Ishyo pushes ‘Frontières’ through contemporary dance

The lights dim and a hushed anticipation fills the auditorium of the Ishyo Arts Centre in Kacyiru, Kigali.

Thursday, February 16, 2012
Dancers Sau00efdi Hemedi, Abdul Mujambere and Sam Kwizera interpret the frontier of religion. Photo by Gau00ebl R. Vande weghe (ILLUME).

The lights dim and a hushed anticipation fills the auditorium of the Ishyo Arts Centre in Kacyiru, Kigali. On stage, four individuals emerge from the darkness. Three are story-tellers and the fourth one is a guitar player. As they tell stories in differing languages (English, French, Kinyarwanda), their voices battle and push for dominance in a space that becomes increasingly scattered and incoherent, but simultaneously unified. Three dancers join the conflicted harmony; their movements mirror the strain of mixed mediums with arms that are stiff and tense but rotate in graceful, fluid circles. If I see you, will you see me too? Am I you? Are you me? Are we…we? ‘Frontières’, or ‘Between Me and You’, is a collaboration between Amizero Danse Kompanie, Ikobe Music Group, and K Danse that uses contemporary dance, poetry, and live music to explore and challenge the concept of borders beyond borders. "We wanted to examine the borders that we create and sometimes can set us apart,” sensational R&B singer Nirere Shanel, said, "We know that human beings don’t like to show who they really are, but yet it seems important to be able to do that.” The performance drew over 200 people to the Ishyo Arts Centre, a non-profit cultural development organisation founded in 2005 that strives to provide a high level of excellence in arts for both audience and artists.  Audience members included supportive friends and artists, as well as curious individuals eager to see their first contemporary dance performance in Rwanda. "Ishyo provides a space for creation and innovation of the arts where all these planes – music, dance, theatre, art – can work and have a dialogue together,” said Carole Karemera, one of Ishyo’s founding members, "But we also put on stage questions and themes that present an authentic cultural experience of what Rwanda is today.” The production opens with an examination of national borders and evolves into a provocative exploration of individual identity and boundaries in skin colour, religion, gender, socioeconomic status. Poetry and song juxtapose the infinite possibilities of the "deep night” with the rigid sphere of religion, while dance incorporates rocks, paper, and oranges to represent the dynamism of different frontiers. "Borders and identity are interwoven,” said writer, Elizabeth Spackman, "What are the things that keep people apart? And are they inevitable?” The closing line is delivered in Kinyarwanda: "If I take [my mask] off, will you take yours off?” Audience members praised "Frontières” for its compelling yet inconclusive exploration of boundaries. "They didn’t really present a certain answer but they represented an idea and let the audience confront and interpret it on their own,” Johan Hong said. "In every piece I do, I always ask questions,” said choreographer and director, Wesley Ruzibiza, "We want to show [the audience] what’s happening, the reality; and afterward, we want to give people the freedom to find their own answer.”