Alafia Dance Ensemble
DANCE ORIGIN: Haiti
Ferai o, mwen blesse Ferai, oh I am wounded
Mwen pa we sow we I don’t see what you see
In 1492, Columbus claimed present-day Haiti for Spain. In the 1600s, France acquired control of the colony, renamed it St. Dominique, and transported in 500,000 African slaves to farm sugar, coffee, cocoa, indigo, and cotton. St. Dominique became Europe''s most prosperous colony. It also became infamous for its exceptional cruelty to enslaved Africans.
In 1791, St. Dominique''s slaves began their long and bloody fight for freedom, and in 1803, they won. In the Battle of Vertières—the final battle of the Haitian Revolution—Haitians defeated 30,000 Napoleonic troops. This historic defeat delivered a major blow to France, and paved the way for the abolition of slavery in the Americas.
Alafia Dance Ensemble was founded 15 years ago by Valerie Watson, and is based out of the City College of San Francisco (CCSF) dance program. Watson has been affiliated with CCSF for over 40 years, where she studied Haitian dance as a student. This is the company''s first appearance in this Festival.
TITLE: Empowerment - Otorize
Traditionally, African and Haitian Vodou groups summon a set of ancestral spirits—lwas—with a unique set of rites, drumming rhythms, song, and dance. Empowerment uses five rhythm/dance/song groups associated with the Vodou lwas. The first, nago, is from the Nigerian Yoruba people and represents the Diety Ogun. The Nago lwas are warriors and leaders, giving masculine, fatherly council and support. The next rhythm is for the Petwo lwas, who are aggressive, demanding, quick, and protective. Many believe these to be the spirits of the original slaves and Haiti’s indigenous people—the Taino—who were almost completely wiped out after European contact. These spirits were invoked during the slave revolts and the defeat of Napoleon''s troops. The third rhythm, kongo, is from the Congo River basin. Kongo lwas are ancestors of the Bantu people, gracious spirits who enjoy song and dance. The fourth rhythm is rara, signifying a masquerade band of musicians associated with Vodou temples and secret societies. And, finally, the Gède lwas—with a rhythm and dance style called banda—are tricksters, dressed in black with white faces. These spirits control the cycle of death and life.
For the 30th Anniversary Festival, Alafia shares the stage with guest dancers from Group Petit La Croix, including Blanche Brown, one of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Awardees.