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Women, Men, and “Big Men”: Gender and Sexuality in Caribbean Dance

By LACSI on March 24, 2016 in
March 25, 2016 @ 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Miller Learning Center, rm 214
Emily Sahakian

An event with the goal of understanding dance’s relationship to questions of gender, sexuality, race and class in the Caribbean. Part of the Caribbean Studies Research Seminar, sponsored by the Willson Center and the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute.

Images of hyper-masculinity and virility—what Haitians call the Gwo Nèg, that is, the “big man”—are ubiquitous in the Caribbean. Such “big men” are often associated with traditional performance, elocution and dance. But contemporary Caribbean dance artists also use dance to subvert and challenge these dominant ideas of gender and sexuality by recasting bodies in motion and space. Two pioneering choreographers, Léna Blou from Guadeloupe and Jeanguy Saintus from Haiti, both challenge conventional expectations surrounding gender and sexuality through a focus on women’s bodies and queer sexualities, respectively.

Guest scholars Mario LaMothe and Gladys Francis will be on campus and will focus on the work of Blou and Saintus. Dances that reinforce dominant ideas of gender and sexuality—notably the drag performances of Sweet Mickey (who is currently the Haitian president Martelly)—will also be considered. The speakers will show video clips and analyze the dances. The event will foster a dialogue between the two scholars, promoting the exchange of information across choreographies from Haiti and Guadeloupe, and by men and women.

Dr. Mario LaMothe is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Interdisciplinary Sexuality Studies at Duke University’s Women’s Studies Program. He received a doctorate in Performance Studies from Northwestern University. Born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Mario began dance studies in Haiti. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theater Arts and French from Boston College, and a certificate of dance from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center. LaMothe also earned a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Performing Arts Management from Brooklyn College. Additionally, Mario has worked as a MSM (Men who Have Sex with Men) health educator and rights advocate in Haiti since 2011. His research interests focus on critical dance ethnography and theories of Performance, African diaspora cultures and Caribbean performance traditions. His writing has appeared in L’imparfaite (Paris, France), and New York University’s peer-reviewed online journal e-misférica. Mario is also a performing artist, arts manager, and LGBTQ activist.

Dr. Gladys Francis is Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies at Georgia State University. She received her Ph.D. in French and Francophone Theory and Cultural Studies from Purdue University. A native of Guadeloupe, Francis received two Masters of Arts degrees, the first from the University of the French West Indies in Martinique, and the second from Purdue University. She is the author of a dozen articles and book chapters, which explore questions of gender and embodiment in Francophone literature, theatre and dance. As the Director of the South Atlantic Center of the Institute of the Americas, she facilitates academic and artistic collaborations throughout the southeastern region of the United States. Her current research focuses on the work of Guadeloupean dance luminary Léna Blou. In 2013, she coordinated the residency of the Lénablou troupe in Georgia, which included a visit to UGA.



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