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 has performed all over Cuba, including at the Teatro Nacional de Habana before emigrating to New Zealand and founding CubanFusion with his wife Rosina in 2005. With his big smile and huge talent Rafael has been 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. Rafael also sings and plays percussion in a number of Wellington-based bands including his very own 8-piece Afro-Cuban jazz band "Maferefún Yemayá", the Cuban quartet “Calle Cuba”, Cuban trio "Son de Cuba" and Cuban duo “Madera Fina”. See link for full bio.
CubanFusion is a family affair. Since their son was born in 2007 Rosina has stepped back from teaching, dedicating her self to running and promoting the business, its bands and dance troupes. See link for details.
Nina Baranenko - Teaching Assistant
Nina came to New Zealand in 2000. Originally from Russia, she lived in Sweden for many years. Nina has a jazz dance background, but fell in love with Salsa when she was introduced to it by her Cuban brother-in-law. He is a salsa instructor in Stockholm. Nina was delighted to discover that Salsa dancing is 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.
Niki Boolieris - Teaching Assistant
Joining CubanFusion in April 2018, Niki has been dancing since she was a wee girl, from ballet to traditional Greek dance, but fell in love with Salsa after hearing the music for the first time. Fifteen years of Salsa dancing later, it has taken her to the World Salsa Championships in Orlando Florida with Kiwi Salsa. Niki also taught Salsa for a few years, along with CubanFusion was involved in LatinBeat’s entries in the Cuba Street Carnival designing, making wearing costumes in the parades and has been lucky enough to have a few trips to Cuba to immerse herself in the culture, music and beauty of this dance! Niki has a passion for Salsa and loves to see others being able to enjoy, learn and grow into their own dance style.
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 20 years of experience. Hit link to see a recent Neighbourhood Episode featuring Greydis (go to min 16.5) and see link for full bio.