With three generations at the helm, Afoutayi stewards cultural traditions and ancestral wisdom, amplifies community connections and collective strength, and embodies art as cultural survival and collaboration across space and time.

COMPANY FOUNDERS

Djenane Saint Juste

Djenane Saint Juste

Founder / Artistic Director

 

A native of Haiti, Djenane Saint Juste is the founder and artistic director of Afoutayi and instigator-in-chief of the Annual Haitian Dance, Music, and Art Festival. She is a professional choreographer, dancer, actress, and vocalist with over 30 years of experience specializing in Haitian traditional dance and folklore and also received extensive training in Ballet, Hip Hop, Modern, Jazz, and Ballroom dance at the Institut de Danse JAKA, Institut de Dance Vivianne Gauthier, and Artcho Dance Company in Haiti. Her work as an artist, educator, and healer is dedicated to the research, development, and promotion of traditional Haitian movement, song, and storytelling.

 

Djenane holds a BA in Physical Education from Cuba and a MAEd from the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul. She is a former faculty member in the world dance department at the Saint Paul Conservatory for the Performing Arts and a teaching artist at the Cowles Center and COMPAS. Djenane's work towards the preservation of Haitian culture has been documented in "Making Caribbean Dance" by Susanna Sloat as well as "Lavil: Life, Love, and Death in Port-au-Prince (Voice of Witness)" by Peter Orner, Evan Lyon, and Edwidge Danticat. In 2018, Djenane received the Award of Excellence from the Haitian Community of Minnesota and the NAACP for her outstanding contributions and commitment to advancing the culture and causes of communities of color in Minnesota. Her latest work is her first children’s book “The Mermaid and the Whale”, published in August 2020.

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Florencia Pierre

Cultural Director / Costume Designer

 

Florencia "Fofo" Pierre is an accomplished dancer, choreographer, singer, actress, educator, and Mambo (priestess in the Vodou religion). Born in La Gonâve, Haiti, she was raised in Haitian traditional culture by her mother and became a renowned dancer, choreographer, vocalist, actress, traditional healer, and respected elder in the community. She was a principal dancer of the National Dance Theater of Haiti and the Vivianne Gauthier School of Traditional Arts, a faculty member of Nationale des Arts in Haiti, and the founder and director of the esteemed Institute de Danse JAKA in Pétion-Ville, Haiti where she trained dancers and musicians in Haitian traditional dances and theater for 20 years. She was featured in “Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Stories of Survival and Resistance” by Beverly Bell and Edwidge Danticat as well as “Anita” – the first movie produced in Haiti. Fofo has performed throughout the Caribbean, Europe, and the United States and has dedicated her life to teaching the stories, songs, and rhythms that form the foundation of traditional Haitian culture.

Florencia "Fofo" Pierre

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Hassen Ortega

Hassen Ortega

Youth Ambassador

 

Hassen Ortega is a native of Haiti with Venezuelan heritage. He started dancing at the age of one when he first performed with Institute de Danse JAKA in Haiti and has since grown into an amazing actor, dancer, and musician. He is the youngest member of Afoutayi and is excited to inspire families and children with Haitian dance and music!

See them in action with the rest of Afoutayi!