Florencia Pierre

Haitian dance, music, and storytelling

Haitian dance is unique in its melding of African and other cultural traditions. Originating from the intersection of diverse West African tribes such as Ewe, Yoruba, Igbo, Kongo, and Fon; indigenous Haitian peoples such as the Arawak and Tainos; and French culture, Haitian movement is also inextricably connected to the practices of the Vodou religion.

Florencia Pierre was born in Lagonave, Haiti, and raised by a mother who was a Mambo (ordained Vodou priestess).  At age 28, Florencia was ordained a Mambo and has since held the responsibility of carrying and caring for her people’s religious practices and culture.

In addition to her religious training, Florencia attended the Vivianne Gauthier School of Traditional Arts serving as lead dancer and eventually as dance instructor.  She also served as one of the principal dancers of the National Dance Theater Company of Haiti from 1983 to 1989 and as a professor of dance from 1989 to 1991.  From 2004 to 2007, she served as a faculty member of Haiti’s Ecole Nationale des Arts.  She is the founding director of the Jaka Institute of Dance in Pétion-ville, Haiti.  In addition to being a renowned dancer and choreographer, Florencia is acknowledged by her community as an elder and traditional healer.

Florencia was a master artist in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program in 2012, with her daughter and apprentice Djenane Saint Juste.  The apprenticeship focused on the learning and practice of sacred songs, chants, and stories from the Lagonave region of Haiti.


Apprentice Djenane St. Juste (left) takes in the lesson from her mother, master artist Florencia Pierre.

Djenane singing as part of her lesson with her mother.

Djenane singing as part of her lesson with her mother.

Djenane and Florencia sing together one of the songs they are working on as part of the storytelling that would occur in Florencia’s village of Lagonave, Haiti.

Florencia demonstrates to Djenane the games and dances that were part of the cultural practice in Lagonave, Haiti.

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