by Vania Andre
Growing up in a wealthy Haitian family, the last thing the Destine family expected was to have their son, Jean-Leon, take up an interest in ritualistic Voodoo dances. While the religion was widely practiced in Haiti, many in the upper class embraced Christianity instead.But, for Jean-Leon Destine, the rhythmic beating of drums and dancing drew him in to the entrancing Voodoo dances.
“I was intrigued by the drumming, dancing and spirit of the Voodoo practitioners,’ Destine said at a dance showcase honoring his more than 50 years of contributions to Haitian folkloric dance. In July The Center for Traditional Music and Dance, and Ayiti Fasafas honored Destine’s life and career by presenting dance showcase Rasin Ginen: The African Roots at El Museo del Barrio in Harlem.
In St. Marc, a coastal port town in Haiti, Destine only heard stories about the ritualistic dances. However it wasn’t until Destine was introduced to his future mentor that his interest manifested into something more than just outside observance. ‘Blanchet’ as he affectionately called his mentor, gave him the stepping stone to a world that he not only loved, but excelled at.
Five dance companies performed at the showcase; Feet of Rhythm, the Haitian American Dance Theatre, Kanu Dance Theatre, Kongo-Haitian Roots Music and Tanboula D’Haiti.
For more information on Destine, his life and work visit, PBS’ website.