Haitian American Music

Readers Mail: Haitian Born Ballet Dancer Make NYC Debut at Dance Theatre of Harlem

Sanford Placide

My name is Sanford Placide and I am a professional ballet dancer, born and raised in Haiti. I am currently dancing my first season with the world-renowned Dance Theatre of Harlem, based in New York City.

Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) is a racially diverse ballet company founded by Arthur Mitchell, the first African American male dancer in the present day New York City ballet company. In the company, he danced and was coached by the celebrated choreographer, Balanchine.Mitchell founded the company in 1969 in conjunction with the civil rights movements after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., thinking it was the perfect time to give back to the Harlem community where he grew up by sharing his knowledge and passion of the art form.

Though a more detailed version of  the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s history can be found online, libraries and museums, it was only by coincidence I watched the company for the first time on video, performing one of their ballets titled Banda, created by Geoffrey Holder showcasing Haitian vodou culture and “legba”.

I started folkloric dances only because of my lack of talent in piano back home and I didn’t really know much about classical ballet beside the pictures I had seen from encyclopedias and TV shows.  However, seeing that video I became intrigued that the company had not only produced a ballet about my culture but also wore tights and tutus and performed to classical music as well as other traditional ballet companies.

Sanford Placide

That year, studying in Miami with Ballet Etudes of South Florida, my teachers advised me to apply for their summer program in which I was accepted on a full tuition scholarship at the intermediate level.After attending that summer, I was accepted at and attended other summer or full year programs at other prestigious establishments including American Ballet Theatre, Lines Ballet, Ballet Hispanico, Ballet Austin, and Miami City Ballet, just to name a few.

In 2010, I moved to New York determined to be a ballet dancer and trained privately under the tutelage of Nadege Hottier, while attending ballet school full time.

I received my first job after my graduation from the French Académie of Ballet at the North Carolina Dance Theatre present day Charlotte Ballet’s second company, then joined Ballet West in Utah, one of the top ten US ballet companies, before moving to Canada where I performed with Alberta Ballet.  Despite the many travels and transitions, I never stopped following the company and kept auditioning at Dance Theatre of Harlem, where I was always been considered for a position which had never worked out.

Last year my dream came true and after leaving Canada in July, I was offered a partial contract filling in for an absence which later became my own full-season contract with the company where we have since traveled to many US and international cities performing for numerous sold out audiences.
I shared with you my journey only to give you an idea of who I am, how I got here and where I would like to get to.

In Haiti, kids are not encouraged to follow art as a career which to me is very sad because I believe the country has given birth to so many artistic and creative minds which can be seen in our litérature, our food, our music and even the games we played in school during recess.

It would be an honour to be featured on L’union Suite, not only to come out to the Haitian community and say that ” nou la ” but to inspire even one reader to allow their child to pursue his/her passion, or give hope to a young Haitian ballet student right now feeling discouraged and troubled knowing he/she will have to quit due to a lack of support.

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