For many years, in different roles and organisations, I have programmed events for International Dance Day. I am drawn to the possibilities that can come from bringing people together. Dance provides opportunities to embrace diversity in its broadest sense. A key to the human experience; whether narrative or abstract, each performance holds a story, a sense of place and an identity of its own. The conversation starts when an observer brings their own perspective, that even the choreographer themselves might not have considered.
Let’s Dance International Frontiers (LDIF) launches each year on 29 April, International Dance Day, and now entering its ninth year. Rather fittingly, the official theme for this year’s International Dance Day is spirituality, and by happenstance the festival will open at Leicester Cathedral with Reflections a work created by Haitian choreographer Jeanguy Saintus and his company Ayikodans. The journey to this moment started over a 12 months ago when Jeanguy spoke at LDIF18’s conference Ancestral Voices: Dance Dialogues. Following Jeanguy’s presentation, I wasn’t alone in wanting to see more of Jeanguy’s choreography and see his company perform (you can read about the collaborations that this initial meeting had in blog posts from earlier this year, including Jeanguy’s recent choreography for Phoenix Dance Theatre).
Spirituality encompasses the deepest values and meanings by which people live. Jeanguy’s choreography seeks to present a picture of Haiti today; a modern Caribbean aesthetic rooted in Voudou traditions. A multifaceted story challenging preconception. With extracts of choreography from a career spanning thirty years, Ayikodans’ performance is an opportunity to remind us that safeguarding legacy is essential.
Innovation is only possible if we recognise those who have paved the way, and this spirit is encapsulated in LDIF’s theme Black Dance: A Contemporary Voice. Bringing together dancers and choreographers from Haiti, Guadeloupe, USA, Zimbabwe, Norway, Rwanda, Nigeria, Japan, Italy, Mexico and the UK. From the launch, through to the Manifest: Black Dance 1940 – 2019 exhibition, emerging artist platform Signatures, Biography with Brenda Dixon-Gottschild, and Ronald K. Brown/Evidence: A Dance Company, there is a natural synergy throughout LDIF. A universal language that speaks of hidden histories, of challenges, but also of tenacity and celebration, a story we all share.