Arts & Culture

Jean-René Delsoin’s passion of dance exposes Haiti’s Rich Culture

Centre et Compagnie de Danse Jean-René Delsoin preforming Drum Passion-Photo Credit/ Album MCC Haiti Carifesta Trindad and Tobago

Jean-René Delsoin- acclaimed dancer, choreographer, dance instructor, and owner of the Centre et Compagnie de Danse-  has been inspiring and opening doors for young Haitian dancers for many years.

Delsoin wants to instill in his students “all the possibilities dance has to offer”.  It has afforded him the chance to travel and perform, to represent his country. The 53 year old recounts parts of his journey, inspiratiosn and accomplishments to The Haitian Times.

HT:  Where did you study dance?  What inspired your career path as a dancer?

JRD:  I started dancing in Haiti, passionate about this art form, life thereafter, soon took me to a journey where I would discover and explore many dance forms and techniques in the US and the Caribbean.  Touring and traveling as a young dancer, my eyes were wide open because my desire was for my country to benefit from my abilities of developing dance in the Haitian artistic community.

HT:  What challenges did you face as a young male dancer in Haiti?

JRD:  In Haiti or any other place in the world, boys play football, girls take ballet lessons.  I was raised by a strong father (Accomplished Actor / Professor) and a mother who loved dancing and singing.  As a spoiled boy and the youngest, my desires were catered to which in some way contributed to my developing a strong personality.  Dancing was my primary goal.  Leaving my friends to go to my dance class was not that hard.  Sure, people talked, challenges crossed my path.  But most importantly, I was named the dancer of the family.

Dancer Choreographer Jean-René Delsoin- photo credit/ Jean Philippe Polo

HT:  You are passionate about dance, what do you want to instill in your students?

JRD:  All the possibilities that Dance has to offer.  It’s a whole package.  It is inconceivable to dance without love and passion.  In a country like Haiti, loving the art of dance is not enough. I am transmitting the passion of dance to my students.

HT:  The Compagnie de Danse Jean-René Delsoin, as well as yourself, has put on some breathtaking performances on “Les Jeudis de la Danse”.  What inspires your choreographies?

JRD:  My life experience has molded me well into the choreographer that I am today.  My fans often speak about this wonderful project I created “Les Jeudis de la Danse”.  They ask: when is the next season, etc.?  Having a place for people to discover dance on a regular monthly basis was an amazing accomplishment.  The rendezvous of Dance.  Despite all, Haiti is a great source of inspiration.  Everyday life brings so much to the table.  Every corner is a masterpiece.  Every struggle is an inspiration.  I am more into love, faith, reality and change

HT:  The drum is an integral part of your choreographies, what is it about the drum that makes it such an important aspect of your choreographies?

JRD:  I am a drum man, I am Haitian…The drum is not only part of my heritage but also it is part of my soul.  My pieces have benefited from it.

HT:  The Compagnie de Danse Jean-René Delsoin performed Drum Passion and stole the show at Carifesta 2019 which was held in Trinidad and Tobago.  Can you please share with us the significance of the piece?

JR:  Yes, we did our thing.  It was a powerful moment for the company and Haiti.  The audience reacted as soon as they heard “Haiti”. DRUM-PASSION is based on drumming as a Haitian cultural legacy and its signification as a great part of our everyday life.  We speak the drum, we dance through it, on it, for it.  For this particular piece, we used an excerpt from Haitian author Jacques Stephen Alexis’s “General Sun, My Brother” (1955) which reads as follows:

“In Haiti, all drums speak at night. One so wishes they would disappear forever, that they would croak: the sad drum, the sickly drums, the insistent and mournful drums, the drums that provoke a trance and hysteria, the drums that beg life for mercy.  Every night, misery alongside despair makes complaints out of heartbeats, the bald and poignant drum of Vodou and its mysteries…But triumphant every day, the drum of life snatches itself a place, the cheerful drum, the joyful Yanvalou drum, the laughing Congo drum, the high and clear conical drums that sing of life…”

HT:  How have you, and the arts in Haiti been affected by the Cornavirus pandemic?

Only love can help us get through it.  My school has been closed since March 19th.  To remain in contact with my students, I created online classes via Zoom as a four-week dance program for each group.  Hoping for a new academic year in September, I encourage every person who is willing and able to step into one of our exhilarating dance classes as soon as we open our doors.  Dancing today when life is treating us well might be our therapy for tomorrow when the storm comes.

Rachele Viard

Rachele Viard

Managing Editor at Haitian Times
Born into a Haitian family in Stone Mountain GA. , Rachele visited Haiti several times in her youth and connected to the country and the culture. She moved to Haiti in 2009, where she put her English degree to use as a writer, using her voice and pen to promote tourism in the country and highlight the richness of the Haitian culture and people.
Rachele Viard
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Jul. 29, 2020

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