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Dance Ambassadors: Haiti Dance Performance Friday

Dance Ambassadors: Haiti Dance Performance Friday

Haitian dance company fuses culture with art

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Compagnie de Danse Jean-Rene Delsoin fuses ballet and jazz with traditional Haitian dance movement.

Durham, NC - The bold and energizing Compagnie de Danse Jean-Rene Delsoin, a group of eight dancers and musicians currently touring the United States, will visit Duke for a two-day residency co-organized by the Duke Dance Program, the Haiti Lab and the American Dance Festival.

The company will conduct a master class at noon on Friday, Oct. 26, and offer an informal performance at 7 p.m. Friday evening at The Ark Dance Studio on East Campus. Both events are free and open to the public. Those attending the master class are asked to sign up here.

Compagnie de Danse Jean-Rene Delsoin is known for its fusion of ballet and contemporary dance techniques with Haitian rhythms. Founder and choreographer Delsoin, who trained with the Alvin Ailey Dance Center, has taught dance to Haitians since 1987. He opened his own center in 2004. Bringing an international roster of dancers to Duke helps students understand how the medium is interpreted not only through the lens of Haiti, but also Africa, said Duke dance scholar Thomas F. DeFrantz.

"The company builds on traditional techniques to create forward-leaning dance works," said DeFrantz, a professor of dance and African and African American Studies. "These are works that imagine forward as they look back and honor our shared pasts. So they are incredibly important to understanding contemporary performance as well as African traditions of dance." 

The company, which is known for translating the culture and traditions of Haiti into dance, will collaborate with Duke Dance Program faculty during Friday night's performance.

"We will be invited to consider how Haiti produces dance artists of exceptional skill, who share with us ways to navigate energy and tell stories of presence, persistence, and resistance," DeFrantz said. "This helps us understand what is possible in performance, and helps our students imagine unprecedented methods of making art."

Duke Haiti Lab co-director Laurent Dubois said hosting groups like Compagnie de Danse Jean-Rene Delsoin is one of the most effective ways of engaging students with other cultures and teaching them "about Haitian dance and its links to music and culture more broadly." 

For more information about Compagnie de Danse Jean-Rene Delsoin residency and a complete schedule of the weekend's events, visit the Duke Dance Program's website.