Last weekend I had the amazing opportunity of attending the Gede Celebration Dance workshop by Julio Jean and Nadia Dieudonne here in New York City. In Haitian Vodou the ancestors, referred to as the Barons and the Gede are honored on November 1st and 2nd with celebrations known as Fete Gede. Offerings, prayers, songs, and sacred dances are performed. In this workshop the traditional dances of Banda and Maskawon, more commonly known as the Yanvalou, were explored and enjoyed. Ms. Dieudonne spoke about how the Gede and the Baron were the only Lwa who could show up at any time. This shows us the dead have no boundaries, which is beautifully illustrated in the movements and feel of these dances.
Julio Jean is a renowned master Haitian dance teacher and choreographer with 20 years of experience who blends traditional Haitian forms with modern and contemporary dance to create compelling movement narratives. As a teacher, he pays great attention to detail while bringing forth the joy and beauty of the dances.
Julio studied with Lavinia Williams, a company member of Katherine Dunham, at the National School of Arts in Haiti. In 1989, he moved to New York City and worked directly with Katherine Dunham teaching traditional Haitian dance during her teacher trainings. (Ms. Dunham’s work has been extensively featured here on this blog.)Here is a clip from Julio Jean’s Nan Fon Bwa – Gede Funk performance.
Lucky for us the Gede celebration will continue this weekend on November 19th with another workshop led by Julio Jean and Adia Tamar Whitaker. For more information see the Cumbedance.org website. I hope to dance with you there. Ashe !
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