Veroneque Ignace ’15 feels as though she started dancing “upon exiting the womb,” which isn’t surprising considering her upbringing in a Haitian-American family of musicians and dancers. It is impossible to miss Ignace’s passion for the art form or her awareness of what its personal meaning is for her.
When she joined Kusika, the African dance and music group on campus, Ignace was a first-year whose “formal education in dance” was just about to begin. Four years later, she is a teaching assistant (TA) for the ensemble, although she maintains that she and her peers “all have the same amount of responsibility and the same amount of say in the things that happen in Kusika.” As a first-year, Ignace looked to Kusika upperclassmen to provide an example of strong, confident dancing. Because of this, she believes that one of her most important tasks as a TA is to act as a role model and “big sister” for the younger members of the group.
Ignace is currently working on choreography for Kusika’s next performance. She finds choreographing to be difficult because things don’t always turn out the way she imagines they will, but she notes that they can turn out even better when she considers the unique perspectives each performer brings to the piece. In regard to what she hopes people will take away from her art, Ignace says, “As long as something is being taken away, then I’m happy.” She admits that it is challenging to accept that some people will miss the message behind a performance, but emphasizes the importance of “learning to be okay with that.”
When asked about her favorite part of dancing, Ignace pauses only a moment before responding, “I would say it’s the transformation. The fact that I could be on stage, or dancing anywhere – in my room, at a party, just anywhere, and I feel like I’m someone else … I’m not bringing my bad energy into that dancing space. It’s like a fresh space for me.” For Ignace, dancing in Kusika offers something unique. “You’re communicating with the music, to the point where the music is telling you how much energy you need to be expressing. You feel your body responding to that in a way that doesn’t necessarily happen when you’re listening to pop music.” Each member of Kusika has the opportunity to dance and to make the music that inspires the dancers.
Ignace, who also co-chairs Students of Caribbean Ancestry, says that she has gained peace and learned how to “just be” through dancing. She recognizes the challenges of being a student at the College, and the additional challenges of being a black woman at the College. Ignace explains, “Dance for me is the place where you learn how to make that all matter in a way that makes sense. Where you’re not asked to function like a robot, in pieces … You learn how to integrate all of the parts of you into one, and so that for me is peaceful. And that for me is learning how to just be, to be even in a space like this – in Williamstown, in the purple bubble. I can just be me and have that be okay … Dance for me is where I find my health mentally, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually.”
As a pre-med chemistry major with a concentration in Africana studies, Ignace is currently writing her thesis on Africana studies and dance. She plans to go to medical school in the future, but first intends to spend some time working in the dance world. She envisions someday merging her interests in medicine and dance and hopes to share both of these aspects of her life with people in Haiti.