Neri Torres Courtesy of Blaine Waide, Florida Folklife Program. Photo of Neri Torres dancing.

Neri Torres was born in Havana, Cuba to a musical family. Neri and her brother, Ezequiel,[1] both became passionate about music and dance from a young age. They were particularly influenced by Orisha music and dances of the Santería religion.

Neri went on to study ballet and modern dance at Havana’s Instituto Superior de Artes, which she combined with her background in Orisha dance.

In 1991, Neri defected to the United States to establish a career in dance. She founded IFÉ‑ILÉ in 1996, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation, promotion and cultivation of Afro-Cuban culture and folklore. This organization is responsible for holding the annual IFÉ‑ILÉ Afro-Cuban Dance Festival and seeks to keep Afro-Cuban traditions alive and thriving in Florida through entertainment and education. 

Neri has also served as the principal dancer and choreographer for Gloria Estefan. She has toured extensively with Estefan, including the Evolution World Tour and the Millennium Tour, which included performances at the Super Bowl, Latin Grammys and Latin Billboard Awards. She is also credited with choreographing Estefan’s Grammy-award winning music video, “No me Dejes de Querer.” She has been recognized with a Certificate of Artistic Merit from the State of Florida and a Proclamation by the City of Miami. In 2013, she was awarded the Florida Folk Heritage Award for her work in preserving and promoting Afro-Cuban dance traditions throughout Florida, the United States and the Caribbean. Neri earned an MFA from University of Colorado Boulder and went on to become the Coordinator of Dance at The University of the West Indies in Cave Hill, Barbados. Here in Florida, the IFE‑ILE Afro-Cuban Dance Festival continues to thrive.