Dancing has always been part of Rwandan culture. What adds beauty to the traditional dances is that they are not only visually attractive; they are also meaningful, constituting a great reflection of Rwandan culture. Indeed, in traditional dancing, we find important elements of socialisation and identity which have been passed on orally over centuries.
Today, the country counts various cultural troupes which aim to preserve these unique dancing traditions. The Inyamibwa Cultural Troupe is one of them. Eestablished in 1988 by the AERG Club (Association des Etudiants Et Elèves Rescapés Du Génocide), an association of students who survived the Genocide at the former National University of Rwanda in Huye, the troup was initially started to help the youngsters fight the depression and loneliness they were experiencing as a consequence of the genocide.
Yet primarily, they did it for fun as a means of entertainment. After a while, they started dancing in front of an audience and travelled all over Rwanda to perform. Later, they became one of the most well known traditional dance troupes in the country and even started going on tours abroad.
The troupe counts many young dancers today who wish to preserve their Rwandan culture. “The youth is the power and the force of our country. I dance because I love it, and it helps me to keep developing and sustaining our culture,” says the troupe’s youthful coach, Sefu Nshimiyimana.
The dancers are based both in Huye and Kigali. In the former, they practice every Monday and Thursday from 8pm to 10pm, and in the latter every Tuesday and Thursday from 3pm to 5pm. When they are preparing for an important performance, however, they practice for a month non-stop.
Performances are how these dancers actually make a living, or pocket money for some.
“It is not hard but it is not easy either. Most of the time, a dancer cannot survive on dancing only. He has to have another source of income on the side but it is possible for some to make a living out of it,” admits Rodrigue Rusagara, the president of the Inyamibwa Cultural Troupe.
Talking about the various benefits of dancing, besides the financial aspect, he adds: “You cannot dance when you are not happy, so in a way, it is therapeutic and of course a great avenue to interact with other people. Then there is the aspect of contributing to the conservation of our culture".