Not-So-Silent Auction expected to draw crowds at Art Walk this Saturday

11 05 2011

Going once. Going Twice. Miamians have a new reason to attend Art Walk. This Saturday, a Not-So-Silent Auction will take place at the AE District located at 3852 N. Miami Ave., where more than 40 items including artwork, jewelry, books, handbags, high end gift cards to restaurants,  spas and salons along with much more, are up for bid. Proceeds will help to create sustainable efforts for Ayikodans– a dance school located in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Click to see flyer

In a not-so-silent fashion, the event will include live music performed by Adjah and various complimentary cocktails by Hennessey Black  – the combination will surely lead to friendly and competitive bidding.

Author Edwidge Danticat has signed several of her books for the auction. The Haitian author also donated beloved art piece from her personal home collection.

Marie Therese Dupoux Marithou is one well-known Haitian artist who was compelled to donate her painting titled Red Head. The painting depicts a woman with fiery red hair amidst a compelling backdrop. She says she’s just happy to help any “artist in need.”

While many of the pieces up for bid are one-of-a-kind, one of the most buzzed about items is the lunch with Miami Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles.

The event, which is being put together in collaboration with the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and the Miami Herald, is a sort of win-win for attendees who could walk away with a work of art while at the same time help to revitalize Haiti.

Address: AE District, 3852 N. Miami Ave., Miami, FL.

Time: 7 – 10 p.m.

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Al Crawford: Alvin Ailey Lighting Director shines his light on Ayikodans

3 05 2011

“During rehearsals  my conversations with Jeanguy will be about what his message is, what the movement is saying, his creative process,” said Al Crawford lighting director for the Alvin Ailey America Dance Theater. Crawford, who has also recently had the honor of lighting the White House State Dinners for Mexico and China, is donating his services to light the Ayikodans performances taking place May 21 and  22 at the Adrienne Arsht Center of the Performing Arts.

Al Crawford, Alvin Ailey Dance Theater Lighting Director

Crawford will travel to Port-au-Prince where he will spend three days studying the rehearsals with Ayikodans‘ founder and choreographer Jeanguy Saintus.

“I know that this work has a lot to do with the Haitian experience,” said Crawford. “When I’m there, I will find out from the dancers, from the people, what that experience is and how he wants to address that in the work.”

For Crawford, light and life are intricately intertwined.

“At birth and as children ultimately, we associate feelings and emotions with light.”

It’s no surprise Crawford pays such close attention to detail. The Alvin Ailey Dance Theater solidified its mark in American history by capturing the African American Cultural experience.  Ayikodans’ dancers express their culture through Saintus’ dance style, which blends Haitian-Contemporary technique with folk performance, improvisation, voodoo religious culture, along with varying African, indigenous Indian and French influences.

Crawford and Saintus will also discuss technical details such as when dancers will be positioned downstage or a group number set in a large area; whether someone will move on a diagonal. “This is how can I create an environment, a piece of architecture or a color that will support whatever his message is.”

Credit Photo: AAADT in Alvin Ailey's Revelations. Photo by Paul Kolnik

Crawford aims to use his expertise as a way to support the Ayikodans with light “to make it even stronger, more powerful.”





Garth Fagan dancer set to reunite with Ayikodans on Adrienne Arsht stage

2 05 2011

Ayikodans welcomes back Vitolio Jeune for a special performance at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on May 21 and 22. Jeune, who now dances as a soloist for Garth Fagan, hasn’t performed on stage with Ayikodans since he left Haiti to attend the New World School of the Arts in 2005.

Jeune  was recently profiled in this month’s issue of Dance Magazine, in which Garth Fagan praises the Ayikodans-bred  dancer for pushing the dance company to be even better.

The article writes, “Fagan says he’s raised the technical level ‘to fit Vitolio’s capabilities.’” Fagan goes on to explain that the Ayikodans-trained dancer has a gift for interpretation.  (Read full article here)

Tickets are available for Sunday, May 22nd. To purchase tickets, click here.

