by Raul Menchaca
HAVANA, Aug. 2 (Xinhua) -- "Can you dance?" The conductor of a local concert band in Havana's southern Boyeros district asks each of her newly employed musicians this rather unexpected question.
That's because the music band plays more than just music, 28-year-old conductor Daya Aceituno told Xinhua.
"My goal was to create a concert band that's able to dance and even act a little during performances," the charismatic musician said.
The band offers a free concert every Friday night at Boyeros' main cinema, where it plays traditional tunes, as well as an occasional mariachi classic or the latest pop songs by American singer Bruno Mars.
Concertgoers are always amazed when the young musicians stand up and dance, performing sophisticated dances while continuing to play their instruments.
It takes a lot of coordination, because the musicians have to dance without moving their torsos too much, since most are playing wind instruments that tax the lungs.
"These guys have a lot of talent. I think they can go far with what they're doing," said Alejandro Gonzalez, a reggaeton singer who came to see the band play.
Many children come with their parents to watch the show, and praise the musicians for the way they play and dance.
For the rest of the week, the band stages its unique musical performance at a hospital, school or even high-security prison.
The band was founded 12 years ago in the tradition of the small community orchestras former Cuban leader Fidel Castro was so fond of.
Aceituno studied choral conducting and the bombardino, or euphonium, an instrument that is similar to the tuba but smaller.
After graduating in 2009, she worked with the Provincial Music Band of Havana, until its former conductor suggested she take over the conducting of the band in Boyeros.
Aceituno jumped at the chance, but when she went to Boyeros, she found a group that was "undone, unmotivated and undisciplined, and even had little musical training," she said.
"I had to take on the task of changing that," she said.
It wasn't easy, she admitted, because "breaking the inertia is very difficult ... and they were very reluctant."
She also met with resistance from concert band purists, who frowned on the idea of musicians getting up from their chairs to dance.
Things changed with the visit of her Belgian friend Oliver Masar, who was promoting a similar project.
With Masar's help, Aceituno began to slowly introduce choreographic elements into the performances. The band's premiere concert under her direction on Jan. 28, 2014 set the tone for what was to come.
"My principal objective was to change the aesthetics, change the tradition, break schemes, and I did it," Aceituno said.