Placide Sanford is a New York-based ballet dancer. The Port-au-Prince born ballet wonder struts with the Harlem Dance Theater, and was among the dancers for that theater company’s prestigious lineup this past spring. This year, his career has him bouncing all over the place. Some weeks he’s in Utah, some days in Ohio, and other times in New York. Prior to performing with the Harlem Dance Theater, he was part of the Manhattan Youth Ballet, the French Academie of Ballet, Ballet West, and North Carolina Dance.
Kreyolicious: How did you come to be a dancer?
Growing up in Haiti, dance and music was somehow part of daily life. You hear music, songs from the moment you wake up ’til bedtime and believe me some music do make you stop and “gaye pay” [do an impromptu dance] for a quick second before returning to your normal activity. So, music and movement is somewhat part of us.
I took my first dance class (Afro-Caribbean) in Gonaives, Haiti where I completed my primary schooling. Without telling my parents, I [took the dance class] instead of going to my piano lessons in which I was so talentless and miserable. My parents, in fact, did not find out [about the dance classes] until they [were] asked to pay for a costume fee for my performance at some graduation ceremony. It’s needless to say how they reacted.
Those classes were very informal. It could go from learning salsa to folklore in thirty minutes in a space I wouldn’t really consider a proper dance studio. I didn’t know any better since besides pictures from encyclopedias and television, I knew nothing. Each time I attended those classes, (before my parents found out and told me never to set my foot there again), I felt so free, happy and somehow knew that’s what I wanted to do. I immigrated to the United States during a time the country [Haiti] was going through some rough times politically, and here without my parents (who only visited each couple of months), I danced. I attended a proper ballet school in Miami, trained, auditioned for summer programs and was granted many scholarships to some of the biggest names. Also, people, [as well as] my teachers always said I had “something”, so I kept going. And finding out [what] it [could] become, [and that it] pays the bills, and [that it’s] a [great] career choice, I haven’t looked back! It took some convincing of my parents, but they learned [but it] is still a work in progress for some of my family.
Kreyolicious: Of all the dancers of the past who gave graced the stages of the world, which have inspired you the most?
I don’t really have a specific favorite dancer since I can always find something I like in someone’s dancing. But, I would say I respect Arthur Mitchell a lot. [He’s the] first African-American male ballet dancer in a major American company touring the world in the 60’s in [the United States of] America. Imagine. that’s pretty grand.
Kreyolicious: How do you maintain your physique and shape?
Ballet keeps me in shape for the most part. But, I do go on runs, and take hot yoga or African dance during long breaks.
Kreyolicious: How do you stay mentally balanced?
I am lucky to have cultivated some pretty amazing friends throughout my dancing journey in different cities in the States and abroad from different backgrounds and professions. So visiting or phoning friends, cooking, watching soccer, church etc…just learn how to be a human first.
Kreyolicious: Your parents have been supportive in your career?
At first no, but it was-and still is-to some family member a…process. For the most part, after proving it’s a respectable career choice, places I’ve visited and danced at, the famous people I’ve shaken hands and dine with, it’s gotten easier.
[Photo Credit: Beau Pearson]
Kreyolicious: It’s been said that some give up right before they are about to have a breakthrough. In your journey to success, were there times when you wanted to give up?
Well, I am happy to be sharing my story…perform with some renowned artists and [have others] acknowledge some of my accomplishments, but I have not yet feel what I would consider “success”. There’s more work to be done. More stories to create. More lives to inspire…just so many “mores”. It has not been easy, but I’m up for it.
Kreyolicious: What would you say has been your proudest moment?
The first time I flew down to Miami, treated my mom and dad (before he left this world) to a nice restaurant on one of their visits…just because I could afford it and always thought about sharing a moment like that.
Kreyolicious: What’s next for you?
In the long run, bring whatever I learn and cultivate through my journey back home. Help cultivate more artists in our community. But as of right now, and for some years to come “piwo”, “piwo” [aim higher and higher]
[Main Photo Credit: Nick Rose Photography]
CLICK HERE to keep up with Haitian ballet dancer Sanford Placide!