Dance Magazine provided the attached “On the Rise” article on Vitolio Jeune  (copyright Dance Magazine 2011), which is not to be used, borrowed or downloaded without legal authorization by Dance Magazine.




Jacqueline Charles recognizes the value in supporting the arts in Haiti

27 04 2011

“One of the things that happened in the earthquake is that the culture was buried in the rubble,” said Jacqueline Charles who reports on Haiti for The Miami Herald. Charles believes there is value in supporting Ayikodans, which is regarded as Haiti’s cultural ambassador.

Unfortunately, when it comes to how Haiti is generally viewed, “people don’t see and don’t think there’s actually this rich culture.”

Charles was among The Miami Herald team that was nominated this year for a Pulitzer in Breaking News Coverage in Haiti. She was also recently awarded as Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists.





My Heart Won’t Let You Go: A Photographer’s View of Haiti

22 04 2011

A naked boy smiles with a joy usually elicited from children being rewarded with candy. But in this photo, there aren’t any sugar treats, just this child walking down the streets of Cité Soleil, Haiti, hand-in-hand with an American soldier. This photo – taken by Miami Herald’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Patrick Farrell – is one among many images for sale at the “My Heart Won’t Let You Go” fund-raising exhibit taking place at the AE District space, 3852 N. Miami Ave. The collection will remain open to the public till May 28. During this time, 100 percent of the proceeds will benefit Ayikodans – a Haitian dance school severely damaged in the earthquake.

Photo taken by Patrick Farrell

“A lot of the images that I shot are hard to look at,” said Farrell. “But some of these things you can’t turn your back at.” Farrell won a Pulitzer for Breaking News in 2009 for his coverage in Haiti following the hurricanes that ravaged the country in 2008.

It was only a few months ago when gallery owner Max Pierre approached him about displaying his photos as art. Farrell admits he was hesitant at first. His photos weren’t intended to be showcased at a gallery. After learning all the money raised would directly benefit the people of Haiti, he accepted.

“That’s all he had to say, really,” said Farrell.

A total of 44 photographs are on display in the Design District. Some images dance on the edge where beauty and innocence kiss reality. Such is the case in the photo of school girls – dressed in crisp clean pink and white dresses – attending class under a tarp. Other photos are heart-wrenching scenes taken after the earthquake.

“I wanted an honest photo exhibit from a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer’s view,” said  Pierre who was born in Haiti. He knows the images can be difficult to view, but that’s no reason to ignore to truth, he says. “The reality is it’s still really bad out there.”

Both Pierre and Farrell recognize that the news about Haiti has begun to roll off the front page. This exhibit reminds the community help is still needed.

“I’m happy to be able to have a platform to showcase great work,” Pierre said while enjoying one of the receptions taking place at the gallery. It’s the reason he’s donated his space till May 28th to raise awareness about Haiti and funds for Ayikodans. (Click here to purchase tickets to the upcoming Ayikodans performance taking place at the Adrienne Arsht on May 22)

AE District
Address: 3852 N. Miami Ave., Miami, FL 33127
Contact: 305-571-5122

Hours: Open Monday through Friday from noon till 6 p.m. and on Saturday by appointment.

Upcoming Events: AE District will hosts events during the Design District Art Walk on May 14, from 7-10 p.m. A closing reception will occur on Saturday May 28, from 7 to 10 p.m. Both events are open to the public.

About Ayikodans:

Ayikodans is a well-known dance school that was established in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 1987. The Dance Company has performed on stages in Latin America, Europe, the United States and Asia, performing at such venues as Palacio de Bellas Artes in the Dominican Republic, The Netherlands’ Tropentheater, The Foundation Tokyo Ballet in Japan, Rose Hall in Jamaica and Teatro Anayansi in Panama.





Vitolio Jeune—a life dipped in dance

19 04 2011

When Vitolio Jeune steps into the dance studio, nothing else matters. The studio melts into a space where he can cry out with movement. Paint the room with a story only he can tell. It’s a story, he may never speak of, but one he’ll surely dance for you.

