Previously,the East African Nights of Tolerance (EANT) dance festival featured four nights of dance performances from Rwanda, the East African region and beyond.
This year, following slight alterations to its format, the festival was accommodated within two days (October 26th, and 27th), at the Kigali Cultural Village inside the Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village.
It was the 7th edition of the festival, founded in 2012 by dancer and choreographer Wesley Ruzibiza of Amizero, a local contemporary dance outfit.
The new format will also see the festival upgrade from a yearly to quarterly basis, with four editions each year.
Dance troupes came from Rwanda, DR Congo , and Burundi.
Those were not the only changes introduced. The other was the prioritization of Rwanda and East Africa in choosing participating countries.
Dance troupes came from Rwanda, DRC, and Burundi. It was the first time that Burundi was taking part in the festival, with organiser’s eyes already set to bringing Ethiopia on board next year.
Previously, participating countries were not limited to only the East African bloc, with dancers from Ivory Coast, Belgium, Cameroon, the US, France, Germany and Italy having participated in some of the past editions.
For the first time in seven years, an all-female dance ensemble, Wakisha was introduced to the festival. The group is a creation of the festival’s organizers.
Between 400-500 people attended the shows on each of the two nights. The dances presented were a showcase of the results of a two week training program that was offered by festival organizers from October 8th.
“This year we shifted the focus from dance from dance showcase, to training of the local and regional dancers. That is why we held the coaching program and that is also the reason we created the women’s group,” explained Wesley Ruzibiza, who personally coached one of the dancers –Frank Mugisha from Uganda.
The opening night kicked off with a small dance show by a young Rwandan choreographer who worked with children aged between 6-12 from Nyamirambo. This opening performance was symbolic:
“It was really important for us to show his work because, with the idea of taking the EANT to this training and choreography level, we wanted to show that it (dance) starts with the youth, and then goes higher and higher. It was also important to show the importance of dance, not just as a vehicle for transmitting important messages, but also as entertainment, and as a tool that can bring young people together,” Ruzibiza revealed after the performances.
Next on stage was the Snipers and Guardian crews from Rwanda collaborating on a piece they created last year and reworked this year. The piece was titled Au feminine, and explores the subject of women, especially women as perceived by contemporary male society.
Ugandan dancer Frank Mugisha presented a piece titled Pride, about the lost cultures and identities of African peoples, and the need for the continent to retrace its roots and forge a new hybrid society free of outside influences.
The opening night closed with a piece titled Terre d’espoir (Land of hope), by the Arsenic Dance troupe from the DRC. The piece was not just about the DRC, but Africa in general. Its key message was: united we stand, divided we fall.
The closing night had three performances, with the Snipers and Guardian crews returning to the stage as opening acts. They performed a piece titled Crump, before Incuti Dance Company from Burundi took to the stage. These were followed by Bienco Luanda Hangi from the DRC, before the women’s group, Wakisha closed the festival.
The women’s group was one of the festival’s highlights, and indeed their performance wasn’t just a dance show, but a show of the strength and beauty of the Rwandan woman. Their piece blended Rwandan cultural and contemporary dances.
The festival’s next rendezvous is March next year, and will focus more on choreography training in urban and traditional dance forms.