Ayikodans bring flavor of Haiti to the Rialto

Posted: 12:00 pm -  Friday, Dec. 5, 2014

By Shelia Poole - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Jeanguy Saintus wants to share his perspective on Haiti with Atlanta.

It’s a view that may contradict what many people hear about the Caribbean nation.

Saintus wants to focus more on pirouettes than poverty, dance instead of disaster, and culture rather than crime.

“People always see negative things in the news about Haiti,” said the founder and artistic director of Ayikodans, an acclaimed Haitian dance company.

But, Saintus said, “when the dancers go onstage, the spectators immediately have a different perspective on Haiti. It’s a celebration of life and beauty through dance.”

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Related Video: Ayikodans at Flavors & Colors of Haitihttp://www.myajc.com/videos/lifestyles/ayikodans-flavors-haiti/vC5HFB/

Ayikodans will perform for the first time in Atlanta at 8 p.m. Dec. 11 during the fourth annual Flavors and Colors of Haiti at the Rialto Center for the Arts, 80 Forsyth St. N.W., Atlanta.

The show will feature eight dancers and five drummers. Also performing will be Haiti-born singer James Germain, who lived several years in Mali and France, and is trained in opera. A reception will follow.

The performance will feature the world premiere of two works: the 25-minute “Rasanble,” which means gather or assemble in Haitian Creole; and the 15-minute “Ranmase,” by the Ayikodans’ young choreographer, Johnnoiry Saint Philippe.


Photo Gallery: http://www.myajc.com/gallery/lifestyles/photos-ayikodans-bring-cultural-flavor-haiti-rialt/gCPtZ/#all

Both will be performed under the direction of Saintus, winner of the 2008 Prince Claus Award and the 2014 Images & Voices of Hope Award.

“Dance can be the key to bring peace to the world,” he said, as well as “the key to change life in Haiti. From my 27 years struggling to give dance the place it deserves in this country, I have seen many changes, so many lives we have changed through our free dance training program, Dansepyenu.

“My work is deeply rooted in tradition and culture,” Saintus said, combining classical, contemporary and traditional movements.

Growing up, dance was the only thing he had, he said. His mother died when he was 14.

“I really don’t know how my life would be without the passion for dance,” he said.

Saintus said he is excited about being back in Atlanta. He came in 1996 for vacation and fell in love with the city.

“Atlanta has always meant something special to me,” he said. “This may be the beginning of an artistic exchange.”

Proceeds from the Rialto event will benefit the Haitian & Haitian-American Student Internship Program at the Coca-Cola Co. in Haiti. This new initiative is a partnership between the Haitian Consulate in Atlanta and Coca-Cola, and provides hands-on learning opportunities for students interested in giving back to their communities.

Ayikodans in “Rasanble.” 8 p.m. Dec. 11. $47 to $57, without handling fee. Flavors and Colors of Haiti at the Rialto Center for the Arts, 80 Forsyth St. N.W.,Atlanta. Enter promo code HA2014 for 20 percent discount on all tickets: http://bit.ly/1zfoc4L.