In the heart of Africa – dancing Rwanda

 

Everyone can dance in Rwanda. This conclusion I simply made after spending two weeks in this small East African country. The local dances blew my mind away by the hypnotising rhythm of the traditional drums, called ingoma. It’s the crucial ground of the Rwandan music and most of the movements are accompanied by that drum sound. If you watch a local Rwandan dance, you could fall into trance and can’t keep your body peaceful.

Watching the passionate dancers, I was not able to even blink, eager to get more and more, to see all of African stories told. Actually each Rwandan dance tells a story. Different costume colours and specific steps reveal the legends about tribes war, hunting, lifetime events, celebrations, weddings, escapes…The spectator feels like in a fairytale world, waiting for the next colourful etude, which brings a new surprise and switches all senses on.

It’s still a matter of prestige to be chosen for a member of a dance group. The tradition says only the strongest physically individuals, who also have high moral values, could be selected for a traditional Rwandan dance assembly. After the selection starts the real work. The dancers are additionally trained to become more gracious and amazingly flexible, while learning the centuries old steps. I have never seen something like that. I was completely speechless, witnessing the exotic costumes, combined with difficult choreography, where the characters are confident and determined, acting and dancing at the same time.

I heard the myths about the power of the traditional dance, so I was pretty curious to watch it. As a passionate explorer, my idea was to find not just an attraction, designed for foreign tourists. It’s a completely different story to watch a local original performance. I was told by a friend of mine, living in Kigali (Rwandan capital) such a unique performance, very close to the native traditions, could be still found only at a local wedding. Well… I got lucky and was invited to one. After all the toasts and wishes to the newly married couple, the main and the largest part of the wedding party was the Rwandan dance. My patience got paid off:)

The wedding business is one of the fastest growing businesses in Rwanda, accumulating millions of dollars profit. There are new built up huge halls all over the city, where at least 20 couples celebrate their weddings every weekend. The guests are between 300 and 800. All of them expect impatiently the dance chapter of the scenario.

It’s something usual in the middle of the dance fairy, the groom and the bride to be invited to perform at the dance floor. Wow, they were really good. Watching the guests, their kids, the happy couple, all of them dancing around the tables, I do believe everyone in Rwanda can dance and does it really professionally. It must have been applied into their veins by birth. They follow an unbelievable rhythm, that is thousands of miles away from my European sense of tradition. 

Another big surprise for me was the fact, the Rwandan dance turned to a project, implemented and developed at school. It was designed as a part of the local educational programme. I personally saw it. It’s already a very serious discipline and the students are keen to learn it and to improve their skills.

In Green Hills Academy Kigali the kids were excited to perform a local dance in front of a guest like me, who is ignorant about the dance meaning and its influence to the dancers. There was a spirit, there was a flame in those eyes. They were inspired and did their best to perform originally the traditional dance. I got it directly into my heart and no way to ever forget it.

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