Everyone can dance in Rwanda. This conclusion I have 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 can 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 lots of African stories told. Actually all Rwandan dances tell a story and are designed for it – tribes war, hunting, sudden events, celebrations, weddings, escapes…You feel like in a fairytale world, waiting for the next colourful etude, which brings a new surprise and switches your senses on.
It’s still a matter of prestige to become picked as a member of a dance group. The tradition says only the strongest physically individuals, who at the same time have moral values, could be selected for a traditional Rwandan dance group. Then they will be educated how to be more gracious and amazingly flexible, while learning steps coming from past centuries. I have never seen something like that. I have been completely overwhelmed, seeing the exotic costumes, combined by difficult (for me) choreography, where the characters are confident in what they do, acting and dancing at the same time.
I have heard legends about the power of the traditional dances, so I have been pretty curious to watch them. As a passionate explorer my idea was not to find some well designed attraction, prepared for the foreign tourists. Sorry to say it but sounded too fake to me. It’s completely different story to find a local really original performance. I have been told by a friend of mine, living in Kigali (Rwandan capital) such a unique performance very close to the native traditions could be found only if I attend a local wedding. Well… finally I have been lucky and got an invitation for one. After all the toasts and wishes to the newly married couple, the main and the largest part of the wedding party were actually the Rwandan dances. My patience has been paid off:)
The wedding business is one of the fastest growing businesses in Rwanda, accumulating million of dollars profit. There are new built up huge halls all over the city, where every weekend at least 20 couples celebrate their weddings. Usually the guests are between 300 and 800 and 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 the dance floor and to take part of the performance. Believe me, they do it very very well. Watching the guests, who attend the weddings, their kids and the happy couple, how they dance around the tables, I do believe everyone can dance in Rwanda and does it really professionally. It’s probably directly implemented in their veins or at least a mediocre dancer like me thinks so. They follow an unbelievable rhythm which is miles away from my European habits and seems like they can feel it by heart. I guess you can “hear” the hidden jealousy in my words? 🙂
The next very big surprise was the project Rwandan dance to become part of the regular school programme. As I personally saw it, it became a very serious subject at school and the students are highly keen to learn and improve their skills. In Green Hills Academy Kigali they were not shy to perform in front of guest like me, who has no idea how to make a single move. I’ll look probably completely ridiculous shaking lamely as a wooden stick. There was a spirit, there was a flame in those eyes and for sure they did their best to look as well performing traditional dancers.
Dancing Rwanda. I got it directly into my heart, no way to ever forget it.