Dancers pay homage to Haiti

On New Year’s Day, 1804, Jean Jacques Dessalines declared the independence of the French colony Hispaniola and renamed it Haiti. Two hundred years later, this extraordinary event will be honored through dance.

This week, Orchesis Contemporary Dance Theatre will present “Jewels of Haiti,” a concert celebrating the bicentennial of Haiti’s independence. The performance will be held in Lee Hall Jan. 22 – 24 at 8 p.m. and Jan. 24 – 25 at 2 p.m.

Artistic Director Joan Burroughs came up with the concept to honor the holiday last spring.

“I thought of the concept because we have worked with Haitian choreographers and I know the [country’s] history,” she said.

Burroughs said the dancers were excited when she presented the idea to them.

“They wanted to understand the meaning of what they would be doing,” she said. “They were really interested in the history. Some of them even did research.”

Members have been practicing their routines since September.

“We’ve been warming up and exercising to condition ourselves for the performance,” said Shalisa Francis, vice president of the organization.

The concert is particularly significant to the 22-year-old graduate student from Titusville.

“We are doing a repertoire piece with two dances that I have always wanted to do, so this show is special to me,” Francis said.

Giltrecia Head, 22, a senior architecture student from Tallahassee said she is fortunate to work with international instructors.

“I have been in Orchesis for three years and it’s truly a cultural experience,” she said.

Orchesis, a performance organization that focuses on cultural themes, uses dance as an artistic and cultural form of expression.

“You get to work with choreographers from all over the world, some that most people only get to read about,” Head said.

The concert features the works of three Haitian choreographers Louines Louinis, Jean-Leon Destine and Martial Roumain.

Under the direction of Jean-Leon Destine, Orchesis will perform one of his signature works, “Bal Champete.” Destine established the first national dance company in Haiti.

Head said she feels lucky to participate in the commemoration.

“We are honoring the independence of this country,” she said. “It feels good to contribute to the message that will be delivered.”

Students will be admitted free of charge with their Rattler card. General admission is $ 10 for adults and $ 5 for children, seniors and non-FAMU students.

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