Dr Gladys M FrancisOpen Letter

Lénablou Trilogie GA Tour

Atlanta, GA
October 2013

Dr. Gladys M. Francis,
Lénablou GA Tour Project Director & GSU Project Director
Assistant Professor of French and F rancophone Studies
Modern and Classical Languages Department
Georgia State University

 

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RE: Follow-up Thank You

 

Dear Sponsors, Collaborators, Colleagues, Volunteers, and Friends:

My Lénablou journey started in the summer 2012 in Guadeloupe where I was conducting various interviews with prominent Guadeloupean authors, activists, and artists (including Léna Blou). I did not know then that a few months later I would be the director of a voluminous and byzantine budget that would bring Lénablou and her Trilogie Dance Company to the USA for an 11-day GA Tour.

Thanks to the major fundings of GSU’s Center for Collaborative and International Art, the French Ministry of Art and Communication, and the Regional Council of Guadeloupe: from September 29 through October 9, the internationally acclaimed Caribbean dance artist Lénablou visited several GA venues with her dancers and musicians. They hold public events ranging from lectures, round tables, community discussions, master classes, impromptu demonstrations, and performances. The aim was to engage the public on various socio-cultural issues and knowledge pertaining to the French/Caribbean and the African Diaspora. A French Film crew flew to GA to document their Tour as part of a future documentary film to be aired internationally.

I want to sincerely thank the colleagues who embarked on this project with such enthusiasm and became the project’s Principal Investigators in their respective institutions. They each invested considerable time to collect funds to make this demanding international project come through and also organized beautiful well-attended events in their institutions ranging from 4 hours (UWG, Emory), 1-day (Spelman College), or 2-day activities with Trilogie Lénablou (UGA, KSU, GSU/AARL). Combined, we had about 2,300 attendees for our various events! This was a stunning successful collaborative project! I would like to sincerely thank these amazing Principal Investigators (listed below in order of funds contributed):
The University of Georgia: Dr. Emily Sahakian, Assistant Professor of French and Theatre and Dr. Lisa Fusillo, Professor and Department Head of the Department of Dance. Kennesaw State University: Dr. Nurudeen B. Akinyemi, Director Center for African & African Diaspora Studies, Institute for Global Initiatives and Dr. Lucie Viakinnou-Brinson, Associate Professor of French & Francophone Literatures.The University of West Georgia: Dr. Rob Kilpatrick, Assistant Professor of French. Spelman College: Dr. Veta D. Goler, Arts and Humanities Division Chair, Associate Professor of Dance. Emory University: Dr. Valérie Loichot, Professor of French. The Atlanta-Fulton County Public Library System: Morris Gardner, Program Director of the Auburn Avenue Research Library.

I must commend the fantastic work done by our lawyers and Legal Affairs Officers who helped us create such a complex Artists’ Contract among 6 major sponsoring institutions. Thank you all for your valuable input and guidance.

A HUGE thank you to all the Business Managers from KSU, UGA, UWG, Spelman, and Emory. This project was quite challenging and you were key to its realization. A special thank you to Saundra Rogers-Pickett, Special Projects Coordinator of the Division of Academic Initiatives and the Institute for Global Initiatives at Kennesaw, whose monumental contribution did not go unnoticed and added to the success of this project. I am most thankful to my Business Manager Melissa Skye who carried out with astonishing poise and wit the complex budget lines of this project.

Thank you to all the technicians who worked on lights and sound needs for the troupe. My most sincere appreciations go to Christopher J. Fleming, Technical Director of the University of Georgia’s Department of Dance and Dan Hesketh, Production Manager of KSU’s School of Music who admirably spent months working on Lénablou's riders, communicating with Blou's Tech Director based in France, ensuring to book sufficient tech rehearsals with the troupe to provide the best stage production for the dancers. Thanks to your preliminary work, your professionalism once the troupe was on site and your infectious humanity, you created magic for the performance! Chris’ light work was poetry unfolding at the New Dance Theatre!

I want to extend my gratitude to Spelman College's President, Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, who hosted such a lovely reception for the artists. It was an honor to meet Dr. Tatum, her amazing faculty and inspiring students. On behalf of the French Film Crew, I also want to thank Dr. Veta D. Goler, Dr. Tracy Lang and Professor Omelika Kuumba, whose interviews created a rich dialogue between Spelman's mission and the activist work of Léna Blou on the African Diaspora. Thank you to all the colleagues and students across all institutions for their participation in this Lénablou documentary.

A warm merci to Kizzy K. Holmes, Trish Nolde, my GSU Student Liaison Assistants Trevor Sharpe and Bianca L. Tenney, and my GSU colleagues' from the Departments of MCL, AAS, English, Communication, and History who participated to the Lectures, Master Classes at GSU and/or sponsoring institutions. Most importantly, I want to thank Dr. Pearl McHaney, Associate Dean for the Fine Arts (Director of CENCIA) and Jen Waters for their precious help and support; my Department Interim Chair Dr. Bill Nichols, who even during his Study Abroad trip to Spain managed to provide admirable support to this project. Thank you to my 46 GSU student volunteers, I can't express enough how proud I was to see them engage with the artists in French, take the lead on portions of their tour schedule, and be so open to experience francophone culture and issues through the arts.

Thank you to Dr. Karen Robinson and Dr. Ivan Pulinkala Chair and Associate Professor of KSU’s Department of Dance for this fantastic opportunity to work with their pre-professional level dance majors who were simply astonishing! I must mention Trilogie Lénablou’s very first performance at UGA, after which Dr. Lisa Fusillo jokily told me “We’ve set the bar as high as we possibly could, competition is on! Pass the word to the other collaborators!” Indeed, that evening, the performance was a humongous success, drawing a full house with masses of people asking to sit down on the floor! The following day, Lénablou gave a powerful talk on the psyche of the French Caribbean body at Emory University. On October 5, KSU’s amphitheater was bursting for almost three hours and transformed into a lively performing space with students, faculty and staff from all ages and backgrounds! The GSU Auburn Avenue Research Library events were quite unique, for they brought together Atlantans from the Anglophone, Francophone, and hispanophone Caribbean; this, in addition to various people of all ages from the community, scholars and students from various Atlanta campuses; as well as visitors from Amsterdam and Germany! Lénablou truly enjoyed the library space and the many books on the African Diaspora dances that the library staff placed around the three floors we utilized, this was quite a lovely touch! UWG’s unannounced outdoor impromptu demonstration embraced gwo-ka’s essence and gathered such a beautiful crowd. The indoor discussion and question/answer session that followed could have lasted hours, for the students were so excited and curious to uncover the intricate and original performance they had just witnessed outside. I will surely never forget the Spelman's Theater students who left us speechless during their Master Class with Lénablou and brought tears to our eyes...

There were so many magical moments, thousands of pictures, hundreds of videos, and certainly priceless new friendships I made along the way... and for which I am so thankful for.

Thank you à tous and to Lénablou Trilogie for immersing us with such beauty, drive, and love into Guadeloupe's Intangible Cultural Heritage. We surely all bigidi pa tonbé in your presence! Thank you Léna for your grace, knowledge, and wisdom.

MERCI À TOUS,

Et ce, chaleureusement!

Dr. Gladys M. Francis