Documenting St Maarten’s Ponum Dance steps for history book by New York City firm
The New York firm Milestone Architecture PLLC recently filmed rehearsals of the Ponum, St. Martin’s only “national dance,” said Jacqueline Sample, president of House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP).
Milestone plans to use the video footage to develop the illustrations for the Ponum book based on the scientific “dance notation” method called labanotation.
Clara Reyes, a leading choreographer and author of the upcoming Ponum history book, coordinated the Ponum dance, song, and music rehearsals that were filmed, said Sample.
The Ponum master’s thesis of Reyes was accepted last year by HNP for publication in book form. The publisher has since been in preliminary discussions about the book’s illustrations and design with Milestone president Margaret Matz, said Sample.
“With Margaret and her team’s input, the idea has evolved toward designing a book that would be an authoritative history text and a dance choreography manual of St. Martin’s only surviving folk dance. The Ponum is arguably at least between 165 and 200 years old,” said Lasana M. Sekou, HNP’s projects director.
The filming of the Ponum Dance steps is the second of two recently concluded pre-activities of the St. Martin Book Fair, which is speeding along to its set date of May 30 – June 1.
Sample said that Book Fair 2013 has made it possible to bring the Milestone team of Matz, Martha Luciano (administration), and Joe Flinder (videographer) to the island to work with Reyes, dancers Rudy Davis, Dashaun Prince, and Clifford Henry; master drummer Hellier Coquillas and fellow musicians Albert Pierre and Claudine Dessert; and videographer Eric Boyer.
The videography and photo-shoots of the Ponum, and a Reyes interview, took place between April 22-26, just as Carnival was heating up, said Sample. The cultural project venues included John Larmonie Center, Laser 101 FM radio, and outdoors at the property next to the historic Diamond Estate on the Union Road/Bellevue Road.
“HNP would also like to thank Francis Carty and his Laser 101 personnel, Phyllis Meit and Darin “Versatwizy” Hodge; the Honorable L.C. Fleming; Denis Glisa-Vandepul; and book fair coordinator Shujah Reiph, for contributing to this part of a cultural project that we think will make the people of our island very proud,” said Sample.
Conscious Lyrics Foundation and HNP are organizing the 11th annual St. Martin Book Fair in collaboration with the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau and the University of St. Martin.