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Lois Wilcken

was born Pierre Louis Célestin Desrameaux on 6 August 1928 in Pétionville, a district and suburb of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, to Démosthènes Desrameaux, a farmer, and Fleurina Dorléance Alphonse, a retailer. His mother raised him in Port-au-Prince while his father labored in Delmas, another adjacent suburb. The family lived in the district of Belair, a struggling complex of neighborhoods used as slave quarters during the French colonial period. Some of the district’s houses of Vodou, an Afro-Haitian spiritual tradition, trace themselves back to pre-independence Haiti (before 1804). Desrameaux, who continued to divide his time between Belair and New York in later life, grew up Roman Catholic and, like many Haitians, participated in Vodou rituals at the same time. Scholars have dubbed Vodou a “danced religion,” and the ceremonies in Belair introduced Desrameaux to Haiti’s rich repository of traditional dances.

Desrameaux was born during the final years of the ...

Article

Katherine Ramsey

was born on 26 March 1918 in the coastal town of Saint-Marc, Haiti, where his father worked for the local government and his mother Lucienne Destiné as a seamstress. Moving to Port-au-Prince with his mother, Destiné attended the Lycée Pétion, a prestigious secondary school for boys, and in the late 1930s began to study and perform with the pianist and choral director Lina Fussman-Mathon (later Mathon-Blanchet). Haiti was under US military occupation at the time of Destiné’s birth and for much of his childhood (1915–1934). During the later years of occupation, Haitian intellectuals, writers, and artists began to “re-evaluate” popular cultures long disavowed by elite Haitians, turning to them as a repository and inspiration for artistic creation.

Fussman-Mathon was one of the first musicians to arrange Haitian folk songs for concert performance, and Destiné became a member of the choir she founded in 1939. In early 1941 ...

Article

Anita Gonzalez

was born in Rio Grande Villa of Tututepec de Melchor Ocampo in the Coastal Chica region of Oaxaca. Jimenez Terrazas self-identifies as an Afro-Mexican because of his dark skin and the strong Afro-Mexican presence within his birth region. He earned a professional degree in dance and physical education and then dedicated himself to teaching the customs and traditions of la Boquilla de Chicometepec Huazolotitlan. When he was 18 years old Jimenez Terrazas began to teach local elementary school youth how to dance. Working with students from Colegio Bachilleres del Esatdo de Oaxaca school (COBAO) he coached dancers in regional customs and practices. His teaching led him to begin researching dance through ethnographic fieldwork. As a dance enthusiast, he traveled to villages in the mountains and coastal areas of Oaxaca to interview dance and song practitioners.

His teaching style supports the belief that dancing is a way in which community members ...