Meet the Team
Born in Cuba on the eve of Carnival, Rafael has dancing in his blood. From winning “best male performer” at his first international dance festival aged only 10, he went on to compete and perform in many festivals, including the renowned Festival de Caribe in Santiago de Cuba. Specialising in Afro-Cuban and Afro-Haitian dance, he worked as a professional dancer and choreographer in Havana and performed all over Cuba, including at the Teatro Nacional de Habana, and on Cuban and Spanish television, before emigrating to New Zealand and founding CUBAN☆FUSION with his to-be-wife Rosina in 2005. With his big smile and huge talent Rafael has been a regular and popular feature at iconic Australasian events such as Jambalaya, the NZ Salsa Congress, the Aotearoa Cuban Festival, the Byron Bay Latin Festival, the Sydney Cuban Salsa Congress and Australian Rueda Festival since then and was a regular on TVNZ's Good Morning Show for many years. Rafael also sings and plays percussion in a number of Wellington-based bands, including his very own Afro-Cuban eight and five piece jazz bands MafereFUN Yemayá and AfroKan, as well the Cuban Duo Madera Fina and the Son de Cuba Quartet.
CUBAN☆FUSION is a family affair. Rosina met Rafael in the main square in Havana where she was enjoying the cool breeze and live music from a nearby bar while recovering from her train trip back from Santiago de Cuba, where she'd gone to study and dance Son in it's home-town with the Maestro.. way back in 2004. Her passion for Cuban dance and music however pre-dates that trip (and Rafael) some 8 years having lived and worked (and danced as many nights/early mornings a week as could) in Chile and Mexico for Fonterra since 1997. Rosina stepped back from teaching (and dancing) in 2007 after their birth of their son, instead dedicating herself to managing and promoting the business, its bands and dance troupes in addition to other voluntary work like project managing LatinBeat's entries in the Cuba Street Carnival and Santa Parades. You will however see her occasionally out and about hosting their very popular community events, like their Sunday Sessions @ The Cross, Cuba Street Salsa Parties and Salsa @ Sunset down on the waterfront during the summer months.. and very very occasionally DJing at their events if Rafael, aka Mr Musica or DJ Timba Cubana, is away. #DJPeligROSA.
Rogelio (Roy) Carles Rosas - Senior Instructor
After taking a little break, due to a move up the coast in, we are very pleased to welcome Rogelio back to CUBAN☆FUSION in 2021. Originally from Panama, with Cuban heritage, Rogelio was the founding father of Salsa in Wellington and has been associated with CUBAN☆FUSION since the beginning, including our collaborations under the LatinBeat banner with the Cuba Street Carnival and Santa Parades, which he was the creative force behind. Rogelio is now teaching on Tuesdays and Thursdays on The Kapiti Coast. Hit the link to register now.
Nina Baranenko - Teaching Assistant
Nina, who is originally from Russia lived in Sweden for many years before emigrating to New Zealand in 2000. Nina has a jazz dance background, but fell in love with Salsa when she was introduced to it by her Cuban brother-in-law, a Salsa instructor in Stockholm at the time. Nina was delighted to discover that Salsa dancing was also popular in New Zealand. She enjoys the very friendly and happy atmosphere and incredible people from various backgrounds, who share the same interest in dancing as she does. Nina started out as a member of CUBAN☆FUSION's performance team cazino.com back in 2006 and has been a part of CUBAN☆FUSION's teaching team ever since.
Niki Boolieris - Teaching Assistant
Joining CUBAN☆FUSION in 2018, Niki has been dancing since she was a little girl, everything from ballet to traditional Greek dance, but fell in love with Salsa after hearing the music for the first time back in 1995, do the maths! And she's been dancing it ever since It has even taken her to the World Salsa Championships in Orlando Florida with Kiwi Salsa, the first time New Zealand had an entry in 2005. Niki together with CUBAN☆FUSION was involved in LatinBeat’s award winning entries in the Cuba Street Carnival back in 2007 and 2009 designing, making and wearing costumes in the parades and has been lucky enough to have been to Cuba several times to immerse herself in the culture, music and beauty of this dance! Niki has a passion for Cuban Salsa and loves to see others being able to enjoy, learn and grow into their own dance style. Niki now has has her own Ladies' Styling class. Hit the link to register now.
Greydis Montero Lianza - Associate - Special Projects
Originating from Havana, Greydis is the only professional Cuban female dancer in New Zealand and only one of two in Australasia. She is also the Artistic Director and driving force behind the Aotearoa Cuban Festival. She is an award winning and highly accredited dancer with over 30 years of experience. Hit link to see a recent Neighbourhood Episode featuring Greydis (go to min 16.5).