| Born in Saint-Marc, Haiti, to a wealthy family, Jean-Léon Destiné
spent his career bringing the art of Haiti to the rest of the world.
Always interested in the powerful Haitian "vodoun" and the ritual
dances integral to its practice, he studied and danced as a teenager with
Lina Mathon-Blanchet, founder of the first Haitian dance company that
based its work on its own folk traditions. He came to New York City with
Blanchet's troupe in the early 1940s. He stayed in the city as a
journalist, but continued to study dance and present solo concerts. In
1946 he joined Katherine Dunham's troupe tour, and became known for his
performance of the boy possessed in "Shango."
In 1949 Destiné formed the Destiné Afro-Haitian Dance Company. A
powerful, authoritative performer, Destiné based his choreography on
African, French, and "vodoun" dances. In 1960 the Haitian government
requested that he direct the "First Troupe Folklorique Nationale" and
appointed him Cultural Attaché for the Republic of Haiti in the United
States. Influential and respected, Destiné toured with both companies
throughout Europe, North and South America, and the Orient.
Destiné continued to pass on his knowledge and passion for
African-Haitian dance, music, and traditions through his teaching. He has
taught at the New York Dance Group Studio, the New York University School
of the Arts, the Lezly School of Dance, and at UCLA, among other schools.
Though most closely affiliated with teaching in California, Destiné
continued to tour regularly throughout the United States and to
participate in international workshops. In 1993 he appeared at the Dance
World Festival in Poland. In all his roles as dancer, choreographer, and
folklorist, Destiné has reinforced perspectives about the art inherent
within Haitian dance and religion, showing how the study of a culture can
-- Kimberly Pittman