The Haiti-based contemporary dance company Ayikodans did more than sell out three performances at the Adrienne Arsht center, they moved people to exultation, standing ovations, and deep pocketed donations. What was meant to be a single fundraiser performance catalyzed our community into action, attendance, and applause.
After nearly 30 minutes of self-congratulatory introductory speeches at the Saturday night benefit performance, it was clear what the fuss was all about. Ayikodans is simply brilliant. Led by Founder and Artistic Director Jeanguy Saintus, the company has all the makings of a legendary company. Saintus also directs his accompanying school, Artcho Danse, which is renowned for its excellence and social contribution.
Ayikodans presented two repertory pieces, Zantray (soul) and Eritaj (heritage). The lights come up to a cluster of bodies leaning among a set of child-sized wooden chairs. Comforting sounds of water soothe the audience into an earthy, heartfelt vibration as the dancers reach and stretch across each other swimming with the chairs in exciting leaps and extensions.
The musical performance between dance pieces was a game changer. Master drummer and leader of Les Tambours d’Artcho Danse, Daniel Brevil, brought the audience to a standing ovation. What he channeled into that theater was beyond language or even movement. He created a direct energetic path to the divine realm. What made the audience react with gushes of exclamation and leaps to their feet is the secret language of percussion and the healing and life-affirming properties it provides.
I was particularly enamored by Eritaj. Saintus has such a deep love and sensibility for the traditional dances of Haiti and that sophisticated and mature love comes across beautifully here. It was neither literal nor abstract, but rather a powerful and inspired synergy of vocabulary, approach, interpretation, and staging. The curves and arches of the Yanvalou were presented in an innovative and exciting way.
The earthiness of the movements were counterbalanced by the unique buoyancy of the choreography and use of core undulations and arms. It was a world of rounded contractions and release, and the effect was felt deeply through the abdominals, spine, and heart — and then up through the head and into the heavens.