The troupe “Viré Gadé” revives the biguine dance

The dance troupe "Viré Gadé" (Photo: Jacques Miath)

After some time in a dormant stage, the association “Jénès Doubout” created in 2006 woke up and, in 2015, it founded its troupe called “Viré Gadé” which dance only to biguine music. Composed today of about thirty dancers and dancers, the group that is enjoying great success with the public is very regularly invited by municipalities, associations and individuals who appreciate and want to enhance this traditional dance of Guadeloupe.

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When the troupe “Viré Gadé” is dancing before an audience, it does not go unnoticed. Dance steps performed with grace and precision as well as the elegance of the Creole outfits draw spectators into this atmosphere of the golden age of biguine music of the last century. Founded two years ago, “Viré Gadé” is part of the cultural association “Jénès Doubout” which was created in 2006 by Prudence Rubrice.

Originally from the island of Marie-Galante, this 42-year-old woman has a real passion for biguine. “I have always enjoyed this dance, I love beautiful Creole dresses, elegance… My father used to dance quadrille which is also a traditional dance. When I was younger, in Capesterre, I had founded a small dance group called “Nouvelle Etoile”. The members were my nieces, my nephews, my neighbors, in total we were about ten and we participated in entertainment on the podiums of the municipal festivals on the island”, remembered the president of “Jénès Doubout”. Moreover, the name of the association, “Jénès Doubout” (Youth Get up), was not chosen lightly. “It is a call to the young people, we ask them to stand up, not to let the tradition go, to be interested in tradition and to take over. I always thought that when someone is old, everything does not stop. He (or she) can pass on his (or her) knowledge to young people”, she said.

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Motivation and perseverance

Following the various shows and especially the exhibition entitled “Biguine d’Antan, Biguine d’Aujourd’hui” (Biguine of the Past, Biguine of Today) organized at the Centre Culturel Rémi Nainsouta in Pointe-à-Pitre last September as part of the “34th European Heritage Days”, the public was very interested in the activities of the association and its dance troupe. It must be said that a full and varied program was prepared including a debate on the great masters of biguine, a karaoke in family with the participation of young people, a fashion show in vintage and modern costumes with the orchestra “Accordéon Ka” and a grand ball to celebrate biguine. Part of these events had not taken place because of Hurricane Maria but it was postponed last November.

Today, registrations for “Viré Gadé” have almost doubled. Now, the troupe has 20 women and 7 men. The youngest female dancer is 30-years-old. To be part of the dance group, it is just necessary to show motivation and perseverance. “There are people who have never practiced biguine and who participate in the performances. That’s all I ever wanted to do: we come, we learn and we go up on stage. There are people who want to join the troupe just to dance but who are afraid to dance in front of an audience but there is always a role for them in the show. When I say that everyone must be on stage, we go”, said Prudence Rubrice. Recently, the troupe was honored at “L’Instant Quadrille” which takes place every 3rd Wednesday of the month and received a cup from the Fédération régionale guadeloupéenne des activités de Quadrille (Guadeloupe Regional Federation of Quadrille activities). Quadrille and biguine lead the same fight to keep the cultural tradition alive…

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Immediate success

The “Viré Gadé” show generally consists of a sketch, two dances or a musical, but that can vary. The different choreographies are made by the president of the association “Jénès Doubout” but the dance troupe also benefits from the great help of one of its members – Johanna – who is a professional choreographer. “I do the different choreographies myself, but at the exhibition dedicated to heritage last September, choreographer Mario Coco who who had agreed to be the sponsor of the event provided advice to the association, he also showed me some things to improve myself and he choreographed the dance performed at the official opening, it must be said that, for a while, I was a member of his group…”, said the president of the association.

To achieve these synchronized dance steps, training is mandatory. They take place twice a week – on Tuesday evening and Saturday morning – so that all dancers can participate subject to their availability. However, at the time of shows, rehearsals also are held on Thursday. The pieces of music chosen to perform on stage belong to the great biguine masters (Al Lirvat, Roger Fanfant, Robert Mavounzy, Moune de Rivel, Émilien Antile, Abel Zénon etc.) and groups or artists from the new generation (Winny Kaona, Rony Théophile, Biguine Siwo etc.).

The success of the troupe is such that it does not even have time to propose its shows to potential customers. “Since our show for the municipality of Pointe-à-Pitre, we get solicitations. It’s probably because people discover, realize that in addition to gwo ka, there are other traditional music in Guadeloupe. Generally, the city halls, associations and organizers of private parties (in particular during the celebration of a hundredth birthday) invite our dance troupe”, said Virginie Gaza, the public relations officer of the association “Jénès Doubout”.

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The importance of intergeneration

Besides biguine music and choreography, the beauty of traditional costumes is one of the things that attract spectators. If initially, Prudence Rubrice decided alone what outfits to wear during performances according to the choreographies she had imagined, today, everything is decided collectively. “First, we meet to choose the fabric and then the coordinators go to the stores to choose several samples.We meet again, the different samples are put on the table and we decide, after a “vote”, the fabric in which our costume will be made. We work with several designers of the island and, obviously, we take into account the price”, Prudence Rubrice said.

The association “Jénès Doubout” is confident about the future and plans to rejuvenate its staff by helping young people to appropriate biguine, this traditional dance and this traditional music that belong to them. “We try to attract this youth, we started with an introduction to biguine in kindergarten classes (level 2) and the final year of primary school in Le Gosier. We plan to create a dance troupe that will be composed only of young people and we think that the work will start from this discovery of biguine in schools but our dream would be to found a troupe with young and not so young. Intergenerational ties are very important for us”, said the president of the association “Jénès Doubout”.