2013 Florida Folk Heritage Award
Born in Havana, Cuba, Neri Torres was instilled with a passion for Afro-Cuban dance traditions by her parents and numerous other musicians who practiced in their home. She grew up immersed in the exuberant Orisha dances and music ceremonies of the Santería religion. Ms. Torres combined this background with formal training in ballet and modern dance from Havana's Instituto Superior de Artes. Upon defecting to the United States in 1991, she established a successful dance career and reconnected with family members in Miami who had left Cuba years earlier. In 1996, Ms. Torres founded IFE-ILE, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation, promotion, and cultivation of Afro-Cuban culture and folklore, known especially for the annual IFE-ILE Afro-Cuban Dance Festival. Through performances, classes, and workshops, the company entertains and educates a diverse audience, while perpetuating Afro-Cuban traditions in South Florida. She also served as the principal dancer and choreographer for Gloria Estefan, performing at numerous national and international events, including the Super Bowl and the Latin GRAMMYs. Ms. Torres has previously been recognized with a Proclamation by the City of Miami and a Certificate of Artistic Merit from the State of Florida. She continues to preserve and promote Afro-Cuban dance traditions in her South Florida community and throughout the United States and the Caribbean.