Contemporary Dance in Martinique
Martinique is located in the Caribbean Antilles and has been an overseas department of France since 1635.
Policies and actions related to contemporary dance are very recent in Martinique. In 1996, a three-year development project was created under the artistic direction of Susan Buirge. It included choreography workshops, readings and using spaces for performances.
The 1997 study "The state of contemporary dance in the Caribbean", commissioned to Susan Buirge by the CMAC - Centre Martiniquais d’Action Culturelle - Scène Nationale de la Martinique, concluded by pointing out the need for a festival. As a result, the first edition of the Biennale of Contemporary Dance in the Caribbean was created in 1999.
The biennale and the CMAC performance season, to which companies and choreographers of international repute are invited to, have created a public for contemporary dance on the Island. Some of their objectives are to present contemporary dance produced in the Caribbean and to confront it with dance from outside the region; to allow artists to meet and create together and to receive further training; and to achieve greater recognition and a more professional environment for the artists working in contemporary dance.
The Biennale de Danse Contemporaine at the CMAC in Fort de France is the most important festival in Martinique’s current cultural landscape. Its existence has also led to a regular annual program of contemporary dance at the CMAC and smaller theaters, such as the municipal theatre and SERMAC – Service Municipal d’Action Culturelle. For 10 years now the Biennale has served as a platform of exchange for choreographers and dancers from all around the Caribbean. It is primarily a space for transmitting knowledge and sharing experiences; for creation, dance, and exchanging ideas around the possibility of a Caribbean identity. The Biennale has also created an audience for contemporary dance, helped to introduce contemporary dance classes in private dance schools and served to update the statute intermittent of performance. It advocates for the establishment of a Caribbean network through which the individual experiences and approaches that constitute the unique artistic expression of the Caribbean can fully express themselves.
Today CMAC – Scene Nationale, also programs international dance performances and receives aid for operations from the Ministry of Culture through the department of the performing arts of the Regional Director of Cultural Affairs. This allows for subsidies for artists’ fees and reimbursements for meals and transportation. In Martinique, the major centers of contemporary dance are in Fort de France, Saint Mary, Le Carbet and Le Marin.
Since 1993 formal training is offered to dance teachers and dancers residing in the Caribbean, including interns from Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Trinidad. The study opportunities for dancers are minimal nevertheless. Apart from private schools, dancers and choreographers who want to go on to higher education are obliged to leave Martinique to study in Canada, the United States, Cuba, or France. There is also the possibility of achieving a DE, the State Diploma in Contemporary Dance validated by the Ministry of French Culture, which has to be passed in France. It is also possible to enroll in a master of management in cultural affairs, or in theory of the performing arts at the universities in metropolitan France.
Dance companies in Martinique can count on a certain degree of support from local institutions: the DRAC - Regional bureau of Cultural Affairs, the Regional Council of Martinique, the General Council of Martinique and the municipalities and communes of Fort de France, Marin, Le Carbet and Sainte Marie.
There is a report prepared by the choreographer Susan Buirge on the situation of contemporary dance in Martinique and the Caribbean. Fanny Auguiac, the former director of the CMAC, commissioned the report in the 80’s. This confidential report is available on request, and extracts can be viewed in the Archives of the CMAC.
Text by : Annabel Gueredrat, March 2009