Based in Boston, JAE is a Haitian contemporary dance company, directed by Jean Appolon. Combining Modern technique and Haitian folkloric dance, JAE brings a new artistic vernacular to its audiences. With its dynamic repertoire, JAE educates audiences about Haitian culture, traditions, history and current issues. JAE fulfills its mission to preserve Haitian folkloric culture while constantly pushing the art form forward to remain vital, accessible, inspiring and educational. JAE is comprised of dancers from diverse backgrounds, each of whom who are committed to JAE’s mission to use dance to advance Haitian culture. For more information or to book a performance, please click here.
Appolon’s Boston-based Haitian contemporary dance company has performed both at major venues in Boston and beyond, and in city parks and community spaces in free performances accessible to the public. JAE also has performed at many colleges and universities, including Harvard University, Lesley College and Wheaton College. JAE has been fortunate to share the stage with celebrities such as Danny Glover, Henry Louis Gates and Edwidge Danticat, and to collaborate with community partners such as Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción (IBA) and Central Square Theater.
Afro-Haitian dance has greatly influenced the Modern dance world, largely through the research and exposure of Modern dance icon Katherine Dunham. Haiti captured Dunham’s heart in the 1930s, when she arrived as a dancer and anthropologist to study the country’s culture, history and, particularly, its dance. Dunham, in turn, captured the hearts of Haitians by making the dances of Haiti and the Caribbean internationally known. Now, the “folklorization” of Haitian dance allows both religious and social dances to travel and be performed in the secular context of the proscenium stage. Jean Appolon Expressions is not strictly a Haitian Folkloric company, but rather seeks to preserve Haitian folkloric dance and music through contemporary interpretations.
JAE has performed at the Boston Center for the Arts, the Institute for Contemporary Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Harlem School of the Arts, numerous community festivals and several universities, just to name a few.
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.
LAKOU AYITI 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 LAKOU AYITI 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. LAKOU AYITI’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.
Boston Center for the Arts
539 Tremont St, Boston, Massachusetts 02116
For booking information, please contact JAExpressions@gmail.com.
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:
Jean Appolon Expressions (JAE) and Jean Appolon can be booked to perform and/or teach at public or private events at a variety of locations including colleges/universities, schools, gala and community events, and festivals. In addition to the options described below, JAE can tailor its programming to accommodate the specific needs of an event or host venue. Jean Appolon can also be commissioned to create choreography to be performed by JAE, and/or other dance companies or student groups. Inquiries should be directed to JAExpressions@gmail.com or fill out the form below.
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
Classes and residencies are designed for a maximum of 50 students (over the age of 18) at a time. For students under age 18, classes are designed for a maximum of 25 students at a time. For larger groups, JAE Company dancers are available as additional support.
Classes can be tailored to beginning or advanced students of any age. Classes can focus on Afro-Haitian folkloric dance, Horton (Modern) technique, ballet, or any combination of the above. Jean Appolon’s approach, combined with live drumming, makes the class an irresistible, fun and a great workout. Classes and residencies are also designed to be educational. Whether the class focuses on Haitian folkloric dances, Horton technique or ballet, students will be enriched with new knowledge in body, mind and spirit. Jean is also a skilled choreographer and can set choreography on any group, as desired.
Requirements for Classes: