From Ghana to Rwanda, and finally Uganda, I moved and danced with countless souls to the rhythms of cultural heritage. Young and old—male and female—embraced the gift of life in these mortal bodies through dancing with me . . . and nothing could stop us from smiling. The movement of Africa shows that dance can be much more than an educational tool or an outlet for the gifted or troubled—it is a way of life.
While in Africa, I did the following:
– Worked closely and trained with four dance troupes
– Spent quality time teaching dance-integrated and dance-for-dance-sake lessons
in five primary and secondary schools
– Collaborated with faculty members at four schools about the importance of
dance and movement in education
– Offered a half-day training on dance integration for the entire faculty at
Nyanza Peace Academy in Nyanza, Rwanda
– Completed a weeklong project with the dance troupe at Nyanza Peace
Academy, complete with an informance about peace and conflict
resolution, presented to the student body, faculty, and several family
members in the area
– Collected contact information from a total of 35 educators in Ghana,
Rwanda, and Uganda in order to continue collaboration via the internet
From this small-scale overview, the most meaningful experiences are those when I connected on a deep level with individuals. Below are a couple examples of the people I was blessed to connect with:
Jonathan Balyejjusa and Save the Youth Troupe
Jonathan Balyejjusa (pictured on the far right in the photo on page one) is a man of wisdom, strength, and charity. He is the founder and director of Save the Youth music and dance troupe in Lugazi, Uganda. Working with over 30 youth each year, he strives to empower the community through the study and performance of cultural heritage in the arts. The troupe was formed over 10 years ago and has influenced countless youth in the area. Jonathan is a living example of what it means to rise above challenges as he directs the troupe with a disabled leg. In addition to being a gifted instructor of music and dance, he is a teacher of life skills, a father figure to all youth, and a friend to everyone. As I worked with the troupe, I witnessed how Jonathan’s work offers them the skills and confidence to seek higher education and employment. They don’t just dance and sing for fun; they do it to truly live.
A Friend at the Fence
While teaching at Christ the King Primary School in Mukono, Uganda, I noticed several small children huddled on the other side of the fence, watching us. This sentence is ambiguous because of the order. I suggest: They weren’t wearing the school uniform, and appeared to either come from families that couldn’t support their education or were too young to attend school. As I was completing my lesson, I noticed that the children had entered the school property and were sitting on a step to one of the classrooms nearby. They were happily dancing along to the music with us. Once I finished the lesson, I sat next to one of the little boys. I saw that he had a stick in his hand. I looked around me and found a few more sticks lying on the ground, so I picked them up and showed them to the boy. We spent the next several minutes in our own little world creating interesting shapes and arrangements with the sticks. We couldn’t speak the same language, but we took turns making changes to the sticks and celebrating the contributions of one another through smiles. I never learned his name, but I definitely felt his vibrant soul. I hope he continues to return to that fence. Whether he gets to sit in one of those desks and wear one of those uniforms or not, I hope he never loses his sense of creativity and desire to learn.