Coming Full Circle

November 23, 2015  •  2 minute read

The 2015 Jean Appolon Summer Dance Institute Hotel Oloffson, Port-au-Prince

The Institute is an annual initiative of Jean Appolon Expressions (JAE), a Haitian contemporary dance organization based in Boston: The purpose of the Institute is to preserve and advance Haitian folkloric dance and to provide access to high quality and comprehensive intensive dance education to Haitian youth without financial resources.  The company’s director, Jean Appolon was born, raised and trained as a dancer in Haiti, but is now based in Boston. However, he has made a commitment to return to Haiti annually to give back to youth the tangible and intangible gifts of dance and cultural heritage. The 2015 Institute began on June 27 with an open audition that was attended by 110 Haitian young people. Sixty students were selected to participate in the four-week program that included yoga, modern dance, Haitian folkloric dance, the creation and rehearsal of choreography, and a free lunch program. National Performance Network support, through the Performing Americas Program, made it possible for JAE Company dancer Eboni Baptiste to travel to Haiti to participate as a guest faculty member in the Institute. The Institute concluded with a final performance that honored Professor Bayyinah Bello (University of Haiti) and Professor Michel DeGraff (MIT). The students performed six original choreographies by Jean Appolon for an audience of approximately 300 people that included their family members and friends, as well as Haitian and foreign dignitaries. The 2015 Institute was characterized by an extremely positive esprit de corps on the part of the participating students as well as the staff. Each day, students were focused and on time, some traveling 4+ hours round trip to participate. The Institute exemplified JAE’s philosophy of ”by working together we can achieve something great.” The final performance was indeed a great achievement as was the distribution of 58 certificates that documented the students’ successful completion of the intensive dance course. The Institute’s impact was felt at many levels, including the students’ artistic and technical accomplishments; the students’ social and personal growth; and the civic and cultural pride that comes with teaching and showcasing Haitian folkloric dance, music and culture as a valued resource. The Performing Americas Program is a partnership of the National Performance Network and La RED (Red de Promotores Culturales de Latinoamerica y el Caribe). Since 2007, the Creative Exchange has supported more than 40 artists and artist companies for two-to five-week residencies with hosts abroad, focusing on exchanges between the U.S. and Latin America and the Caribbean. The Performing Americas Program receives generous support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation.