Vitolio Jeune: For the Garth Fagan Soloist, Fearlessness Is a Signature

By Simpson, Herbert | Dance Magazine, May 2011 | Go to article overview

Vitolio Jeune: For the Garth Fagan Soloist, Fearlessness Is a Signature


Simpson, Herbert, Dance Magazine


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Bare-legged in rehearsal gear, Vitolio Jeune is working hard as he runs through several pieces in a company studio for an upcoming tour of Garth Fagan Dance. Always intense, Jeune's sudden shifts in direction and startlingly high jumps carve shapes in the air. In Hylozoic, by Norwood Pennewell, the first company work not choreographed by Fagan, he lifts lead dancer Nicolette Depass and effortlessly holds her as the seconds slip by. And he attacks the movement in the solo he has been given fiercely, bringing to it a force and passion that's riveting.

Fagan has only praise for Jeune, now in his second year in the company. "Vitolio is a brilliant technical dancer, with great intelligence and a great gift for interpretation," he says. "He gets inside the dance and inhabits it."

Jeune's background won him almost as much attention as his technique when he appeared on So You Think You Can Dance in 2009. He grew up in Haiti, and came to dance despite many personal challenges. His mother died when he was 5, and he lived with his grandmother until she could no longer care for him, then went to an orphanage. As a teenager, he danced in the streets of Port-au-Prince to support himself and his grandmother, who by then was dying of cancer.

Eventually, Jeune, now 28, auditioned and won a scholarship to Artcho Danse, a contemporary troupe in Haiti. He lived in co-founder Jeanguy Saintus' home, and joined Artcho's Ayikodans Company, touring Haiti and abroad. "He taught me to believe in myself," says Jeune of Saintus.

Having gained confidence as a performer, Jeune, 22, applied to Miami's New World School of the Arts and won a full scholarship. "He was born to dance," says dance department dean Daniel Lewis. He notes that Jeune had several handicaps when he entered. He was older than the other students and had less formal training. …

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