Jeanguy Saintus greets fans and friends at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
has been a source of inspiration for many artists. The late great
choreographer, Katherine Dunham, traveled to Haiti to learn more about the
faith and culture which inspired the expressive dance movements she would later
weave into her dance choreography. So
enamored was Ms. Dunham of what she found in Haiti, that she would later
choose to become an initiate of Vodou herself,
a Manbo, to better serve the spirits who inspired her dances. One of her most famous students, Alvin Ailey,
would one day thrill audiences worldwide with choreography stemming from the same
Haitian source. Ms. Dunham and Mr. Ailey are no longer with us, but today, their
legacy lives on in the work of the young Haitian choreographer, Jeanguy Saintus.
As head of the dance
company Ayikodans, Mr. Saintus preserves and interprets Haitian traditional
dance as if he too were divinely inspired by the Lwa or by the great
choreographers of the past. Dunham and Ailey would undoubtedly have been
thrilled to see the artistry of this master choreographer from the island
nation which inspired so much of their own works.
Vibrant and exciting, Saintus’
choreography is firmly rooted in Haiti’s traditional culture. His drummers are masters of their craft,
capable of coaxing their drums to produce a hint of a whisper or the most thunderous
percussion. A singer accompanying the drummers momentarily transformed the Adrienne
Arsht Center into a Haitian Temple or Lakou.
The theme of the evening was one of unabashed celebration of Rasin/ Roots.
The opening piece, “Zantray” meaning Inner Soul derived from the English translation, entrails, introduced audiences to the power of Saintus’
choreography. Dressed in black and
using “ti chèz ba” (miniature chairs) as props,
the dancers performed a mesmerizing dance that brought to mind the pain,
the strength , and the resilience associated with Haitian life. In one notable
scene, a dancer pushes his “ti chèz ba” in such a way that it reminds one of the
burdensome life of a Haitian “bouretye” pushing an almost unbearable load. In
the final piece, “Eritaj”, the dancers
perform the yanvalou, a dance to show respect adopted from the movement that
was used in West Africa to greet Dahomean royalty.
gave a performance that was truly a work of art. Mr. Saintus deserves much praise and respect. With him as choreographer and artistic director, the Haitian Dance Heritage is in great hands.
Ayikodans performed at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami on Saturday, May 21 and Sunday May 22, 2011