-THE SHEER JOY OF
THE MUTE, yet expres-
s've vocabulary of dance in1
ail its forms continues to
dominate this, the first ever]
Caribbean Festival of Crea-
tive Arts, and as the cultural
explosion enters its second
week we are privileged to
see the famed artistry of La-
vinia Williams, who leads a
S14-member dance troupe from
the voo-doo steeped West
Indian island of Haiti where
the name of the late Papa
Doe Duvalier is still revered
:by the population.
Despite the near two de-
cades Lavinia Williams has
Spent in Haiti teaching basic
dance and choreographing in.
to definite form the folk-art
of the country, she still re-
Stains an unmistakable Amer-i
When you meet her for. the
first time you get the feeling
that you have known her all
your life so warm and sin-
cere a personality she is.
Lavinia is a slim, not-too-
tall, firm-bodied woman of
Negro origin with a bird-like
air of animation and the pro-
fessional dancer's litheness
SBorn in Philadelphia, USA
Lavinia began dancing from
the incredibly tender age of
three and was such a gifted,
many-talented child that she
won an art scholarship in her
teens, but packed away her
oils and brushes to join the
Von Grona Ballet in New
York in the 1940's.
S"What I found in Haiti,
14 SELECTED was .a natural and instinctive
dance art of the people. All
The Ballet D'Haiti is a 55- I did was to take this natural
member dance troupe whose dance of the people and
dance repertoire draws channel it into patterns that
heavily on the voo-doo cult could be defined precisely
of the island, on stage."
-The -troupe had to be "Haiti is a nation of natural
broken, up for the time be- -dancers whose culture is.
ing, because the Haitian: irmly rooted in voo-doo,
contingent to Carifesta 72 .jhici of course originated ;n
was limited. :Africa", said Lavinia, who
I" had to select 14 people 'like a number of other non-.
an4ithese indludde four male .iitians who have.co.me into'
daince&rs, four female dancers contact :r5W1: the forces of
and six singers and musi- the voo-doo cult do not make
S. .- fun at this quasi-religion of
IV canss" said Lavinia, less than the people.
24 hours after she arrived in We. n this part of the
Sthe country. world tend to regard voo-
"I, myself will not be danc- dooism with a mixture of
ing, since I have to do all fear, curiosity -and amuse
the stage managing and the -ment, but if you ask Lavinia
reading on stage before the about casting spells and
dances and I also have to sticking pins into dolls, she
overlook costumes and equip- would frown seriously and
meant .. proceed 'to give you a dis-
The mini-troupe will be quisition on the influence of
i doing among other works, a the voo-doo cult on the na-
fire dance, the dance of death tion of Haiti.
and a dance based on the re-
volution of 1791 featuring THREE MAIN RITES
the acts of a rebel slave
'Boukinan. "Voo-doo is not something
"Of course, our dances had funny at all. It is a very
to be re-choreographed to real thing. It is, in fact a wey
suit a lesser number pf dan- of life for the people of
cers and even so;some peo- Haiti. It is a religious cult
ple are doubling 'tb ofiil all: of the Haitians and its origin
the parts. So with all these dates backto the iDhomey
arrangements and require- people of Africa.
ments, it would be a physical There- are three main
impossibility for me :to be rites, namely the Rada rite.
dancing too," Lavinia "said, i the Congo rife and the Petro
apologetically. rite. anid each category has
Her involvement in Haitian; its own influence on the so-
dance culture began in herf r .
younger years when, though fJal. cultural and religious
Sshe was acclaimed as a clas- life of the people.
I "' ~ult onf voo-dono ives
Since then Lavinia has
chalked up a number of im- sical ballet dancer, she start-
pressive credits to her name ed a quest for her ethnic
and they include an appear- origin in dance.
ance in the Broadway musi- "I felt that there was some-
sal "Cabin In The Sky," thing lacingd hen my dance
which starred Ethe Waters; artistry and then began
a part in "Stormy Weather" seriously to interest myself
with Lena Hormne and a role in the culture of the colour-
in Edna Ferber's ageless hit ed people.
