Dance is not one of the most celebrated art forms in Uganda; in fact, for many artistes, they can do without it.
This has seen dancers frustrated and, to be noticed, some have taken up music. Sheebah Karungi, Sharon Salmon and many others are singers that have roots in dance.
But there has been a lease of life for the art with festivals, TV shows and workshops celebrating the joyful expression’s relevance.
Last weekend at Goethe Zentrum in Kamwokya, another such celebration was happening. Code-named Tuzine festival, they had their eyes on creating a dance fete with the objective of protecting people’s rights while at it.
Organized by Mambya Dance Company, Tuzine festival brought together more than ten dance companies to celebrate as well as talk dance with the audience.
Much as the real event happened on Friday and Saturday, Tuzine festival had been going on with workshops and trainings across the country.
The workshops created the festival curating backbone as some of the dance groups that showcased were picked from there.
The festival was graced by dance groups from Rwanda, DR Congo, Burundi, Kenya as well as Uganda.
Much as the festival intended to merge advocacy with dance, it seemed like many of the choreographers that put the stories together for the performances missed the memo; they were brilliant performances with good messages but most of the times did not have the human rights drive to them.
For instance, day one performances were exciting with troupes including Kyuka Dance Company from Nateete, and Baba Dance Project from Congo. They mostly preached messages of Pan-Africanism and technology’s invasion on humanity.
Kyuka, probably the most enjoyed performers of day one, had their routine ironed out since the first time they showcased it at the Dance Week earlier this year. Their costumes were bold and daring; they had some of the cleanest choreography that saw moves easily transit one into the other with ease.
Their masterful storytelling focused on a tourist who forgot his bag in the bush only for it to be discovered by locals that later try to understand its contents. Their shock on finding the contents of the bag that include a phone, jacket and cap, form the story of how humans behave when faced with foreign cultures.
Most of the performances were a mixture of audio-visual and spoken word.
Adam Chienjo from Kenya performed a routine about a human body – the connection to human rights included fat-shaming and racism. The performance was explained by a video that showed different body shapes, tattoos and markings, with poetry read by the dancer.
Two performances had disabled people on stage, like the one by Pamoja Dance Company that clearly brought the theme of the festival to life, especially with images of neglect of disabled people’s rights.
The performance featured two dancers; one in a wheelchair and the other able-bodied.
In some of the scenes, the able-bodied dancer throws the wheelchair-bound one down and kicks him around before they end the piece in harmony.
The festival ended with an award ceremony that saw some of dance’s biggest contributors such as Oscar Senyonga, Julius Lugaaya and Faisal Kiweewa awarded.