Carld Jonassaint

Dance Theatre of Harlem (1980-1987)
American Ballet Theatre (1987-1993)

Photo: Marbeth, via American Ballet Theatre

Carld Jorel Jonassaint was born ca. 1962 in Port-de-Paix, Haiti before moving to Canada, where he started his dance training. After seeing Dance Theatre of Harlem perform on television, Jonassaint moved to New York City in 1980. He was awarded a scholarship to DTH’s school, became an apprentice with the company, and joined as an official company member in 1983, reportedly becoming the first Haitian-born to do so.

With DTH, Jonassaint performed in the company’s original casts of Michael Smuin’s Songs of Mahler (1984), John McFall’s Toccata e Due Canzoni (1986), and Robert Garland’s Crossing Over (1997). His lead roles included those in Arthur Mitchell’s Manifestations, George Balanchine’s Square Dance and Four Temperaments, Billy Wilson’s Concerto in F, and John Taras’ The Firebird.

In 1987, the dancer joined American Ballet Theatre, where he performed lead roles in La Bayadere, The Nutcracker, George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, Jiri Kylian’s Sinfonietta, Ulysses Dove’s Serious Pleasures, and Merce Cunningham’s Duets as well as being featured in the world premiere of Mark Morris’ Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes (1988) and the ABT premiere of Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs (1990). He appeared in the 1988 filmed production for PBS Great Performances: Live From Lincoln Center: American Ballet Theatre: Romeo and Juliet.

As a guest artist, Jonassaint performed the roles of Arabian in Maryland Ballet’s The Nutcracker and Brown Sugar in Ballethnic’s Urban Nutcracker.

Jonassaint also choreographed, creating pieces like Serenade for Dead Men, Inner Voice, and Full Moon Over Central Park. His work was performed by Charles David Anderson’s Ballet Inc. In 1995, he created a performance piece entitled Poetry in the Life of AIDS, described as “the spiritual and positive effects of the HIV/AIDS crisis, especially as it effects [sic] the gay and lesbian community, as well as other minority groups.”

Jonassaint was frequently praised in the press: New York Magazine called him “beautifully built, sensuous in modern roles, neat and airy in classical work” in 1984, The Daily News described a 1986 performance by Jonassaint and Virginia Johnson “faultless,” Anna Kisselgoff of The New York Times called him “too talented to remain just in the corps [of American Ballet Theatre],” and critic John Gruen said that he “moves easily and often breathtakingly from style to style, lending his mercurial presence to a wide variety of roles.”

Jonassaint died from AIDS on February 28, 1997 at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital (Manhattan) at age 35.

Carld Jonassaint and Virginia Johnson, photo via Daily News, 1986
Left to right: Carld Jonassaint, Dana Stackpole, and Amy Rose. Photo via Daily News, 1989
Virginia Johnson and Carld Jonassaint via The Boston Globe, 1986


Repertory List: Dance Theatre of Harlem, Columbia University Libraries
Carld Jonaissant, 35, a Dancer of Many Styles, The New York Times
The Dance Theater of Harlem goes homes, Daily News
Carld Jorel Jonassaint bio
Haitian Born Dancer Sanford Placide To Make Debut With Dance Theatre of Harlem, South Florida Caribbean News
Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes, American Ballet Theatre
Nine Sinatra Songs, American Ballet Theatre
Repertory List: Dance Theatre of Harlem, Columbia University Libraries
Great Performances: Live From Lincoln Center: American Ballet Theatre: Romeo and Juliet (TV), The Paley Center for Media
‘The Nutcracker’ captures the magic of the season, The Baltimore Sun
Dance; For Ballet Theatre: A Bright Season, a New Spirit, The New York Times
Dance Theatre of Harlem, Emmanuel Current
Harlem on my Mind, New York Magazine
Tripping on Tippet toes, Daily News
‘Urban Nutcracker’ a variation on a theme, The Atlanta Constitution
Spice and spectacle from DTH, The Boston Globe

Leave a Reply