"Showboat" which was stag- 'This interest led me to
ed at the Ziegfield Theatre Halti where I discovered that
in New York. I I felt wonderfully at home
with the rhythm of the
She is the mother of twowih the rhythm of the
daughters, Sara and Sharan, drums and the strange charm:
by her marriage to Shannon of the voo-doo dances," said
by her marriage to Shannon vin ons s, sald
Yarborough, and both are' Lavinia reminiscently.
very talented dancers who NATURAL DANCE
have received rave reviews
in. dance journals. Lavinia 6he went to Haiti In 1958
herself is a trained classical with her two daughters who
ballet dancer who can per- were toddlers, and the next
form in every idiom of mod. year she saw it fit to found
ern dance, and also an excel- the Haitian Institute of Folk-
lent teacher and a choreo- lore and Classic Dance and
grapher of note (she prepares through the instrument of this
ali the French dance choreo- school utilised her creative
graphy for Rex Nettleford's talents to give shape and
troupe and also choreo- definition to the raw, natural
graphs all the dances for' art and culture of the people.
the Ballet D'Haiti).
instrument of voo-doo,
stated .that the "Doc" was a
good man who was very
much loved by his peo-
"All mourned his passing,"
she said, sadly.
At her 300-student school
in Haiti, Lavinia teaches
classical ballet and her stu-
dents have done Tchaikov-
sky's "Swan Lake" and the
"Nutcracker Suite" many
But she is primarily con-
cerned with the moulding
of a West Indian culture
which would have a clearly
defined dance of its own.
"This Is the concern of
many choreographers in the
West Indies. We all are seek-
ing something solid and de-
finite that we could call our
own. It used to be said that
black people could not do
classical dance, but that is
not so now.
"We have proved that it
was only a question of dis-
cipline and exposure. I think
we have the necessary ma-
terial here to found and ea-
tablish a culture for our-
"And since dance is a uni-
versal art, we can borrow the
basic from classical dance,
for this will give us discipline
of movement and then we
can draw, as many of us
have been doing, on the rich
folk culture of the many is-
"For instance, I, am most
times inspired to create
dance movements when I go
to voo-doo, ceremonies. I take
h1n -,htervr IT ..
si-i cut of ue esc--- w -
an explanation to every and try to define it in choreo-
phenomenon, natural or un- graphy in a language that all
natural in life. It gives the would understand when it is
reason for every act of man staged."
or the elements. You under- For the last 15 years,
stand yourself and the world. Lavinia has been visiting Ja-
People have misused andn maica annually where she
misconstrued its concept for lectures to master's degree
scores of years. But it is a students at UWI and dances
living reality." with Rex Nettleford and the
Lavinia went on to explain Jamaica National Dance
that dance constituted much h
of the ceremonial aspects of. Theatre Company.
voo-dooim. It's a happy love sto
I "Dance is birth, life and '.between Jamaica and myself
death and even everyday and It has been going well
life When a baby is born f'r a loe time," she de-
there are certain symbolic cleared humorously, adding
dances; when there is n that she was first invited to
.ath, there is a special death the island by Louise Bennet,
dance used and then there olklorist and Ivy Baxter,
are many dances to syn dancer.
se various aspects of lie he has travelled to many
concerning man and the ele- may cuntrs n Arica
ti., :Europe and the Carlibbean,
nn wh and as can be expected -er
Lavinla. who hPd hrb'n P dance experience has been
personal friend of Papa Doc rrilny enhanced by what she
buvalier. be mn who Wm has seen and heard In other
said to command the peopJ* lands,
of his country through the love meeting people
and promoting love and ,
goodwill' among peoples,"
she anld warmly, "I have
been described as a good am.
basnador and I think I like
Vda~- : r~l ~a9Y -
"I like telling aspiring
young artists of my experi-
ences, so that they would
take courage .and not give up
the struggle when things
look too dim.
"I like touching people
physically, as a way of estab-
lishing contact with another
human. People today tend
to withdraw into themselves,
and end up being more
frightened and unhappy. I
like creating things, dances,
a painting (when I have
"I think Carifesta is the
greatest thing to happen to
the West Indies and Latin-
American and the Guyana
Government should be given
a medal for the initiative
shown in hosting this Festi.
"How else," she said witn
an expansive gesture of her
right arm that indicated the
scores of people in the din.
ing hall of Festival City,
"would such a collection of
artists and performers. be
"Dance." she concluded,
"is like all the other arts. It
is not limited to race or
colour. It is universal. And I
hope every day that when
my feet get too old to move
I would still have some feel-
ing in my hands, so that I
can sit in my rocking chair
and be a grandma painter"
LAVINIA WILLIAMS dong a dance portraying a ritual that Is part of the life style of
the people of the Haitian Republic.