Ayiti Fasafas and Center for Traditional Music and Dance in partnership with El Museo del Barrio present “Rasin Ginen: The African Roots,” a New York Haitian Dance Showcase, with New York’s finest Haitian traditional dance groups “coming together to water the ancestral roots of Haitian traditional dance,” honoring Haitian dance educator and elder, Jean-Léon Destiné. Five companies will perform at El Museo del Barrio, 1230 Fifth Avenue at 104th Street in Manhattan, on Saturday, July 14, at 7:30pm. The program is presented in conjunction with El Museo’s “Caribbean: Crossroads of the World” exhibition, on display through January 6, 2013 and is the third and final event in the “Louvri Baryè: Opening the Gates” Haitian concert series (developed by Ayiti Fasafas and Center for Traditional Music and Dance.)
Jean-Léon Destiné: (Kimberly Pittman, Encyclpedia of African-American Culture and History, 1996) Born in Saint-Marc, Haiti, to a wealthy family, Jean-Léon Destiné spent his career bringing the art of Haiti to the rest of the world. Always interested in the powerful Haitian “vodoun” and the ritual dances integral to its practice, he studied and danced as a teenager with Lina Mathon-Blanchet, founder of the first Haitian dance company that based its work on its own folk traditions. He came to New York City with Blanchet’s troupe in the early 1940s. He stayed in the city as a journalist, but continued to study dance and present solo concerts. In 1946 he joined Katherine Dunham’s troupe tour, and became known for his performance of the boy possessed in “Shango.”
In 1949 Destiné formed the Destiné Afro-Haitian Dance Company. A powerful, authoritative performer, Destiné based his choreography on African, French, and “vodoun” dances. In 1960 the Haitian government requested that he direct the “First Troupe Folklorique Nationale” and appointed him Cultural Attaché for the Republic of Haiti in the United States. Influential and respected, Destiné toured with both companies throughout Europe, North and South America, and the Orient.
Destiné continued to pass on his knowledge and passion for African-Haitian dance, music, and traditions through his teaching. He has taught at the New York Dance Group Studio, the New York University School of the Arts, the Lezly School of Dance, and at UCLA, among other schools. Though most closely affiliated with teaching in California, Destiné continued to tour regularly throughout the United States and to participate in international workshops. In 1993 he appeared at the Dance World Festival in Poland. In all his roles as dancer, choreographer, and folklorist, Destiné has reinforced perspectives about the art inherent within Haitian dance and religion, showing how the study of a culture can vitalize dance.
[Many thanks to Myriam J.A. Chancy for bringing this item to our attention.]
For more on Destiné, see http://www.pbs.org/wnet/freetodance/biographies/destine.html