(Editor’s Note: This is a good time to mention, I’ve never seen Vitolio dance. So, I can’t explain how in one movement he can express an emotion that gives an audience a glimpse at how his life—which has been riddled with strife, poverty and hunger—translates through dance.

And it’s a story I cannot tell you with words because Vitoltio has asked that I do not share it with you. Rather, he says his life as an orphan child surviving in Haiti is one you know of all too well. He’d like to share with you a story you probably haven’t heard.)

“I’m a fighter. I’m a survivor,” said Vitolio from his home located in Rochester, N.Y. He’s enjoying a little downtime after several days of touring. For the last two years, Vitolio has worked as a Soloist for the Garth Fagan Dance Company—one of the most well known modern-dance companies in the nation. “Haiti does not just have one story.”

A New Beginning

Vitolio vividly remembers the day when his life changed: It was a Sunday in Port-au-Prince. 17-years-old at that time, he was dancing in the streets to make enough money to eat. That day, business was slow. He decided to walk the streets to find the Ayikodans Dance Company—the well respected dance school is considered a cultural cornerstone in Haiti.

During these years, Vitolio says he easily could have fallen into the hands of thieves or gang members, but on that day, he ran into Jeanguy.

Less than 24 hours later, Vitolio joined a group of students who were auditioning for the school. Vitolio made the cut. He was admitted through Dance Barefoot—a full scholarship program for students who cannot afford to otherwise attend.

“When I joined the program, I learned that I can become somebody who can make a difference in society.” Vitolio spent the next three years at Ayikodans. When possible, he’d try to enter the dance studio before class. Then, dash off to his academics.

He says that before joining the school, dance was a tool he used to get something he wanted. When he was just a child, he’d get the girls’ attention by showing them his best Michael Jackson moves. As a teenager, it provided him food. Dancing for Ayikodans transformed his way of thinking. “I did not have the audacity to dream until I joined the program.”

Vitolio’s dream carried him to Miami, Fl. In 2005, Jeanguy and he arranged an audition at Miami’s New World School of the Arts during a layover while the Dance Company was on tour. Vitolio was accepted.

The road didn’t end there. He auditioned for So You Think You Can Dance on FOX. He made it all the way to the finals – one of seven male dancers before being voted off.

That same year, he was hired as a Soloist for Garth Fagan. He says he owes his life to Jeanguy’s 24-year dedication to the people of Haiti.

If there’s any story to tell, Vitolio says his life is living proof “Haiti has a lot more to offer. Yes it’s a poor country. You can’t ignore that. I can only do my part by being a great Haitian artist.”





Jeanguy Saintus — the man behind the mission

22 03 2011

Visionary choreographer, dancer and educator, Jeanguy Saintus expresses the rich fusion of Caribbean culture and the contemporary life of his country through the body. He studied anthropology, sociology and languages; Haitian traditional dance, classical, modern and contemporary technique.  Founded Cie Ayikodans, a group that has matured over 20 years, establishing a centre and training programme. Researching and producing a new performance every year, Saintus continuously pushes the limits of modern dance. Folk performance, free improvisation, voodoo religious culture and varied African, indigenous Indian and French influences can be found in his work and his Haitian-Contemporary technique offers a unique vocabulary. Saintus’ experimentation has significantly developed Caribbean dance, rooting it in the region’s historical experience while exploring subjects such as the experience of people dying of Aids, the long journey to freedom, and tensions between ancestral forces and contemporary rituals.

To expand local possibilities, Saintus runs an annual workshop for talented youngsters unable to afford tuition, organizes cultural exchanges, invites guest artists to Ayikodans, teaches in The Netherlands, Japan, Cuba, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Dominican Republic,
French Guyana, Canada, Jamaica, United States  and works internationally.

Jeanguy Saintus is awarded for his exciting contemporary work that connects the  spiritual and the physical and honours the human body, for expanding the possibilities of the dance medium and fostering young talent, and for inspiring pride in the strength, beauty and richness of Haitian identity.