At the age of 16, Ibrahim Binego was certain that there was no other profession that would fulfill him or allow him to express himself, than dance. Raised in Nyamirambo, he used to watch his father dance to Congolese music and also loved watching video clips of musicians from Congo, which is how his love for dance was sparked. He longed to become a professional dancer and in the process, change the lives of youngsters in his home area, many of whom are not in school and wander about the streets idly, by equipping them with income-generating skills. Known by his stage name, Ibrahim Zethy, Binego believed that not having an education shouldn’t limit anyone from using their abilities to make a better life for themselves and kick off idleness and its results such as gambling, drug use, and so forth. His talent enabled him to attend dance workshops, classes, and travel to Europe, Congo, Uganda, Burundi, Sweden, and Japan. With his expertise, the 28-year-old, who specialised in afro dance, house dance, hip hop, dancehall, and contemporary dance, initiated a dance studio in Rwanda in 2022, something he had looked forward to doing for a long time, though limited by money. Love to dance Around the age of 11, Binego played football often, and every time he scored a goal, his celebration was a dance. He might have considered becoming a professional football player had he not suffered a knee injury. When he was 15, his family relocated to Burundi, where he learned to express himself more as a dancer, and even joined a dance group known as L-squad. “At first, I was shy to showcase my talent or join other dancers. The first time I watched dancers, I was frightened to join them, but was warmly welcomed,” he remembers. The squad had a competition to prepare for, and he was worried about what lay ahead, so they practiced to their best. Indeed, hard work pays, as Binego’s squad won the competition. He never looked back. Binego performed under L-squad from 2010 to 2011.On returning to Rwanda in 2012, as a solo dancer, he participated in the Kigali Theology Party where he earned the title ‘Rwandan King of Azonto’ — a popular dance move from Ghana. He then decided to gather young dancers in 2013 and started the Phantomz Crew, though it only lasted till 2015 as almost all the dancers had school commitments, and their families didn’t see dance as something they could pursue. In 2015, Binego joined the Krest Crew, where he and his partner Eya Khalifa longed to create an African dance team titled ‘Team Afro Kasa’. This team was kick-started and is still in existence. ALSO READ: Local performer on how dance can be a money-making career “I started Ze Dance Studio in February 2022, and my goal was to open a space for dancers and the dance community, to learn and enjoy how to dance, raise the Rwandan flag high in this domain, and hearten dancers that they can achieve their goals, and explore their talents beyond Rwanda,” Binego notes. The idea of the dance studio was stimulated after traveling to different countries and noticing how dance studios changed the meaning of dance and boosted its value. According to Binego, the studio offers space and a platform for children who are not in school to occupy and hopefully, learn skills that will boost their welfare. Mostly from vulnerable families, the children are trained in all styles of dance, down to every detail, so as to reach a higher level. “Though some pay for the classes, I offer a chance to others who don’t have money but have the interest, to attend for free. This inspires them to do what they love when they still have a chance to. I don’t want them to suffer like we did when we discovered our talent but lacked the space to practice,” he says. For him, dancing is more than just enjoyable; it is also a form of exercise, allowing one to relax and stretch their muscles after a long, stressful day, and so on. ALSO READ: Local choreographers on how industry thrived despite challenges Earning from this profession isn’t easy until a dancer is already established, but it can be a profitable business once a dancer markets their work, connects with musicians to perform in music videos, and makes themselves available for events, even though it requires volunteering, in the beginning, to gain trust, he says. Bingo’s inspiration is American singer Chris Brown, as he is a talented dancer whose talent has taken him places. He is optimistic that he will one day be as famous as Brown. When he isn’t busy with training, he is engaged in tailoring or fashion design, a skill he gained from his father. Bingo says the future of dance in Rwanda is bright, and, unlike before, dancers are now starting to gain value and are being paid for their creativity, though the payments are still meager. ALSO READ: Rwandan women that are pushing dance forward He anticipates helping the young generation to discover and understand who they’re and use art as a tool to heal.