Kompa Artistic Dance
Konpa is a musical genre which was born in Haiti in the 1950’s. It was created by the famous Haitian Saxophonist Nemours Jean-Baptiste. It’s Predecessor was the Haitian Méringue.
Konpa the dance is known by most as a social dance from Haiti, however Cliford & Gaelle Jasmin of Kompa Artistic Dance refer to Konpa as the the “ballroom dance” of Haiti. While Kompa Artistic Dance, according to this couple, is described as the traditional “Konpa Lakay” or “Konpa Direct”, enriched with steps from Haitian folklore, the creativity of Haitian people, musicality and technical elements of other couple dances in order to strengthen this dance format.
Gaelle and Cliford Jasmin has created a pedagogy for Kompa Artistic Dance by structuring and codifying the steps within this dance style. This enables people from anywhere in the world to learn how to dance Haitian Konpa. Cliford and Gaelle’s objective is to promote Haitian culture through a new way of dancing Konpa by making it more visual, more artistic, and more attractive. Below is a video that displays an in depth overview of Kompa Artistic Dance. Source
Kompa Artistic Dance Video Overview
I had the honor of talking to Gaelle & Cliford Jasmin of Kompa Artistic Dance. They have provided me with an in depth understanding of Kompa Artistic Dance and how they were able to develop this style. While there has been much talk about them and their style of dancing, I believe that this interview will provide clarification about this style of dancing as well as more insight regarding the Konpa genre altogether.
1. Tell me about yourself.
Cliford and Gaelle Jasmin: We are a married couple and dance partners, professional dancers specializing in Afro-Caribbean and Latin-American social dances for nearly 20 years, from Paris to Florida. Born and raised in Jacmel, Haiti, Cliford comes from a family of dancers. His passion for Salsa started at a very young age as he was used to watching his mother dance. As a native of Martinique (french caribbean island), I’ve been fascinated with dance since a very young age. I have training in ballet, modern-jazz and Afro-Caribbean dances. Together, Cliford and I have been asked to perform in various events worldwide because of our authenticity, class and elegance.
2. Tell me about your Brand or Style/Profession:
Cliford and Gaelle Jasmin: SALSABOR FLORIDA is the South-Florida Salsa and Afro-Caribbean Dance School coming from PARIS, also recognized as a high teaching quality school. In 1997, Cliford Jasmin, founder of SALSABOR, introduced the Salsa Mambo Style on 2 (New-york style – Palladium) to France, and trained most of the recognized french instructors in this dance style. Salsabor was the organizer of the first Salsa congress in France, The Paris Salsa Congress, from 2000 to 2005. Salsabor dance company, is the first company of professional Salsa dancers representing France in various International Salsa Congresses and in conjunction with the first latin musical, developed “Salsabor café” an then “Sals’Amor Fever”, with 20 dancers and 15 musicians. In addition, we’ve danced on stage with famous singers such as Oscar D’León (Salsa), Tabou Combo (Konpa), Carimi (Konpa). We were chosen to train the French national Salsa team who participated in the 2013 World games in Cali. We are actively promoting with success, the Haitian ballroom dance called Konpa (or Kompa) and created a method to teach this dance which is full of sensuality, elegance and authenticity! SALSABOR is not only limited to teaching SALSA Mambo On2 classes for all levels (absolute beginner to the professional level) but also offers BACHATA, CHACHACHA, BOLERO, MERENGUE, HAITIAN KOMPA ARTISTIC, MUSICALITY, LADIES & MEN STYLING, BODY MOVEMENT & SPINNING Technique classes. Our english motto is “Salsabor, Learn to dance well with Elegance and Authenticity!”
3. What inspired your brand /this dance style?
Cliford and Gaelle Jasmin: In 2011, we were invited to perform at Cannes International Salsa Congress and usually, after the shows, there is social dancing. For the first time, the DJ played a Konpa song. We were so surprised and happy, that we rushed to dance. People around, were looking at us dancing Konpa, the way we’ve learned from our parents and always danced. But for them, it was a discovery! After the dance, they came to congratulate us for the beautiful dance but they also asked “What was this dance? We love it but what is it?” Then, we felt like the shoemaker’s children who go barefoot. That’s when we decided to do something in order to share our culture through the Konpa dance.
