JANUKA Quadrille Dance Group at the 8th Bi-Annual Haute-Taille and Quadrilles Festival in Martinique: 18th - 23rd June, 2019.
Reflection on our experiences - one year on.

The invitation

On the 17th June 2019, thirteen (13) JANUKA Quadrille Dancers travelled from London to Martinique. The purpose of this trip was to take part in their 8th Bi-annual International Quadrille Dance Festival, entitled Haute -Taille et Quadrilles de la Diaspora on the 18th – 23rd June 2019.

Martinique is a small island in the eastern Caribbean Sea, south east of Cuba and north of Trinidad and Tobago, with approximately 375,554 inhabitants. It is a French overseas Territory often referred to as the island of flowers. The islanders speak French and French Creole and are French citizens with full political and legal rights.

The Festival location was the Ville du Francois, situated in the east of Martinique, not far from the island’s capital Forte de France.

The Mayor of Francois, Joseph Loza stated “The Festival is a major event in promoting and preserving the practice of Haute – Taille as a marker of Martinican’s cultural identity and owes its success to the participation of the associations that work to ensure the transmission of this heritage

Haute Taille Quadrille, also called Contredanses, is an indigenous Martinican dance, choreographed to combine European quadrille and Neo-African Bele – Lino dance patterns and styles. It is a square dance performed by couples executing set dance figures with distinctive accompanying music. It is characterized by the presence of a commander who calls the steps which add the communicative dimension to the performance. Variants of this dance exist within and between neighborhoods. Haute – Taille in French literally mean “High Waist”. The name of the dance is therefore synonymous with the high waist skirts the ladies wear!

The Festival organisers were therefore keen to see how specific aspects of Caribbean culture i.e. the quadrille, survived the journey back to Europe and other countries where people from the Caribbean now reside.

We were delighted to be one of 4 International quadrille dance groups invited to participate in this prestigious event. The other 3 International groups were: Know your Culture from Dominica based in New Jersey (USA); La Gracia Dance Company from St. Vincent; and Arts Creoles Martinique and Guadeloupe, based in Paris (France). Also taking part in the Festival were 25 of the island’s Haute-Taille dance groups.

This event was an important hallmark in our calendar because it was the first time we would be travelling outside the UK to showcase our Jamaican quadrille dance.

One year on, we can still vividly recall the 7 days spent in Martinique.

Planning our journey – Anticipatory

The planning was intense but enjoyable. The many late nights and days spent in discussions, emails and text messages with our host Fred Jean-Baptiste in Martinique, seemed never ending, as he tried (in English) to dispel our fears and answer all our questions about the authenticity of the invitation.

One criterion for participation presented a big challenge, i.e. the availability of a live band of quadrille musicians to provide musical accompaniment to our dancing!! It was finally agreed that our recorded orchestral quadrille music would be acceptable. In the meantime, Haute -Taille musicians in Martinique would be asked if they were able to play for us.

Once the official invitation, the schedule of events and travel itinerary arrived, we enthusiastically began to plan our journey. We knew that this was not going to be a holiday! We had 3 months to prepare the 20 minutes dances we wanted to showcase and spent many extra hours refining them and choosing the right costumes to wear.

We also had to prepare for complex travel arrangements, the hot tropical weather, tropical insects and the necessity to quickly adjust to the time difference.

Throughout this preparatory period we remained excited but calm and full of anticipation.

  • Trip to Martinique
    Januka publicity picture for Martinique Festival

Travelling to Martinique from London – Circumstantial delay

We convened at 2am on the 17th June 2019 for our journey to Heathrow airport. We prayed, and then chatted excitedly all the way. The flight to Charles De Gaulle Airport in France took about one hour. We arrived bursting with energy and made our way to board the bus to Orly Airport for our connecting flight to Martinique.

Our adventure was temporarily derailed when we missed our connecting flight, due to the delay in obtaining our bus transfer tickets and traffic congestion en route to Orly. Despite efforts by airport staff, were eventually told the next available flight would be the next day.

In true Caribbean spirit, amongst all the rearranging, we laughed, we talked, and we kept our spirits high and even secured our little space in preparation for camping-out overnight at the airport.

We were overjoyed when our sponsors arranged for us to spend the night at a local hotel. After breakfast the following morning we commenced our onward journey to Martinique.

  • At Heathrow airport - Leaving London for Martinique

Arrival in Martinique – Welcoming

After a very long and exhausting journey, we finally arrived in Martinique with great relief. We were met by our host Fred Jean – Baptiste, accompanied by Sabrina Tanda. We were pleasantly surprised by the warmth, exuberant and very friendly welcome that greeted us, by one of the local quadrille groups, as we entered the Arrival lounge.

“It took my breath away”

They were dancing their Haute-Taille quadrille to welcome us, the first time we were witnessing this. Their broad, bright, lovely and welcoming smiles matched their brightly coloured costumes. The unfamiliar sound of their live quadrille music was uplifting and exhilarating. We soon started to relax and dance with them.

“The experience truly lifted my spirit after the challenging journey from London”

With their hugs and loving welcome, we soon forgot about our fatigue and were glad to be in Martinique among such friendly people.

The warmth of the tropical sunshine, not only warmed our bodies, but also our hearts and we were ready to commence our participation in the Festival.

“The kindness, love and appreciation shown to me at the airport continued throughout the week”

  • Arrival in Martinique - In Arrival lounge

Videos courtesy of Town of Francois.

Series Navigation2. Accommodation and First Night at the Festival >>
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