On Jan. 12, 2010, Haiti suffered a massive earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0, killing more than 300,000 people. The earthquake not only obliterated a quarter of a million homes but thirty thousand more buildings collapsed, including the presidential palace, the National Assembly, and the local United Nations headquarters.

In commemoration of the earthquake, Haitian-born choreographer Gaspard Louis created a tribute titled Trilogy: L’esprit, Souke, and Annatations. 

Trilogy: L’esprit, Souke, and Annatations is my way of showcasing what took place in Haiti, Louis said. Louis and his dance company Gaspard & Dancers are performing the trilogy in New York City on Sept. 25 and Sept. 26 at Pace University.

The first part of the trilogy Souke, which means shake, refers to the rumblings from the earthquake underneath everyone, he said. “Haitians are running for cover, and some are even helping each other out and coming to one another for rescue.”

The second piece, Annatations (traveling across), refers to the 300,000 souls that perished from the quake. “These souls find themselves in the realm of purgatory.”

L’esprit, the third part of the trilogy, is about the “town that comes to life” in the midst of all the chaos. The message is that “life goes on.”

Photo credit: Robin Gallant

The trilogy started as a thesis project when Louis was obtaining his MFA, and had to interview the late father of Haitian dance, choreographer Jean-Léon Destiné, who reassured Louis that he should indeed proceed with the trilogy despite Louis’ reluctance.

“I told him I wanted to do a response to the earthquake, but I don’t know any Haitian dances, so how do I go about it?” Louis said. “He told me, ‘it’s OK’ because I am an artist and my response is my response.

“I felt I had the green light to give it my own taste, my own spice.”

To prepare his dancers, Louis showed them several visuals of what took place on the day of the earthquake.

“I had people who experienced the earthquake come in to talk to my dancers in order to give them a realistic perspective,” he said. “That had a huge impact in terms of how they projected themselves on stage.”

Dancing is not just about escaping from the harsh realities of the world, he said, it’s more of a way to communicate to the audience.

Louis will also present his trilogy on Sept. 17 and Sept. 18 at Duke University in North Carolina. To purchase tickets to his New York show, click here.


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