4. Many people say this is not Konpa, how would you respond to these critics?
Cliford and Gaelle Jasmin: The Kompa or Konpa artistic is the authentic Konpa lakay that we have just structured in order to teach it and have enriched it with: some steps coming from the Haitian folklore, some steps coming from the creativity of the Haitian people, more musicality and the techniques of couple dances. It’s also important to say that it’s not a new dance and we did not create anything. We did a lot of research to bring back most of the steps that people were used to doing at the beginning of the Konpa era. And we observed how Haitian people were moving naturally when they dance Konpa to codify the basic sway and the basic steps of the Konpa, which is unique!
5. I have seen Konpa spelled with an M and N. I’m assuming that both ways are generally accepted. However, phonetically in the Haitian Creole language, it should be spelled with an N. Why do you spell konpa with an M?
Because, when we were writing the method, and we were doing some searches on the internet, we realized that people were using the word “kompa” much more than “konpa”. A simple search on Google, even today, returns 4,120,000 results for “kompa” and 400,000 results for “konpa”. But, we are using both spellings and we always tell our students that the Creole spelling is with an “n”.
6. Who’s your favorite artist/dancer/role model?
Cliford and Gaelle Jasmin: We could say that Michael Jackson is an artist whose professionalism is an example for us. We also love to watch Cliford’s mom, Michaële Craan, dancing, she is such an inspiration!
7. Would you say that the approach you have taken to Konpa is essentially what many other dances have done in order to bring their genre to a broader audience, for example Bachata, salsa etc…?
Cliford and Gaelle Jasmin: Exactly! The Salsa, the Bachata, the Kizomba that people are dancing and want to learn, is not the simple Salsa, Bachata or Kizomba that you can find in the places where they come from. They have been enriched, and even modified when they arrived in the United states or in Europe. We saw and lived through these modifications of the Salsa, the Bachata and the Kizomba. Konpa the music is 61 years old but Konpa the dance is at least 30 years behind when compared to the Salsa dance, which music is younger than Konpa. What, we are doing is trying to minimize this delay and recover the lost of time. But, once again, we don’t want to transform or create a new genre, we want to keep the authenticity of the “Konpa lakay” while giving it an artistic flavor.
8. What influenced the steps you decided to incorporate into your fusion style, do you think there’s enough of the konpa basics within your style to still refer to it as a konpa sub-genre?
Cliford and Gaelle Jasmin: We don’t think that the Konpa artistic is a fusion style, because 90% of what we are doing are original Konpa movements or movements that come from Haitian folklore, or Meringue (which was the Haitian dance before Konpa). The actual problem is that people know very little about the history of the Haitian social dances, including the Konpa.
9. Do you have any current projects that you are working on?
Cliford and Gaelle Jasmin: Yes, we have different projects regarding the promotion of the Konpa dance: videos, teaching/trainings, events… Stay tuned on: Facebook -> Haiti Kompa Dance & Kompa Artistic Dance; How to dance Kompa on Youtube and our Kompa Artistic Dance Website. www.kompaartisticdance.com
Kompa Artistic Dance – Video Lessons
A Complete Play List of lessons:
Below is the link to the complete playlist of the Kompa Artistic Dance tutorials. Some of the steps you’ll learn are as follows: The unique Sway and Basic step of Haitian Kompa dance, Basic Step – Pas de base – Pa de baz, Right & left turn – Vire a dwat ak goch – Tour a droite et a gauche, Break down trankil – Slow Break down – Break down lent, Dodo Mea, Rale Menen Vini (couple), Laloz (solo), Lanmou Bene, Pis lan chô (solo), Yayad (solo & duo) & An nou trase!
Contributor: Marie is the founder of Sabor Del Caribe Blog. Her mission is to share and educate others about the fullness of the Caribbean’s culture through music, dance, food, fashion etc. She also aims to keep her readers up to date on current events ranging from: political/economic issues currently faced in the Caribbean as well as social events and parties that are taking place in the local community & worldwide.