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Nadia Dieudonné is an icon of Haitian Dance based out of New York. Her passion for preserving and educating others about the Haitian culture has created an impressive reputation for herself as a talented instructor, choreographer, and performer.
Nadia was raised by her Haitian parents, surrounded by pride for music and dance of the Haitian culture from an early age. She was born just a year after her parents immigrated to the USA from Haiti. Nadia was surrounded by a tight knit community that expressed their pride and devotion to their traditions, such as the Creole language and religious Voodoo practice.
In her early childhood, she was exposed to Haitian icon Myriam Dorismé, as Nadia attended the same church and attended elementary school with Myriam's son. Myriam quickly became Nadia's mentor and inspiration, teaching her traditional Haitian rhythms and instrumentation from folk songs. In addition to Myriam's music, Nadia first observed Haitian dance by attending her sister's dance rehearsals. By the time she was in elementary school, it became obvious that performing dance was her calling from the endless success she had in her own talent shows and dances.
Her dance instructors included Maggie Brevil and Jacques Barbot, as well as her mentor of 12 years, Jean-León Destiné. Other influences for her training and performing included Jean Claude, a successful Haitian dancer in NYC from Lezly's, and Charles Moore with whom she performed a Katherine Dunham piece. Charles Moore also became instrumental to the success of her future company and involvement in the community. From her teachers she learned difficult Haitian drumming rhythms like Yanvalou, Parigol, Ibo, Nago, Mahi, and, most importantly, Banda. Nadia would later become notoriously known as the "Queen of Banda."
Her professional career began at the young age of 12 when she began performing for Myriam Dorismé. Following Myriam, she performed with various groups such as La Troupe Makadal and Tabou Combo. As well as Rasin groups like Rara Machine, Jephte Guillaume, Azor, Boulo Valcourt, Dadi Beaubrun, Loray Mistic, Kilti Chok, and Jimmy Jean Felix. In 1994, she even starred as the principal dancer with the Rolling Stones Voodoo lounge tour. Haitian Voodoo is closely tied to drumming and musical expression, where the dancer responds to the sound of the drum. Nadia's 28 years performing with various artists and studying music is attributed to her skill at emulating the music and performing the voodoo tradition, along with taking her around the world. Her commissions allowed her to perform throughout in places like Canada, Trinidad, Japan, Guadeloupe, Holland and Haiti.
During the time of some of her most profound performances, Nadia began teaching and developing her own company. Her company, Nadia Dieudonné & Feet of Rhythm, was founded in 1994. They performed primarily as an adult company until 1995 when Nadia implemented a junior company. Nadia received a grant to perform at the Prospect Park, in Brooklyn entitled, Belle Ti Ayiti, where she first premiered the troop of children and had huge success. Her main focus with her children's group is to instill cultural pride in them and teach non-Haitians about Haitian tradition. She teaches a youth dance class series every year, as well, which accumulates in a performance at the West Indiana Labor Day Parade. This has been tradition for her company for more than 10 years. Other performance spaces for her adult company included Jacob's Pillow, The Lincoln Center, Summer Stage, LIU, and various other events.
The Haitian folklore that exists today was all passed down orally. Nadia uses these tales and histories as inspiration for her movement, as seen in her grande creation of "Heritage" supported by a grant from the Brooklyn Arts Council. This performance illustrates the journey and past of Haitian people and their struggles to become independent. She used wave-like movements to show times of transition, as well as representations of farming then moments of resistance. The performance culminated in the freedom of slavery and a Bunda dance to represent life after death.
Since the founding of her company, she has extended her work to underprivileged youth all around the Tri State area. Other supporters for her art include Cynthia Sakala, Western Union, and her mother who created most of the costumes for her dancers.
Her research has taken her around the world to places like Cuba and Haiti where she worked with Lavinia Williams at the Haitian Institute of Folklore and Classic Dance to study preserved voodoo traditions in Haiti. She partnered with Joey Nelson, learned from Vivian Gotsye, and danced with local groups. Also, she danced in the country-side, or Lakous, where drummer rhythms and Creole were alive and well, returning various times over the years to continue learning. She even studied at the National Theater of Ghana to compare and contrast movement cultures from Africa.
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