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A Humble Dancer: An n’ Pale | Café Conversation with Nadia Dieudonne
By Jessica Senat, HCX Outreach & Communications Intern
The calm before the storm was definitely present at Five Myles on the evening of October 26th. Though Sandy’s unexpected onslaught was still a few states away, many seemed to have taken extra precaution and stayed indoors.
But that didn’t stop fans of Nadia Dieudonne from coming to Haiti Cultural Exchange’s An n’ Pale event which featured the Haitian-American choreographer, dancer and teacher in an intimate discussion, giving the small group a sincere look into the world of a dancer.
Nadia began dancing at an early age. As the youngest of two, she was always determined to live out the dream that her older sister, also a dancer, never had the freedom to do. Nadia’s determination to become a performer strengthened after seeing a performance in Haiti as a young child, forgoing any of her parents’ wishes to become a nurse. “My sister is the oldest so she had to become the Nurse of the family, but they couldn’t get to me. As the younger child, I got away with a lot.”
It was clear Nadia wasn’t concerned with presenting herself as a flashy dance connoisseur, but as someone who, like every creative, is still evolving as an artist and individual- developing her dream one step at a time while making sure to keep her sense of culture and identity intact.
Nadia described how her mother enrolled her in anything and everything Haitian centered, making sure her daughter learned about her culture and heritage: “My mother made sure that everything I did was involved with my culture.”
Losing sense of who you are and where you came from is a battle many artists are all too familiar with and often lost along the way. In between screened clips of past performances, Nadia admitted to how her mother’s cultural drilling affected her whole creative outlook in not only presenting herself as a performer of Haitian descent but in encouraging Haitian youth to embrace this in themselves as well. She has taught dance classes for young girls, who, until this year, given the opportunity to participate in the West Indian Kiddie Parade.
Unfortunately, the youth extension of her studio, Feet of Rhythm Kids has been cut from her offerings. Nadia cites the cause as a lack of funding and recalls the purchasing of fabric and the designing of the elaborate parade costumes -a venture she admitted to being fulfilling but costly: “I have so many things that I would like to do or continue doing, it’s just the problem of funding that prevents me from moving forward.”
I enjoyed and appreciated her humility and honesty. I know some visual and performing artists who aren’t the richest creative force out there, but they are never one to be so blunt about it (unless they’re the proud starving artist types, a whole different story.) It is comforting to know that there are artists who can be relatable while genuinely portraying their own unique talent and flair. Nadia brilliantly exhibited both these qualities with humor and humility.