Archive for the Dance Category

Angaje Sneak Peek Preview Performance at BCA’S Calderwood Pavilion: Sat. Dec. 6, 2014 8PM

Posted in Dance, Haiti with tags , on November 17, 2014 by cheshirecatman

This also looks really good. You lucky Boston folks!

Jean Appolon Expressions


_sneak peek postcard

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Exploring the African Diaspora through Caribbean Dance

Posted in Dance, Haiti with tags , , , , on November 17, 2014 by cheshirecatman

For those of you in the Boston area, this workshop looks really good.

Jean Appolon Expressions



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Jean Appolon Expressions dance company

Posted in Art, Dance, Haiti, Vodou with tags , , , on February 21, 2014 by cheshirecatman

“Based in Boston, JAE is a Haitian contemporary dance company, directed by Jean Appolon. Combining Modern technique, Haitian folkloric dance and live traditional drumming, JAE brings a new artistic vernacular to its audiences. With its dynamic repertoire, JAE educates audiences about Haitian culture, traditions, history and current issues. JAE fulfills its mission to preserve Haitian folkloric culture while constantly pushing the art form forward to remain vital, accessible, inspiring and educational.”

Check out their blog. There’s a wonderful video section where you can hear traditional rhythms and treat yourself to some Haitian dance.

Dance, trance and music

Posted in Art, Dance, Music, Possession, Religion, Ritual, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2011 by cheshirecatman

Tuesday night, shortly after publishing my last post, I ran across a documentary about trances and possession on one of the cable channels. In one of the segments, they filmed a Yoruba ceremony in Brazil. The house members were dancing in a circle, but very sedately compared to the fets I’ve attended. Some readers might be thinking, “Where is the fun in that?” While I think ritual can be and often is fun, the main purpose is to honor and serve the spirits. The narrator commented that the rhythm of the drums and the repetitive movements of the dance served to induce the trance state, which made sense to me.

Also, I wanted to share this amazing music video by Adam Scott Miller that a friend showed me. It’s a little long, but worth it, a beautiful montage of spirit and energy images accompanied by haunting music.

Petwo fet

Posted in Dance, lwas, Music, Possession, Religion, Ritual, Spirits, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2010 by cheshirecatman

Last night I attended a fet for the Petwo lwa with my friend Slinky. It was held at Mambo C’s house in the north end of Seattle. She has a huge backyard, which worked well for the fet.

The invitation requested that attendees arrive between 6 and 7pm. Slinky and I got there around 6:45, and there were only about 4-6 other people there, some of them members of the drum troupe. We were a little dismayed, wondering how the fet would go down with such a small group, in the event that no one else showed up.

During the next 30-45 minutes, more people arrived; most of them regulars who attended the last two fets I went to.  We had time to talk with many of them prior to the ceremony, and it was nice to learn some names to go with the faces. The Mambo’s friend showed up, an attractive and pleasant young woman whom I met at the previous fet.

The service started around 8:00.  Mambo C handed out lyric sheets for the opening call and response songs, which was helpful but I still garbled many of the words. Slinky did better, but she is good at that.

After the songs, the drumming and dancing began, and what followed was a pretty wild night of possessions. V, an initiate whom I’ve met at the other fets, was possessed at least twice during the evening. One of her friends commented that she has “a very open head.” One of her companions was also possessed two or three times, once quite forcefully by Erzulie Dantor. He was squirming and struggling as three to four people restrained him and kept him away from the fire (which was lit about halfway through the evening). Houngan D greeted Erzulie in Creole, and instructed others to talk to her and see what she wanted. Later he said that Erzulie Dantor had shown the possessed man a “roomful of fire,” and that was quite an intense experience for the psyche.

One of the first-time attendees (new to this group but I am not sure if she is new to Vodou) was a young woman dressed all in white except for her long flowing red head scarf. During the evening she came close to a full possession, and Houngan D was walking around the circle of dancers with her. A short time later, he was physically supporting her and another possessed devotee (the same man who would later be possessed by Dantor), one under each arm. Fortunately, the Mambo and others were there to assist and relieve him of his double burden. The Mambo’s friend had some sort of experience with Gran Bwa…at one point during the fet she was walked around the circle by Houngan D and then they went off to a corner of the yard together. Next time I see her I hope to find out more about her experience.

During a break in the festivities, I got to talk to one of the drummers, a man of African descent who had not been at the last two fets. He had words of encouragement for both the Mambo’s friend and myself, telling us that he could see we had potential that was trying to get out. He said he used to be the same way, and that he would do his best with his drumming to help us reach that potential. He was quite an amazing drummer; his playing had subtleties that I don’t remember hearing at the last two fets. Also around the break, another of the regulars showed up, the African American woman who was possessed at both of the other fets I attended. I very much wanted to meet her, and was glad to have the chance to talk with her. She is warm and seemed to connect well with Slinky.

