Point of View

April 27, 2011, 8:52 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Intensely aware of the precarious position of many Haitian arts groups following the catastrophic 2010 earthquake, the Adrienne Arsht Center was determined to help the country in some meaningful way. That’s when John Yearwood, World Editor of The Miami Herald, brought Jeanguy Saintus, founder of Haiti’s celebrated Ayikodans, to the attention of Adrienne Arsht Center President and CEO John Richard. Soon afterwards, Richard and programming director Kathryn Garcia were on their way to Haiti to see firsthand both the process of rehearsal and recovery of Ayikodans, Haiti’s unofficial ambassador of dance.

The talent and resilience of Saintus and his troupe subsequently led to the Adrienne Arsht Center’s commission of a new work from the company set to premiere in Miami in Spring 2012. In addition, the Center committed to producing a fundraiser for the company, scheduled for May 21 & 22, 2011, in order to help the company through their immediate challenges. The Adrienne Arsht Center has convened an outstanding group of community leaders committed to helping Ayikodans develop long term tools for success so that they may continue to inspire pride in the strength, beauty and richness of Haitian culture.

Saintus and his troupe of dancers and percussionists have appeared in halls from Spain to Japan. The troupe’s high-energy performances have enabled the emergence of a new, contemporary Haitian aesthetic that, while rooted in tradition, reflects a modern Caribbean culture and creativity that would surprise many who associate Haiti only with disaster, poverty and helplessness. Indeed, although last year’s earthquake saw six of its drummers and ten dancers lose either family members or homes, the group’s artistic development has not faltered: “Saintus has developed a contemporary style which is both articulate and powerful, and should provide new insights into the language of contemporary dance for the 21st Century,” said Barbara Requa, a founder of the School of Dance at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Jamaica.

Along with his professional dance company, Saintus runs a dance school and an ongoing training program called “Dance Barefoot” that offers free tuition (and often meals and housing) for talented young dancers. Some of the students and dancers are recruited from crowds of barefoot kids break-dancing and performing on the streets of Port-au-Prince. Saintus provides them with formal dance training in the studio-house he rents in the suburb of Pétion-Ville.

”As I always say, Haiti was there for me the day I decided to be a choreographer, a teacher, a mentor and an artist. Despite all the sufferings, misunderstandings and the confusions linked to this country, I do think that I need to give back to the community part of what has been given to me…There are many things to be done in this country. The positive part of it all, is seeing that some people are still fighting to move on with their lives despite the catastrophic situation we are all living in. Some of us want to go away while others are fighting for survival. My only wish is to be there for those who want to survive DANCING .” Jeanguy Saintus


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