Day Four: The Spirit of RA RA

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

  Today our morning started off with a visit to Jean Rene Delsoin’s Dance Studio. Delsoin is a well- respected Haitian dancer who started his company in Port-au-Prince ten years ago. He has been dancing for more than 25 years. His colorful studio is filled with pictures of dancers. Our dance session started off with warm up exercises by Delsoin himself. Once we mastered the exercise, Delsoin cued in the band that was sitting at the back of the studio. Bongo drums and other instruments filled the room as the class swayed to the music.  The experience was mesmerizing.

  After the warm up, Delsoin’s confidante showed us three styles of Haitian dance, one of which was called the emu. Another dance symbolized a snake, with our arms curling in the air. He paired each of us up with one of the male Haitian dancers that were taking the class with us, and we would dance across the studio. My partner was very nice and would practice the dance moves with me before we danced in line with the rest of the class. I’m proud to say that I eventually got the hang of it! The live music really added to the session; I felt invigorated dancing along to the beat of the drums.

After our amazing hour and a half session, we traveled to the Croix Des Bouquets with Haitian musician BelO. Also known as “The Iron Village,” this is the area of Haiti that BelO calls home. Twenty miles short of the Dominican Republic, BelO’s hometown consists of an art community. The houses belong to artisan families who have been practicing their art for generations. For example, in one home, the parents and their seventeen children all produce artwork. The beautiful artwork beckoned to us as we explored the village. Iron melded into intricate designs, colorful jewelry, and hand woven bags captured my attention. A majority of the artwork we saw was made out of iron, hence the name, “The Iron Village.” I had never seen art like this before, and I was able to get a glimpse behind the art when the group watched a couple of artists creating their pieces. Sitting on the ground, the artists banged a rod into the iron surface, chipping away the piece of iron into a wall ornament that would eventually become a design made of suns, moons, or more.

Before we left, BelO wanted to show us art that was, in his words, “a must see.” We were welcomed into the home of one of the founders of the iron artwork movement. He is well known around the world, and his work has been shown in many countries. His iron pieces take up the entire space of the walls in his house. What I loved most about the iron work was the significant amount of detail. The intricate designs of doves, leaves, and people all woven into the iron pieces were incredible. The group left The Iron Village with a selection of iron work that will soon be shared with family and friends in the United States. I personally can’t wait to show off the artwork that these amazing Haitian artists have created.

To end off the night, we went to The Bamboo House, a club where BelO arranged a concert of Haitian artists. BelO brought together artists  from his music organization, HANDZUP. He wanted us to see the different kinds of music that Haiti has to offer. Sitting in the outdoor lounge area, we listened to acapella music, Haitian rap, and a Haitian style of heavy metal. Our own Jess Jean-Charles even performed a song to the adoring crowd! BelO invited family and friends, and our good friend Phillipe was there.

The most amazing part of the night was the last performance by a RA RA band. RA RA is a style of Haitian street music that originated in Vodou ceremonies. The band of about ten people with colorful bongos and other instruments appeared from the back of the lounge and came right up to our group. The entire club started dancing to the loud and pulsing music. We danced and danced until our feet hurt, even practicing some of the dance moves we learned earlier today at Delsoin’s dance studio. This was the perfect end to our night. We said our goodbyes to Phillipe, who has been an outstanding friend and guide on our artistic adventure. We also said our goodbyes to BelO, who arranged this entire concert for us and showed us a piece of his childhood at The Iron Village. These generous people are the people that bring life to Haiti and prove how wonderful this country truly is.  

~L 

Posted by BCRC Admin on 01/06 at 08:00 AM
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