A recent New York Times article that previewed this past May’s virtual DanceAfrica 2021, shed light on the work of several Haitian dance companies, including HaitiDansco in Cap Haitien, Haiti, Rara Tou Lim Haitian Dance Company in Oakland, Àṣẹ Dance Theatre Collective in Brooklyn, and The Fritzation Experience in Brooklyn. Commissioned by artistic director Abdel R. Salaam, the theme was Vwa zanset yo: y’ap pale, n’ap danse!, in Haitian Creole, or “Ancestral voices: they speak… we dance!”
The virtual celebration drew inspiration from the lwa, spirits of Haitian Vodou, and included an hour long feature film, some of which was filmed in Haiti. Each dance company paid tribute to a different lwa – Parigol, Agwe/Li Sirene, Banda/Guede, Petwo, and Nago. The dances manifest the lwa, bringing messages of faith, hope, and healing, and staying connected to the ancestors, and giving praise and gratitude. The performances embrace Haitian culture’s strength, healing, and resilience through deep, rich, vibrant-colored scenes and landscapes depicting traditional dance movements, costumes, masks, headwear, and elements from the Vodou tradition.
While the performances from DanceAfrica 2021 are not available, watch a performance presented by HaitiDansCo, choreographed by Dieufel Lamisere, featuring dancer Sergo Clossiny, below.
Photo of Rara Tou Limen by Luke Atwood