When the dancing ended, we enjoyed some delicious red beans and rice that Slinky made, along with some fruit, humus, chips, bread and cookies.

After the fet, Slinky mentioned that there were times when she was close to letting go, and then Houngan D would ask her to do something, as if he sensed she was not ready for full-on possession and intentionally interrupted the process. For myself, I did not sense much energy this time and have had very few physical after effects, not even sore muscles. I seriously suspect that I am hard to possess, and am more firmly attached to my body than I would like to be. There are a number of reasons for this, which may be the subject of a future post. So while I did not add to my direct experiences with the lwa at this fet, I was grateful to attend and interact more with the other attendees. The better I know the group, the more comfortable I will be with them. Being comfortable with those around you can contribute greatly to your willingness to let go. And letting go of my self-consciousness and suspicion of others is one of my largest hurdles in this journey.

A fet and a funeral

Posted in Agwe, Dance, Legba, lwas, Ogoun, Possession, Religion, Ritual, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2010 by cheshirecatman

A new statue for Legba's shrine

Saturday morning I woke up with a mild headache, which wasn’t good since I had Marie’s funeral to go to. My girlfriend Anne and I were planning on taking the bus there, but her uncle e-mailed us and offered to pick us up at 10:30. The funeral was scheduled for 11:00.

St. Joseph Parish is an elegant old cathedral built in 1929-1930. Its Art Deco exterior includes a towering tiered steeple and a circular stained glass window. The interior is no less impressive, with more stained glass, a skylight that opens the congregation to natural light, mosaics and statues of Jesus and the saints. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, my journey into Vodou has given me a new tolerance and appreciation for Christianity, and I enjoyed taking in the intricate glasswork as we waited for the service to begin. The weather had been very rainy recently, yet on Saturday morning yellow rays of sunshine were streaming through the skylight and the windows.

The service lasted about an hour. Remembrances by friends and family were interspersed with musical interludes by a classical guitarist. I wasn’t sure how I was going to react at the service, but as her friends talked I felt the loss acutely and shed some silent tears. Anne, who had been stoic, suddenly lost it about 20 minutes into the service. When it was over, we were both emotionally drained. As we walked out of the cathedral, I had to smile a little though. The pews were full of people all the way to the back of the room. And the crowd was very diverse: young and old, white, Asian, black, straight, gay. Marie, being the force of nature that she was, commanded a full house.

I had to rest when I got home. Had it not been for my friend Slinky agreeing to accompany me to the fet, I might have decided to cancel as I wasn’t sure if I was up to dancing. But I wanted to see Slinky and I had already bought a $21 bottle of Barbancourt rum for the event, so I changed out of my black clothes and into a white shirt and jeans. Slinky arrived and off we went.

The fet was held at a live/work dance studio in south Seattle. Its focus was the Rada lwa, particularly Damballah, Ayida Wedo and Papa Loko. During the discussion session preceding the service, Mambo C explained that Damballah is syncretized with St. Patrick, which is why she decided to honor Damballah and his wife, Ayida Wedo, at this fet. (They are the serpent and the rainbow referenced in Wade Davis’s book.)

Providing the rhythms were the wonderful Bill Matthew and Friends, the same troupe that played at the last fet. The crowd was a bit smaller this time. I can’t resist doing my ethnic report, so here it is: Maybe 15-20 people not counting the drummers. Of those people, 1 African American woman, 1 Asian woman, and me (Asian/Inuit). It’s quite possible that there were others there of mixed blood or Latino background, but mostly a European American crowd).

The service began in the same manner as the last fet, with the recitations of the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary. Then songs were sung for Legba and the Rada lwa. The energy at this fet was much lighter than at November’s Fet Gede, so I was surprised at how many possessions there were. During the Damballah section, at least two people ended up rolling on the floor. Later Mambo C was possessed again  by her met tet, the bull lwa Bossou. She snarled fiercely and lunged through the crowd. The most dramatic possessions took place during the Ogou section . There were two young men who became possessed and it was not real obvious except that their dancing became quite aggressive. If we were not in the Ogou section I don’t know if I would have recognized which lwa it was. In both cases the houngans placed their hands around the handle of the machete but did not turn them loose with it. The most dramatic possessions involved one of the owners of the studio (who was also a dancer at the last fet, I’ll call her V) and a houngan visiting from another town (I’ll call him Houngan A).

V is a gifted dancer, and her possession involved graceful lunges, parries, and turns as she moved around the floor with the machete. When Houngan A became possessed, the warrior lwa came out in full force. Slicing his machete through the air, he stalked around the dance floor. Mambo C, Houngan D and a visiting mambo watched him carefully and sometimes placed themselves between him and the rest of the crowd. Several times I had to move out of the way when he veered in my direction. Although I was cautious, I was not afraid. It was exciting and exhilarating.

There were a few other brief possessions during the service, but I am not sure which lwa they were. I seriously need to learn some of the songs and some Haitian Creole would not hurt either.

