make to create their art.  

hanan confronts personal demons, crumbling health and family dissonance to teach in Havana. We see the struggles and sacrifice the Cuban artists experience in daily life. We hear how belly-dance has impacted the Cuban dancers’ and musicians’ lives and empowered them as people. We witness hanan’s student Gretel Sanchez Llabre become a great leader and artist forming Cuba’s first bellydance school and professional company Cuban Soho. 

Havana Habibi looks at the cross cultural exchange and inter-migration between Africa, Cuba, and the USA; what it means to be a Cuban Belly-dancer in Revolutionary Cuba as well as the Diaspora, and travels throughout time, geography and space to tell a human story of healing, transformation, empowerment, liberation and Identity through the sensual metaphor of Bellydance.

The Filmmakers

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Joshua Bee Alafia

Joshua Bee Alafia started making films in high school and graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz with a BA in Film in 1995.  Since then he has been freelancing as a Cinematographer and Editor in World Cinema and writing and directing his own feature films.  His cinematographer credits in documentaries include; Every Day Art in Cuba, We Just Tellin’ Stories: Rodessa Jones’ Medea Project, Making Tortillas with the Mayans, Besouro Preto, Behind the Green Line, the Road to Sao Tome, the Cuban Hip Hop All Stars, Dub Poet: Oku Onuora, Maybe Dreams Can Come True and Fashioning Peace in Kenya and Havana Habibi,.  His editor credits include the documentaries Juneteenth Community, Maybe Dreams Can Come True, Louisiana Cane, and the Sundance Jury Award WinningWet Dreams and False Images.  He has shot music videos for Luciano, Bikram Singh, King David, 77 Klash and Poets; Ainsley Burrows and Queen Godis.  His film credits as writer/ director include the Anti Vigilante, Bold As Love, Se Safando, The Seed, Let’s Stay Together(the film, not the series) and the award winning Cubamor.  He is a founder and CEO of www.rootsflix.com; Art in the Spirit of Liberation, films devoted to expanding consiousness.  Alafia resides in Brooklyn, NY. (joshuabeealafia.com)

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Tiffany “hanan” Madera

Tiffany “hanan” Madera is an interdisciplinary artist at the intersection of film, dance, theatre, and ethnographic scholarly writing, in concert with her Contemporary Egyptian dance practice and intercultural and humanitarian arts entrepreneurship. She is renowned internationally for her emotive performances that embody the transformative and esoteric inter-dimensionality of spiritual movement arts rooted in feminist and post colonial theory. Her work is activist, confronting and provocative. She holds a Master’s Degree in Latin American and Caribbean Studies from Florida International University and a Master’s Degree in Performance Studies from New York University Tisch School of the Arts. She directs the hanan arts cooperative Mideastern Dance Exchange, a 501c3 which produces, performs, and teaches globally. Hanan created the “Bellydance Cuba” project in 2002, which was the catalyst for her film Havana Habibi, directed by Joshua Bee Alafia, documenting a 13 year process in Havana, Cuba. She is currently working on an ethnographic memoir and dance project “Dancing My Mother’s Body” as well as curating contemporary art and dance projects internationally. She is the winner of various prestigious grants and awards from the Knight Foundation, Ware Foundation, Miami-Dade County Cultural Affairs, State of Florida and other organizations and donors.



Sponsored by Knight Foundation and the Ware Foundation, “Havana Habibi” opened in Miami in 2016 with a week of cultural activities and dialogues on gender and diasporic issues. The Betsy - South Beach hosted one of these talks in support of Tiffany Madera's dedication to the empowerment of women. The world premiere of the film occurred on June 9, 2016 at 6 p.m. at O Cinema Wynwood. 


Support Havana Habibi with an online donation today!

Global Feminism Brunch, 2016

First Look Events and Promotion, 2016

Global Feminism Brunch
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Mission and History


Havana Habibi grew from the Bellydance Cuba Workshop, a volunteer-based, donation-driven project focused on humanitarian artistic and cultural exchange created by Tiffany “hanan” Madera and the hanan arts cooperative in December 2003. The ongoing workshop is a mentoring, training and educational sponsorship of the unprecedented, and now renowned, bellydance troupe in Havana, Cuba named "grupo Aisha al-Hanan." The new troupe was originally based out of the "Casa de los Arabes" in La Habana Vieja; a museum and mosque dedicated to preserving Arabic culture and history in Cuba, sponsored by the Office of the Historian. The troupe has performed in many festivals, cultural and educational symposiums and for Arabic Embassies throughout Havana.

For more than a decade, Tiffany "Hanan" Madera and Gretel Sanchéz Llabre have been quietly building a movement and tradition of bellydance in Cuba. Today, as the Director of Cuban Soho, Gretel is creating a new generation of dancers in Cuba, leading a school of more than 100 women and girls. Through the art of bellydance, the women and girls of Cuba find freedom of expression while reflecting on their inherent beauty and joy. Bellydance connects us to the feminine spirit, and connects us to a community of other women exploring their worlds through dance.

Gretel has worked tirelessly in her commitment to the art of bellydance, and to the empowerment of the women in her community and is truly the preeminent leader of the art in Cuba today. The Miami New Times published an article about the first Havana Habibi Festival, hosted in 2016, calling it an "Empowering Experience." You can follow Cuban Soho on Facebook, and discover more videos on Youtube by searching "Cuban Soho cuban bellydance." There you'll discover the rich culture of Middle Eastern Dance growing in the heart of Cuba's capital city.