We have just come back from an intense week in Gulu, northern Uganda and wow it has been hot in more ways than the weather. For the last week, Ssenyonga Oscar Acogny and I have been facilitating a week-long workshop for the dance community in Gulu. As I have said before, this project has not been about giving the dancers in Gulu opportunities. No, it has been about inspiring them to find their own opportunities and to find a way to collaborate on.
These dancers have been so inspirational to us as teachers and dance artists that this project has really been about sharing skills and knowledge with one another. One of Dance Revolution East Africa goal with this project was to make sure that more artists get exposed to the contemporary form of dance so that the art form won’t be limited to Kampala. The dancers we meet in Gulu was trained in breakdance and hip-hop to a very large extent and the contemporary art form was new to them. But these artists were having such an open mind towards it so that every challenge that was thrown at them, they took on with so much thought, power, and energy that we had to step up our game. We saw that this dance community is just longing for more information about different dance forms and they will be able to create something great because they have really understood the concept of thinking outside the box.
With only five days of training, we could set up a big group piece that was performed by the dancers in the workshop at the contemporary night that ended the week. In addition, to that, we got the chance to have a theory session on how to work Smart instead of Hard, which was very appreciated by all participants. We also had the possibility to create a solo for one of the dancers and it to was performed at the contemporary night that followed the workshop. On the last day of the workshop, we had our surprise guest teachers; Matovu Edrine, Peters Munda, and Kasirye Patricks. They came in to inspire the dancers a bit extra on the last day and they ended the workshop on a very high level. The dancers were then ready to perform at the show.
We started off with a solo that was created in the workshop from Geoffrey Oryema, Kitgum, which was an amazing solo to open up the evening with. The next performer was our guest performer Peters Munda, Kampala, who made a pice about colour. The pice was accompanied by a poem read by Laura Althaus. Matovu Edrine, Kampala, another of our guest performers performed a very energetic solo. The evening’s main pice closed the night and it was performed by all of the participants who had been in the workshop. The evening was successful and all of the participants got a chance to introduce themselves and receive applause in the end.
The overall experience in Gulu turned out to be more successful and better than anticipated. The only cloud in the sky was the trend of having few girl and women as participants in the workshop. The overwhelming part was boys and men, which is a pattern that can be found also in the dance community in Kampala. I feel like it is a pity because my experience is that the dynamic of a workshop and a show is generally better when it is more gender equal. However, when we brought the subject up with the dancers in Gulu we got the same answer as we usually get in Kampala. There are not so many girls who are continuing in the field. Our conclusion is that one of this reasons have to be in how our society is build up where a girl is usually more protected by their family and that there is a belief that girls or women can not do the same as a boy or a man can do. We would love for that belief and gender inequality to change so for our next event we will ask you all to help with that. We also have to think about our own lives and how we treat each other in terms of gender to start forming a change in the labels we put on each other only because of gender.
As you know when you work with people who are very passionate about art, that is when great things happen! Oscar O. Dawson who was covering everything that took place with his camera was very good in challenging us and the concept. We felt inspired by having him on board in this project. We want to give a big thank you to all the local dancers who helped to coordinate this project and made it possible for us to come to Gulu.@Okurut George Ocaya Herbert Power Eddiex Power Wether Geoffrey Oryema
Robert Ssempijja, Chairperson of Dance Revolution East Africa