In Martinique, Leïla Bizet’s family has danced the bèlè for as long as she can remember; she began dancing at the age of three alongside her mother, who was a dancer in the troupe directed by Philippe Patole, The Poinsettias. Today she is recognized as one of the main advocates for bèlè.
Bèlè is a traditional folk dance practiced on islands like Dominica, St. Lucia, Guadeloupe, and Martinique; hailing from the days of slavery, it has become a time-honored symbol of African legacy. Traditional dances revolve around a mock courtship between a man (the kavalyé or knight) and a woman (the danm or lady) who take turns dancing as they respond to the lead singer and the various types of drumming.
Although bèlè has been more and more accepted through time, for many years, Bizet suffered the stigma attributed to the dance, as socially inappropriate, when she began performing. However, she followed her mother’s footsteps in her love of the dance that has become a national emblem of cultural identity, dancing with groups such as Maframé, Bel Alliance, Matjoukan, Flan’m Difé, and K’Tam Perkisyon. Although it is difficult for Bizet to articulate her passion for bèlè, she says that she loves the sound of the drums and deeply appreciates the gwo ka and simply cannot imagine her life without dance. But one thing is clear, she insists, “one must live tradition.” [Also see previous post, Guadeloupe: Festival Gwoka.]
For full article (in French), see http://www.martinique.franceantilles.fr/actualite/vielocale/avec-leila-c-est-zip-zap-wabap-18-08-2009-41755.php
For images and to listen to bèlè, chouval bwa, and gwo ka rhythms, visit the K’Tam Perkisyon page at http://www.ktam-perkisyon.com/historique.php