Haitian dancer and choreographer Sanford Placide organized UNI, an art collective and dance showcase at the Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center in New York City on May 18 to highlight the richness of and diversity of Haitian culture.
Consul General of Haiti Gandy Thomas kicked off the event with remarks addressing Haitian Flag Day, followed by a presentation of Sleeping Beauty Act III Pas de Deux, performed by Placide and Hannah Kickert, formerly of the Vienna State National Ballet.
During the inaugural staging of UNI, Placide also premiered MAGA, a performance piece created in honor of his mother and Haiti and featured Amanda Smith from the Dance Theatre of Harlem, as the lead dancer in the performance. The ballet was inspired by his experiences growing up in Haiti and the “sights, sounds, tastes and smells” of the country. Placide dedicated the performances, which was choreographed to the music of Toto Bissainthe and Fanfan Rene, to his father who passed away a little over five years ago.
The event featured a display of a paper gown from Fabiola Jean-Louis’ Rewriting History collection, and an exhibition titled The Haitian Immigration from Haitian visual artist Steven Baboun. Attendees included Ambassador Jan Kickert, the permanent representative of Austria to the United Nations, Ambassador of Haiti Patrick Saint Hilaire, and the Deputy Consul General of France, Eric Bayer.
“UNI was created with the support of the Consulate General of Haiti in New York to provide a platform avenue where the talents of a number of emerging and established Haitian visual and performing artists can be celebrated and promoted,” said Placide. “It’s my hope that the event, which coincided with the 215th anniversary of the Haitian flag becomes an annual event, where we can showcase the richness and diversity of the Haitian culture.”