Project Overview: In this residency tracing the  African roots of Bomba and Plena in Puerto Rican and Dominican  dance, 5th grade students listened to, played, and improvised characteristic rhythms from the island. In addition, they listened to African and Spanish music as part of understanding how music reflects world diaspora patterns. Building on their understanding of the evolution of bomba and plena rhythms, they discussed how popular Latin music in New York is the contemporary expression of a long hybrid tradition. Many students with family backgrounds from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico identified a connection between the music and dance they saw at home and at family gatherings, and the sounds and steps they were learning in class.

Manuela Arciniegas Teaching Artist, accompanied by Alex LaSalle


Making Personal and Cultural Connections 

A Student reflects post performance 

 Afro-Dominican Mythology in Drumming & DanceBig Ideas and Understandings:

  • To love mythology and become passionate about it-sense of urgency.
  • To create autonomy and self-awareness.
  • To create the understanding that various cultures have mythology and belief systems.
  • To strengthen inferring skills, fluency and comprehension.
  • To identify features that is a part of social life—culture, identity & government.
  • To be able to talk about mythology and traditional music and dance and its connection to social life.
  • To recognize how music and dance are a reflection of a community’s social life, values, and material reality.

Essential Questions:

  • Does mythology permeate social & religious & community situations?How does music and dance reinforce mythology?
  • How does an individual find himself within ensemble-based community music  & dance?
  • How does a dancer or drummer convey myth, culture, identity and values?

Essential Skills and Content: Students Will Be Able To…

  • Play basic patterns of Afro-Dominican Palo and Afro-Puerto Rican Bomba.
  • Play as an ensemble.
  • Know the basic steps and instrumentation of Palo and Bomba.
  • Identify the clave (Haitian and 3-2).
  • Talk daily about mythology and how it creates identity, reinforces culture, and transmits values.
  • Identify and compare mythological figures from Dominican Popular Folk Traditions.
  • Identify important maroon warrior figures in Afro-Puerto Rican Bomba.
  • Document their feelings and responses about who they are, what values they have, and essential elements of Afro-Puerto Rican and Afro-Dominican culture.
  • Understand how people’s values inform their behavior and activities as individuals, families,  communities, religion, and government.

Students Will Know…

  • The basic sounds a drum can make-Bass, Tone, Slap, Bell.
  • The 3 patterns required to play the Afro-Dominican palo ensemble music, Pandero, and Guira: Pandero pattern (3-2), Primera, Segunda, Palo Mayor.
  • The Sica rhythm in Bomba, the maraca, and how the Haitian clave is the organizing principle behind the music.
  • Basic Steps of Afro-Dominican Palo and Bomba along with 3-5 improvisatory steps, and a dance combination for each genre.
  • The basic myths about 5 popular Gods and maroon warriors from the Afro-Dominican pantheon and Afro-Puerto Rican folklore.
  • The connection between Africa and the Caribbean.
  • General history about the Transatlantic Slave Trade.


Loa                        Culture                        Identity                                 Values             Characteristics Atabal                        Cañuto                        Misterio                        Pandero            Guira Symbol             Character Traits            Pantheon            Barriles,             Panderos,                         Cua,             Maraca,                         Haitian Clave,                         3-2 Clave.     Paso Basico,     Estrellita,       Paseo,           Piquete.

STAGE 2: ASSESSMENT & EVIDENCE Assessments: (How will students demonstrate that they learned the essential skills, content and understandings?)

  • Observations during class time.
  • Weekly Journal Entries.
  • Execution of basic drum patterns and dance steps.
  • Final Performance.
  • Final Test: Identification of Key Terms, Music & Dance/Drum Proficiency Indicators.

Feedback, Coaching and Use of Data to Inform Instruction:

(How will information from assessments result in more student learning?)

  • Personal feedback & coaching (1 minute for each student)
  • Group stations informed by needs assessments.
  • Independent Social Studies & Music/Dance Rubric.


Learning Activities & Instructional Approaches:

What will equip the students in learning and demonstrating the essential skills, content and understandings?)


#1: What is Culture? Introduction to Afro-Caribbean Palo  & Bomba Music. The 3 basic patterns of the drum.Mini-Video/Group musical presentation. Vocabulary: Barriles, Maraca, Haitian Clave, Bomba, Palo

#2:  Basic Step in Afro-Dominican Palo, Review of Instrumentation, 3-2 Clave, Finding the Downbeat. Voice, Guira, Panderos, drums, and emotions/feelings/spirit.

#3:- Introduction to Mythology & Dominican Popular Folk Religion: What Can you Learn About A Community Through it’s Myth & Heroes? Discussion of Loas & Papa Legba/The Beginning & End of All Things. Palo Drum Family & The Ensemble: Drum Pattern 1 Chivita, Review of Guira and Pandero. Basic Step Review, Side to Side/Front-Back.

#4:  What characteristics do you admire? How do Loas support an individual’s acquiring these characteristics? Papa Candelo/Courage & Justice. Review Drum 1 Chivita, Pandero, Introduce Pattern 2 Segunda, and Guira. Basic Step, Side-Side, Front-Back Review, and Supplication Step.

#5:  Review: Pandero, Drum Patterns 1 & 2 Chivita & Segunda, Introduce Pattern #3 Palo Mayor & Guira. Loa  #3: Anaisa/Love & Community.

#6: Review Drum Patterns, incorporate choreography, Loa #4: Guede/Balance & Mystery.

#7:  Review Dance Basic Pattern and Steps Combination 1. Which loa resembles you more?


#8:  Introduction to Bomba-Basic Sica Pattern. What is a Maroon? Small Review of Afro-Dominican Dance Steps Combination 1.

#9: Review of Sica, Introduce Maraca & Cua. Review Afro-DR Dance Combination. Introduce Paso Basico, walking and in a circle.

#10: Incorporate Song/Vocal Component in Bomba. Choreography of groups, entrance and exits. Review Paso Basico for Bomba, and Piquetes with arm Left, Right, Jumping Back, Staircase.

#11-13: Preparing Final Performance Elements. Review Afro-DR Drum & Dance, Introduce Song, Review Bomba Paso Basico, Piquetes L/R, Jumping Back, Staircase, Queen, Shuffle Back. Review Song, Mount Choreography. Mount Entrance, Exit & Bow.