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By Brian Seibert for The New York Times

The festival features a film that shows the light and empowerment of vodou, a tradition of danced communication and communion with ancestors and spirits.

Black magic, zombies, dolls pricked by pins: These might be what most outsiders associate with the Haitian spiritual practice of vodou, especially when it’s misspelled “voodoo.” But DanceAfrica, the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s festival of African dance, wants to show a different side.

“The movies always make vodou out to be some kind of demonic devil worship,” said Abdel R. Salaam, the festival’s artistic director. “But every exposure I’ve had has been one of light and empowerment through rhythm. It’s an acknowledgment of the divine forces of nature.”

Vodou developed among Afro-Haitians as a blending of religions from West Africa with an overlay of Catholicism. Often suppressed, it was (and is) nevertheless ubiquitous on the island and spread to Haitian communities in the United States. Its rituals have been mischaracterized and misunderstood, but one way to think of them is as danced communication and communion with ancestors and spirits. Continue reading

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