Salsa, the alien dance that’s adored by many

AS THE world grows into a small global village at the advent of better communication, transport and technological systems, adoption of several different cultures equally comes along to make the world even smaller.
Rudahunga (R) in one of his Salsa classes. (Courtesy)
Rudahunga (R) in one of his Salsa classes. (Courtesy)

AS THE world grows into a small global village at the advent of better communication, transport and technological systems, adoption of several different cultures equally comes along to make the world even smaller.

Much as we owe it to ourselves to preserve our very own, we are equally engrossed in and eager to adopt and learn a number of things from other cultures; invariably having a great cultural fusion and sometimes confusion.

One of such cultural inventions in Kigali is Salsa. Salsa in itself is a dance that originated in New York with strong influences from Latin America, particularly Cuba and Puerto Rico. 

A decade ago, it wasn’t as popular among the middle aged and corporate class in Kigali, save for those that danced what closely appeared to be salsa, mainly learnt from the movies and foreign music videos and foreigners that were conversant with the dance.

Today, it is quite different. Jimmy Rudahunga, a renowned Salsa instructor says it has become a more popular dance than it was before in Kigali. He started out humble over six years ago from Padasena Bar in Gikondo as one of the dancers, whose love for Salsa immensely grew over time that he took it upon himself to train others once his instructor returned to his native country – Belgium.

There was also another group that was equally trying to promote Salsa at the Manor hotel in Nyarutarama every Friday evening between 8p.m and midnight; mainly patronised by foreigners that Rudahunga would later partner with to revolutionise the dance.

Over the years, what started out small is now bigger than I could ever imagine, Rudahunga said. He and other instructors, such as Kassim Mbarushimana, took to train several interested people at no cost, every Thursday at the same joint which was later moved to Club next in Muhima to-date, every Wednesday of the week.

The twist to Jimmy’s story however is quite unexpected but admittedly possible. Over the years he has mastered the moves quite well to the extent of adding the Rwandan cultural touch to Salsa as well; and what you see him call Kinyarwanda salsa is a revolutionized dance sired out of thoughtful creativity. But it is not a new thing as it is expected. Angolan Salsa called Kizomba differs from Latin Salsa and the difference arises out of adding some local touch to the original moves.

That notwithstanding, the duo’s main challenge was to, first of all, get the locals interested before reality dawned on them that some made quite unrealistic demands such as the need to learn all the Salsa moves in just one solid night. Other than that, their peers were quite baffled about the interest the duo had picked in a foreign dance; so much that they would imagine training others despite a lot of leisure activities they would otherwise engage in. Now look at whoever is complaining over this article.

As the two watch people swing across the floor, “left foot in- right foot out”, be it learners or the experienced, they feel proud and glad that their efforts of popularising Salsa haven’t gone to waste. Because of space and the busy schedule at Club next-Muhima, they have taken Salsa lessons to people’s homes; mainly their trainees as they look forward to open up at Sanitas in Kicukiro very soon.

Because they share similar interests, Ralph, a foreigner and a self professed instructor, partners with them to promote Salsa in Kigali. To this end, together they plan to hold a Salsa festival in Rwanda and later organise Salsa competitions more so to popularise the Rwandan fusion they have since added to Salsa.

Vumi, a great lover of the dance but an amateur says, “I usually get off time to master the moves and follow the guidelines religiously so as to quicken my learning process”.

“Because it is a vigorous dance that involves more movement of the lower body than the torso, it is a great work out”, says Jasper, one of the trainees.

Like there are different versions of Salsa such as Los Angeles style, New York style, Cuban style, among others, Rwanda shall perhaps soon be enlisted with the “Rwanda style”.

The movement of Salsa has its origin in Cuban Son, Cha cha cha, Mambo and other dance forms (still one great fusion); and the dance, along with the Salsa music, originated in the mid-1970s in New York.


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