Indigenous Pitch Dance Collective returns from Haiti

Back in May, we reported on Indigenous Pitch Dance Collective’s preparations for their trip to Haiti. This is a sequel to our first article covering their recent return from their arts and cultural mission.

Indigenous Pitch Dance Collective, a Philadelphia-based non-profit has just returned from their first international mission, to Limbe, Haiti.  A team of 11 dance instructors, an elementary school teacher, a professional musician and a medical doctor traveled to northern Haiti to work with children displaced by the recent earthquake.  IPDC was contacted by L’Universite Chretienne du Nord d’Haiti because of the organization’s previous work in New Orleans and Philadelphia.  UCNH specifically requested that Indigenous Pitch Dance Collective work with the displaced children because of the organization’s history in both trauma recovery and the arts.  Fine Arts students from the university served as translators during the week.

Over 100 children, all of whom moved to Limbe from Port au Prince after the earthquake, attended the camp.  Many of the children experienced the loss of a family member.  The arts camps provide a fun, creative outlet for traumatized children.

Each day of camp began with a group discussion of the theme.  The week’s theme was Identity.   Each day had  a theme under that: Family, Community, Rebuilding, and Future.  It was important to IPDC that each child see how s/he fits into the constructs of Family, Community, Rebuilding and Future.  Those identifying moments let children see hope.  Christine Herrman, IPDC’s Program Director said, “By recognizing who they were in those situations, the kids could see how they could contribute to it.”

6 music students from Biola University joined with the IPDC staff to add music to the curriculum for the first time.  The entire camp learned a new song in English and Creole to perform at the close of camp.  Students were exposed to piano, strings, percussion and guitar.  They learned technique and music theory, and enjoyed the hands-on experience of playing an instrument.  For many, this was their first opportunity to play a musical instrument.

During the day, children participated in 2 dance forms, from ballet to break dance, from tap to swing dance, and more!  The staff was surprised by the children’s commitment to each dance form.  Executive Director Nicole LaBonde said laughingly, “A few of the boys had “tummy aches” during ballet.  Some things don’t change.”   But the children were always willing to try!  Tap was especially interesting to them, as none of the children had ever seen or heard tap shoes before!

Students also had visual art each day.  The art activities focused on the theme as well.  Children created sculptures from found objects on rebuilding day and created personal symbols for community.  Many of the campers had their first exposure to watercolor painting when they drew the pathway of their future.

The themes provided prompts for daily journaling.  Haitian schools teach mainly by recitation and repetition.  The opportunity to express oneself in the written word is rare for students.  The campers relished the act of writing in their journals.  By the end of the week, many had added pages to their 10-page journal.   Students were encouraged to share what they had written, building confidence in public speaking and voicing their thoughts.

IPDC was honored to give the children these new artistic experiences.  The ability to bring play, hope and joy to children is an amazing gift.  The children especially enjoyed sharing their cultural dances and games with IPDC staff.  As the theme for the week was Identity, this time of sharing was incorporated to give children a sense of pride in their culture and heritage.

All IPDC Arts Camps conclude with a performance for the community.  Family and community members gathered in the UCNH amphitheater to support 15 camper-choreographed dances.  The dances give children the opportunity to show what the have learned and enjoyed during the week.  The campers must work together to create a meaningful work of arts.  These performances, as the journal-sharing, build self-confidence, a characteristic desperately needed in these children.  Group choreography also builds a capacity  in creative problem solving and conflict resolution, skills that will serve the children in relationships at home and school.

After the closing song, children then escorted their family and friends to the library to view their art projects and collect their journals.  IPDC’s founder, Lisa Welsh states, “I was just overwhelmed by the joy of these children!  They’ve been through so much, and seen things and heard things children were never meant to see.  Yet they smile, laugh and play with us.  Play is so important to bringing joy to a child‘s life.”

Indigenous Pitch Dance Collective is traveling next to New Orleans, LA.  This is the organization’s 4th year in the city, working with children affected by Hurricane Katrina.  Read more about Haiti and follow the organization’s camp stories from New Orleans on their blog at http://indigenouspitch.org/ Or follow @IndiPitch on Twitter.

About IPDC: Indigenous Pitch Dance Collective, Inc. is a collective of ethnically diverse Philadelphia-based dance companies whose goal is to create and perform works of artistic excellence that reflect and highlight the diversity of our city and its native, homegrown dance styles. We support emerging choreographers by providing rehearsal space, critical feedback and performance opportunities in which to explore and develop their artistic styles. Through the art of dance, we assist and nurture children affected by natural and/or socio-economic disasters. We fulfill this mission with performances, residencies and workshops throughout the United States and abroad.

1 Comment

  1. This is great to see. Dance can be used as therapy and its awesome to see life returning to normal and people having fun over there. Thanks for the post.

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