Guadeloupe Lénablou March 2009
CONTEMPORARY DANCE IN THE CARIBBEAN - GUADELOUPE Guadalupe is the largest island of the Minor Antilles. It is an archipelago with two main islands: the Grand-Terre and the Basse-Terre, which are surrounded by other small islands. It was declared a French department in the Caribbean in 1945.
This small territory of 1705 Km has around 420.000 inhabitants, which are descendants of European colonizers (Bekes), Africans (Creoles), Indians, and Syrian-Lebanese and Chinese immigrants, forming quite an ethnic and socio-cultural mixture.
The historic, administrative and economic relationship that Guadalupe and France have maintained for centuries brings great complexity to the island’s cultural and artistic landscape. Guadalupe is an ultra peripheral region that does not really function as a French department, especially in terms of its infrastructure, but does enjoy certain benefits. Unlike other French regions overseas, Guadalupe has established direct relations with the Anglophone and Hispanic islands in the Caribbean. This is mostly due to its geographic location and for historical reasons such as the shared history of slavery and colonialism. The artists working in dance, music, painting, the visual arts, theater, and other media find inspiration in the Gwo-ka culture. There are many forms of artistic expressions between the purely traditional and the contemporary, although there is no point of reference for contemporary dance.
Venues for performances Although in recent decades there have been attempts to create a regular dance program, there are currently no contemporary dance showings or festivals.
It is worth quoting the Documentary Film Month, which is celebrated throughout the territory of Guadeloupe and which could serve as springboard for the projection of contemporary dance.
All activities that foster the development of dance are centered around the two main cities of Guadeloupe. The theater of L ’Artchipel, which is the national stage of Guadalupe, is located in Basse-Terre, the administrative capital. This is a privileged space that can be used for creative work, residences, programming and co-productions in contemporary dance. The theater of second most importance is the Centre des Arts at Ponte-a-Pitre, a multi-disciplinary space with the potential to co-produce and showcase the work of foreign companies.
There are two other theaters with less infrastructure, but perhaps greater sensitivity towards works of smaller and more experimental formats. They are the SONIS Cultural Center located in Les Abymes, the most populous city of Guadeloupe, and the Robert Loyson theatre in the city of Moule.
Cultural Policies The French Ministry of Culture is represented on the island through the DRAC - Regional Direction of Cultural Affairs. The Regional Council of Guadeloupe is another possible sponsor of cultural projects but has fewer funds. Some prefectures, such as Pointe-à-Pitre, Baie-Mahault, Abymes and Moule, can offer targeted support for specific projects. Real progress has been made in terms of the number of institutions that have been supporting creation, dissemination and cultural exchange. Recognition of the legal and social status of artists has also increased, which is reflected in issues like authorial rights, aid for projects and an increase in international cultural exchanges. The visibility of dance, especially contemporary, continues to depend on individual work despite all of these positive developments.
Dance movements Amateur companies whose practice revolves around tradition define the dance scene. The contemporary dance movement is still very weak and includes only two companies with a clear contemporary profile, both of them impregnated with Caribbean culture. La Cie Modest, directed by Jean-Claude Bardu, is inspired by urban culture, African dance, jazz and Gwo-Ka. The Cie Trilogie-Lénablou is considerer the most representative in terms of contemporary Caribbean artistic work because of frequent tours and exchanges on an international level.
Education Guadalupe is the only French department in the Caribbean that possesses a degree program in dance teaching, jazz and classical ballet. The centre is directed by L´Artchipel, la Scène Nationale de Guadalupe and receives candidates from the Caribbean and France. There is also the Centre de Danse et d’Etudes Chorégraphiques in Pointe-à-Pitre. The school is a point of reference in contemporary dance, and also in Caribbean techniques, jazz, classical ballet and modern dance. It participates in exchange programs with other international schools.
There are numerous dance schools that are private or dependent on the associations that promote the traditional dances of Guadalupe. The two oldest and most established ones are l’Akademiduka created by Jacqueline Cachemire-Thôle, and Kamodjaka, directed by Raymonde Torin.
Publications In 2006 the choreographer Lénablou published Techni’k, a body of research about Gwo–ka dance, which analyses the traditional culture of the Gwo-ka while connecting it to contemporary artistic creation.