If you’re interested in working with JAE, please read the following descriptions of some of our typical offerings and then contact us using the form below. We are always open to new ideas, so please reach out even if your idea seems different from our descriptions!
Jean Appolon Expressions (JAE) offers a dynamic and engaging 60 minute performance that can be designed for any audience. This performance features signature JAE repertoire performed by JAE Company dancers. The performance inspires audiences with the beauty and excitement of live theater, including dance, music, spoken word and vivid costumes. The performance is also designed to educate audiences about Haiti–and its folkloric dances, culture, history and people–through an engaging and contemporary format. The performance can be followed by a Q & A with Jean Appolon and Company dancers and musicians, as desired.
Requirements for Performance
Marley dance floor preferred, wooden floor acceptable, with a minimum area of 20’ by 20’
Sound system and microphone
In March 2015, JAE successfully premiered ANGAJE at the BCA’s Plaza Theatre with two sold-out performances, and is currently touring this full-length production with original choreography and costume design by Jean Appolon, set to the music of Haitian legend Toto Bissainthe. ANGAJE is inspired by the struggle against homophobia and the power of Haitian folkloric culture in the fight for justice.
In Haitian Creole, “Angaje” means “committed” or “engaged,” with the implied meaning of political engagement. “Angaje” also describes a strand of protest music rooted in Vodou rhythms that lie at the heart of Haiti’s culture and its founding as the first black republic in the world.
Jean Appolon’s ANGAJE is a meditation on different forms of social oppression, including violence against homosexuals which is on the rise in Haiti, as young men are sought out, maimed and sometimes killed by mobs of anti-gay protestors. ANGAJE gives voice to this interlocking set of issues through a narrative choreographic arc rooted in Haitian dance tradition and set to music of equal artistic, cultural and political importance.
Haiti’s Vodou religion—practiced by the majority of Haitians—is considered a “safe space” for gays. Haitian folkloric dance and music are drawn from Vodou—secularized and adapted for the stage like many other sacred arts forms around the world. Toto Bissainthe’s folkloric music references Vodou as a source of strength and inspiration.
In ANGAJE, Jean Appolon reflects on the struggle of young gays in Haiti, and the power, beauty and rootedness that all Haitians, but especially the marginalized, can find if they just look inside their own culture.
With a running time of 75 minutes including one intermission, ANGAJE can be performed in a variety of settings ranging from a mainstage theatre to an outdoor festival with a 20′ x 20′ dance floor. The production is performed by JAE’s six Company dancers, and can include recorded music or live music performed by guest musicians. ANGAJE can be fully produced with professional lighting and original set design by visual artist Anya Smolnikova.
In combination with a live performance, Jean Appolon and his Company are available to conduct workshops/master classes with groups of all ages and abilities.
For booking information, please contact JAExpressions@gmail.com. Photography by Wayne Lake and James J. Grady.
JAE Press Kit materials available for download:
In Haitian Kreyol the word “Lakou” carries multiple meanings: It is the backyard, the land passed down through generations, the gathering place for shared meals, for dancing, singing, worship or passionate debate. “Lakou” can also mean home, or the idea of home, the place that calls us back not just to sacred ground, but to a sense of belonging without which we are not whole.
The forces that drive Haiti’s reality – of neighboring countries in conflict, of sprouting tent cities and uprooted diasporas, of enforced borders and unforgiving natural disaster – echo and ricochet around the world. Across the European and African continents, along Turkish waters and stretches of Mexican desert, we are bearing witness to the experience to the loss of “lakou,” and treacherous journeys in which many are swallowed, and those who slip through face not only economic survival but a psychic void that is both collective and deeply personal.
VWAYAJ is an interdisciplinary production that meditates on the “lakou” and its loss in the Haitian imagination in a way that also speaks to a universal condition. Where can we find belonging? Where is home? Does it exist in the rhythms of Rara music and the undulating arms of Yanvalou?
The lead artists in VWAYAJ worked with MacArthur Genius Fellow and award-winning Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat as a collaborator and advisor to create the narrative that underpins and drives the production. Danticat worked with the artists to knit together stories of migration, immigration and home as recordings that are a part of the production’s soundscape created by electronic music artist Val Jeanty. An important touchstone in the production’s narrative is Jean Appolon’s own immigration story, as well as those of Haitian immigrants living in Boston. VWAYAJ’s development included a community outreach component with Boston social service organizations serving Haitian immigrants. These community members participated in master classes and conversations with Jean Appolon, and were invited to production rehearsals and performances.