Episode 6 of Culture Matters
“To me, dance is like oxygen.”
With the Covid-19 pandemic still running its course in the world and protests around the US calling for an end to systemic racism, speaking with Jean Appolon is an oasis of hope and healing. In this conversation by Zoom, Appolon shares snippets from his own journey with dance, a lifesaving passion that helped him process his own trauma of his father’s brutal murder. He also speaks about his desire to share all that he knows with others: folkloric dance, Haitian culture, overcoming trauma, and really just being human.
Dance for Appolon is like oxygen. Life is not possible without it. As choreographer, master teacher, and Artistic Director of Jean Appolon Expressions (JAE), dance is his instrument of connection and healing that he lives and gives to the world.
Appolon’s story began in Haiti. A son of hardworking parents and part of a close family, his father who had served Haiti ‘s government over 20 years was murdered in a gruesome manner, traumatizing the teen Appolon in ways that only dance could heal.
Before the life altering tragedy, Appolon had already discovered dance. He studied dance with the Viviane Gauthier Dance Company and the Folkloric Ballet of Haiti. After immigrating to the US, he studied with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Joffrey American Ballet School.
Appolon cofounded Jean Appolon Expressions, a contemporary Haitian Dance company centered in the Boston area. Well regarded, this company performs locally and offers dance classes. It also provides youth in Haiti and the United States with the chance to dance and learn life skills.
For Appolon, the journey is still rough, he misses Haiti, but he has also built a rich life here in the US, with a company of dancers who share his vision to “build caring communities through dance.”
He has a gift to combine mastery with generosity. He shares everything he knows: dance, Haitian culture, and the two together. This ends up to be a bit of fusion, dance classes infused with the various Hatian dance styles that tell an important story and offer a new way to move, heal and understand.
We are fortunate to have Appolon in our midst. He bridges us not only to Haitian history and culture but to a way of being human and breathing.
In addition to being the Co-founder and Artistic Director of Jean Appolon Expressions (JAE), Jean Appolon is a successful choreographer and master teacher based in Boston and Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Haitian contemporary dance company, combining Modern technique and Haitian folkloric dance, JAE brings a new artistic vernacular to its audiences. With its dynamic repertoire, JAE educates audiences about Haitian culture, traditions, history and current issues.
A Culture Matters in Malden Episode, a podcast that offers culture as a lens to explore themes relevant to the Malden community.
Hosts: Papi Xampeux and Ose Schwab
Producer: Ose Schwab
Recorded by Zoom
Date: May 31, 2020
Recorded: April 2020
Saturn Never Sleeps, Toto Bissainthe
Jean Appolon, courtesy JAE