Afterwards Slinky and I were wondering about the less obvious Ogou possessions and also whether possessions are sometimes psychosomatic. I e-mailed Mambo C to thank her for the fet and was able to discuss the possessions with her.

She pointed out that one of the female participants had Ayizan (Ayizan is thought of as the first mambo) in her head. Mambo C told me that Ayizan comes as an old woman. The possessed woman just sat sort of hunched over in a chair. I kind of remember that and probably just thought she was tired.

Mambo C also explained why the two young men’s possessions were less recognizable than those of V (who is initiated) and Houngan A. She told me that possession can be rougher on people who have not had a lave tet or are not used to carrying the energy. This makes sense.

Several times during the evening I’d watched the houngans raise someone’s arm above their head, spin them around, and release them just prior to a possession. I did not remember seeing this before, so Mambo C explained that to me. “There are different techniques for getting the lwa in people’s heads. When it looks as if someone is close, spinning them can help bring it on all the way, or pressing forehead to forehead, or shaking the asson near their head can help.”

I am a little disappointed that I am still unsure about my met tet, but will strive to be patient and continue on my journey. (I continue to wonder about Legba, Agwe, Ogou and Aggassou–and it’s hard to find much information on Aggassou). One final note for comparison: my regular readers will remember that during and after the Fet Gede, my forearms ached like crazy and I had a brief bout of vomiting the next day, but no physical soreness in my legs from dancing. Well, this Sunday after the fet, my legs were so sore and stiff that walking was difficult(!), but I have no arm or other weird pain and no stomach problems. My theory is that back in November I was carried along by the intense energy of the fet and thus experienced no muscle fatigue. However, my body wasn’t used to all that energy and thus the arms/stomach problems. I did not ride the energy much this time, and my body is paying the price.  It’s worth noting here that Mambo C commented that she thought the energy was more focused at the Fet Gede.

In closing, I’d  like to add that I presented Legba with his new statue on Sunday, as you saw in the photo at the beginning of this entry.

Fet Gede followup

Posted in Dance, Religion, Ritual, Spirits, Vodou with tags , , , , , , on November 14, 2009 by cheshirecatman

I mentioned in my last post that I’d experienced pain during the Fet Gede. After dancing for about 40-60 minutes, both of my arms (from the elbows to the wrists) began to ache. I found this odd, as I thought it would be my legs that would be tired. During a short break, I had some water and went outside to cool off. The aching subsided, and I went back to dancing.

During the final hour of the celebration, my arms began aching again, much more severely than before. I kept dancing anyway, and still had some residual pain the following Monday, along with a disjointed feeling that reminded me of the time that I received a weird massage where the guy kept poking me with his elbow. Other than that, I felt fine until just after dinner on Monday, when I experienced an intense stomach ache followed by a nasty bout of vomiting. Afterward, I recovered quickly and felt almost normal.

My first thought was that I picked up either the flu or food poisoning at the Fet Gede.  However, the achiness was limited to my arms, I had no other flu symptoms other than the vomiting, and I consumed nothing at the Fet Gede except for some bottled water. These facts cast some doubt on those theories. I also thought it possible that the symptoms were related to the amount of energy raised at the Fet. I do not usually consider myself as highly energy sensitive, but I have been working to develop more sensitivity and, during the nearly two years since Puck crossed over, have received both Zimbate and Reiki attunements.

I asked some of my energy worker friends for their opinions. My friend Angel was kind enough to scan me and found a tear in my aura in the solar plexus area, which would be near the stomach. (Last time I spoke with my animal communicator friend Tracy, she also commented that I’d had an opening of some sort.) Angel said that the tear could be caused by an attempted link on the part of an astral entity or a psychic attack. The more likely explanation, she added, was that I built up a bunch of energy at the Fet and did not release it, either due to blockage or lack of experience in energy work. And so the forced release caused the tear. When I asked Angel if the build up of energy could make someone physically sick, she said that indeed it could, as it can bring on detoxing, open up the chakras and create an imbalance.

The following Sunday I visited Mambo C’s home and had a chance to talk with her and the houngan who was at the Fet (whom I’ll refer to as Houngan D). The mambo said it was possible that I am energy sensitive (which I don’t consider myself to be, although I have experienced physical discomfort near high volumes of electricity, but I have no idea if that’s normal for most people or not). Houngan D said that having a physical reaction could actually be a good thing, as sometimes it indicates that the lwa are nearby. The mambo, who also practices ceremonial magick, told me that she became violently ill the first time she worked with one particular goddess. She experienced illness two more times while working with that goddess, but by the third time, the symptoms were very mild and then later disappeared completely.

Although I did not enjoy being sick, the experience leaves me little doubt about the presence of unseen energies. In closing, I want to say that I hope this does not discourage anyone from exploring Vodou or energy work. Vodou is not in itself harmful, any more than electricity is intentionally harmful. But if you handle live wires without proper knowledge and protection, you could get a nasty shock.

Pain at the Fed Gede