They have performed at many of the country’s high profile events with the latest having to entertain the King of Morocco and President Paul Kagame.
The stunning performances from the Inema dance always leave revellers amazed at how energetic and agile they can be, at such a young age.
Innocent Nkuruziza one of the founders of the Inema Arts Centre explains; “their innocence and naivety is what makes their dance skills different and impressive. They have energy and are focused.”
They have also performed at the president’s office, many of the embassies and at Heaven Restaurant and Marriot Hotel with which the centre partners.
The Inema Dance is one of the many programs of Inema Arts Centre that is home to programmes, projects, and initiatives that are geared at expanding and publicizing creative art from Rwanda.
According to Nkuruziza, the initiative is not solely about entertainment but rather, “giving children and youth to uphold cultural values while generating income for school fees.”
While the art centre caters for all kinds of groups; women, the youth and children through the Nziza Artworks, Art with a Mission, the Inema Dance was directed towards the kids and there is reason why.
“It was part of the plan when we started the arts centre. Women we train in craft making started coming in with their kids. Some of them would beg for handouts but then I realised it was better to give them skills through cultural development,” Nkuruziza explains.
The centre then set a platform for every child to come and be part of the program. Starting with a few kids, the Inema Dance (as their traditional dance group is called) now comprises of about 60 children from different backgrounds mainly between the ages of 4-17, who get to experience rigorous, positive and productive training twice a week.
“As an artist I see potential in every person and we felt there was untapped potential in the children meandering on the streets. We realised that they have a lot of talent which is why we chose to train them at a young age and nurture their talent as they grow. We started with a few and the number has been going up since, and there is no way you can stop them,” the soft spoken artist adds.
By the time I got to the Arts Centre, all the kids were at their respective schools and it wasn’t practice day either.
I however had a chance to speak to their coach, Christian Gatoya, a vibrant young man, whose English seems to have eluded him, perhaps because he chose to go traditional. Traditional because he his job is train the Rwandan traditional dance the children and another cultural troupe that he owns.
He speaks fondly of them saying, their passion and ability for them to learn and perform is enough drive for them to keep practicing.
“I can see a lot of zeal and passion in them from the way they come to the centre one hour before practice time. Even for the new comers, it is easy for them to catch up because of their passion for the dance.”
“I usually try to find CDs of some traditional performance for them to practice. While other kids are watching TV, they are practicing and I’m always impressed by their improvement,” he says.
They are grouped in ages for easy management and each group has a leader responsible for motivating them. As a way of ‘showing off’ the members tell other kids and that is how the number simply keeps going up.
“The biggest challenge we have is the overwhelming number that is beyond our capacity. Some parents do not understand what the intentions are, yet it is for a good cause,” Nkurunziza says of the challenges he has.
He however dismisses the challenges with the benefits outweighing the challenges since, “many of them have returned to school and have gained self confidence, freedom of expression and it’s a breakthrough and learns new capabilities and gain confidence. Even being out there exposes them to big dreams.”
“I have seen a lot of progress and potential in them, and hopefully they will be able to represent Rwanda outside the country in the future.”
This project belongs to the kids because although the centre pays the coach, all payments are strictly directed towards the children’s education. It is therefore a major commitment for us until we see them being the top dancers in the world representing Rwanda and becoming great leaders, Nkurunziza says.