“Ke M Pa Sote”: a fusion of Haitian Folklore & Pole Dance by Kim Lecorps
Dancer and Choreographer: Kim Lecorps
Song: Ke M Pa Sote by Boukman Eksperyans
I am so excited to share this blog piece and dance by my incredibly talented student Kim! For non-pole dancers, I have included hyperlinks to a photo example of moves that are mentioned in the text. Below is a blog piece where Kim explains the meaning behind her dance:
The inspiration behind this routine came from the greatest story of triumph I know: the Haitian Revolution. Haiti was the first black republic to gain its independence, after defeating the French in a successful slave revolt on January 1, 1804. At Bwa Kayiman, a meeting in the swamps, the slaves made a pact together to overthrow their owners. That story has been so inspirational to me because it was a moment in which people worked together to overthrow evil and give birth to a free nation in which everyone was equal.
The song “Ke M Pa Sote” by Boukman Eksperyans is part of the Rara genre, a festive style of music used during Carnival the week before Easter. The song was a political protest against the government during the 90s that led to the band’s exile. The literal translation of the title is “my heart does not leap”; in other words “you cannot scare me.” I think the message embodies the courage that it took for Haitian ancestors to rebel against the slave owners.
There are three underlying themes in my dance: oppression; the fight; and the joy found within resilience. In addition to telling this story, I wanted to incorporate traditional folklore dance into my floor work. I was familiar with Haitian folklore dance through my mother, but I didn't really understand the meaning behind the dances or the different drum styles associated with each dance. I conducted a tremendous amount of research to learn about the different styles that I wanted to incorporate, enabling me to develop a deeper connection with my cultural heritage.
In the very opening sequence, I come out running and falling. This represents oppression and the feeling of being kept down that the slaves must have felt. It ends with me stumbling to the ground and clasping my hands in prayer. As the singer raises the pitch of his voice, I sit forward and throw my hands up in the air, looking to the sky for God's help.
I transitioned quickly into fight mode, immediately coming up from my prayer. The first traditional dance I included was Nago, a warrior dance. My tone was very serious, with clenched fists. I used the pole to do dynamic kicks and jumps, all representing the fight for freedom. To show determination and perseverance, I climbed the pole in a very slow and deliberate manner. When I reached the very top, I pulled out the Haitian flag, proclaiming victory and independence. I chose a very challenging pole combo during this section because I wanted to embody the strength and all around badass-ery it took to conquer the oppressors. Of course, I ended my dance in the superman pose to show the heroic victory.
When I got off the pole, I started doing a traditional dance called Yanvalou which is a Haitian Vodou Dance honoring Damballah, perhaps the most important loa (god). In Vodouism, Damballah is the sky father, the creator of all being. He is often depicted by two snakes, shown in the arm movement in Yanvalou. Essentially, I was praising God for assisting during the revolution.
Joy within Resilience
As the beat of the music changed to a more uplifting tone, I moved into a traditional dance called Ibo. Ibo is a freedom dance. It has a very characteristic movement of the arms representing the breaking of chains, in the spirits of freedom and rebellion of our ancestors. This part of the routine became more light-hearted, whimsical, and jovial.
After a section on the spin pole (the pole that is on the left side of the stage), I move towards the other pole to the lyrics “avancé,” meaning move forward. Although these lyrics were meant to instruct crowds during Carnival, these directions take on new meaning for this routine. The “avancé” commands become the voice of ancestors urging us to understand the path that was paved and to continue to move forward and prosper. As I began to climb the pole this time, I used a cast away climb method to symbolize casting off the shackles of oppression. The routine ended with a salute to the flag, paying homage to my ancestors whom without I would not be where I am today.
I thought about this routine for a long time and did a lot of research and introspection. It was a deeply personal creative process that allowed me to grow and learn more about my roots. I am definitely no expert in Haitian folklore dance, and I can only hope that I did it justice. Overall, I am proud of what I created and the opportunity to share my culture in a totally different way.
Kim is originally from New York, but has lived in Washington, DC since 2010. She started taking pole dance classes in 2015 with no prior dance experience and no real desire to exercise. She quickly developed a passion for it and is committed to her growth and progress. Pole dance has become a way to push comfort boundaries, grow comfortable in her body image, and has tapped into a creative space within that she never knew existed.