Jimena Martinez, co-director of Cumbe Center for African and Disapora Dance
Jimena Martinez, co-director of Cumbe Center for African and Disapora Dance
Jimena Martinez, co-director of Cumbe Center for African and Disapora Dance

Cumbe Center for African and Diaspora Dance is scrambling to find a new home.

Cumbe, located at 558 Fulton Street in Fort Greene, opened in January 2012. As one of a small handful of studios in Central Brooklyn to focus solely on the practice of Diaspora-inspired recreational dance, its launch two and half years ago was met with a lot of fanfare and enthusiasm. Immediately, the roster of its 50 or so weekly classes filled up.

But the landlord invoked the early termination clause, in their 10-year lease. According to Cumbes Co-Director Jimena Martinez, the landlord has sold the building–which also houses Fulton Street Bagels, a sportswear store and Buffalo Boss Wings and Thingsto make room for a 20-story apartment high-rise.Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 1.58.57 PMAnd, said Martinez, they need to secure a new location by the end of the year, and they still do not know where: But were actively looking, said Martinez. So any leads would be helpful. Any building that you think would be supportive of a dance and arts organization is what we need help with.

Martinez admits, although they love their Fort Greene location, because of the rapid changes in the neighborhood and the rising rents, they have left themselves open to other neighborhoods. However, she wants to keep the studio in Brooklyn. She says rising costs have closed or downsized several, privately owned African Dance studios all across the city over the past ten years. And she doesnt want to see Cumbe become the next to shutter.


There should be a place where unapologetically and wholeheartedly there is African and Diaspora dance with a really wide range of choices, said Martinez. Very simply, thats what were trying to do here– be a home where you know you can come to receive not only African Dance, but Afro-Cuban, Haitian, Brazilian, Cuban, all of the dances of the Diaspora. And I think its just a blessing to be able to dance to live drummers.

I fell in love with these dances in my late 20s. I was starting my life working, and I found it as an afterwork class. It became a real passion for me; it allowed me to explore me, at the end of the day.

Martinez says, she still considers herself a beginner, because, 20 years later, it continues to be a transformative experience: When I start a dance class and leave a dance class with a wonderful teacher and beautiful musicians, Im more at ease, happier, feel more capable with dealing with the rest of my life.

Since opening, Cumbe has grown by about 50 percent, said Martinez. We started off with about two-thirds of what we have today. Our artistic director Pat Hall has been seminal in what weve been able to create here; she has relationships and commands the respect of many of our master teachers.Cumbe-Dance-cropped

We look for dance instructors that not only want to teach the steps, but also really want to take the time to share the culture, explainwhy the dances are performed and their spiritual underpinnings, since a lot of the dances are ritual dances.

Dance has so much to give to us, now more than ever. With our gadgets and so many more ways to distract ourselves, having a place where people of all ages can reconnect means so much more.

For now, Cumbe is holding lounge nights one night a week for students and the community, an opportunity for people to spend time in the studio and brainstorm about collaboration. The next one is Thursday, October 2, from 7:30pm 9:30pm. Also, once they identify a location, theyll be launching a crowd funding platform in early 2015.

Another easy way to support, said Martinez, is to take classes: Were still open through the end of the year, so come take our classes. See what were all about!

Join the Conversation


  1. Well…the closet nabe with 3 subways, and several bus stops surrounding it are: Bed-Stuy which currently has a ton of unused space. A PLACE LIKE THIS IS NEEDED IN BED STUY. Some of the spots along the Fulton Street corridor would be great – if only the property could be unhinged from the “money-grabbers”. If you haven’t done so, contact Robert Cornegy the business, entreprenuerish, councilman for Bed Stuy or the Business Manager Henry Butler – they may know something I don’t.

  2. I’ve enjoyed many classes at Cumbe with some amazing teachers from all over the world. It would be a shame for them to leave downtown Brooklyn, which is so convenient.

  3. always some high price buildings going up,pushing people out dam shame Brooklyn now the home of the wealthy

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.