Portsha Jefferson, Haitian folkloric dancer. Photo: Bethany Hines Photography and Chaplin Street Studio.

Portsha Jefferson

Haitian folkloric dance

Portsha Jefferson of Oakland, is a professional dancer and choreographer trained in Ballet, Modern, Jazz and African derived styles, and now specializes in Haitian Folkloric Dance. She began formal dance training at the age of six at the Marsha Woody Dance Academy in Beaumont, Texas. In 1994 Portsha was introduced to Haitian dance by Laney College professor Lynn Cole. She continued studying under prominent Bay Area Haitian dancers like Blanche Brown, Lynn Coles, and Michelle Martin and later became a principal dancer and vocalist with Haitian performance dance company Group Petit La Croix (1996-2003), and then a teacher of Haitian dance. In 2004, Portsha founded Rara Tou Limen, presenting Haitian music, dance and culture through classes, workshops, and performances.

Haitian folkloric dance is rooted in African spiritual practices, or Vodou, which traveled from Africa during the enslavement of the African nations Kongo and Ibo; the Yoruba of Nigeria; and the Fon of Benin (Dahomey). These African beliefs and rituals merged with elements of French Catholicism on the island of Hispaniola, forming Haitian religion, and much of Haitian culture, including folkloric dance. Haitian dance includes a wide spectrum of diverse dance forms, from vibrant rituals of Vodou, the turbulent legacy of political struggle, to the celebratory and festive dances of Carnival. Haitian folkloric dance is the cultural intersection of spirituality, ritual and dance.

Watch Portsha perform with Rara Tou Limen below:

Apprenticeship Program


Haitian Folkloric Dance
with apprentice
Halima Marshall

2020 mentor artist Portsha Jefferson, left, with apprentice Halima Marshall. Photo courtesy the artists.

In 2020, master traditional dancer Portsha Jefferson is joined by apprentice Halima Marshall in the study of Haitian Folkloric Dance rooted in the African spiritual practices of Vodou. The goal of the apprenticeship is to deepen Halima’s knowledge of Haitian folkloric dance and culture through the study of the distinctions and nuances of dances. More specifically, the apprenticeship will focus on technique, style and performance. Because dance is deeply intertwined with spirituality in Haitian folkloric dance and culture, the apprenticeship will include the historical study of folkloric Haitian dance forms and styles, as well as the meaning, energy and spirit attributed to them.



Portsha T. Jefferson | raratoulimen@gmail.com | (510) 967-1760

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