Dance Showcase in Kampala

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Last weekend, after arriving back in Kampala from Entebbe and getting settled into our accomodation for the evening, Vanessa, Ali, Dai, Ashley and I took a special hire (taxi, basically) to the Ndere Centre. The centre is where the Ndere Dance Troupe hold all of their shows, and is also the headquarters of the Uganda Development Theatre Association. The Troupe started in 1984, and later spawned the UDTA – both aim to use culture as a means of social transformation and human development, and to help socially-disadvantaged, talented young people break the cycle of poverty. You can read more about the troupe on the Ndere website. At the show, the emcee brought on stage one of the big donors of the centre, who had helped to fund the education of all the dancers and musicians in the troupe. Quite an innovative and inspiring group, needless to say.

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The show itself was fantastic – the singers and musicians were incredibly talented, and the dancing was phenomenal. The final performance, which involved members of the women’s troupe dancing with clay pots on their head, was particularly amazing. By the end of the song, some of them had upwards of 10 pots balanced on their heads! They then proceeded to dance up the stairs from the main stage, all while never dropping a single pot. The show’s emcee was also very entertaining, keeping the audience in stitches throughout many of his stories, and interacting lots with the crowd. At one point he asked for all the children attending the show to come up on stage, and had them all dance in a giant circle and lead one another through different moves that they made up. He also acquired a sidekick later in the evening – apparently one of the kids that was on stage earlier hadn’t quite had his fill of the limelight and ended up hanging out beside the emcee, imitating his actions and dancing alongside him for most of the rest of the night. Completely adorable.

They announced at the end of the show that there would be a whole new production unveiled in December, so I’ll definitely have to make plans to go again in the new year. It was certainly worth the trip, despite the inconvenience of having to find bodas and a matatu to take us back to our hostel, after our special hire didn’t show up at the end of the night (seems that all the drivers for the company we went with were otherwise occupied, drinking and watching a football game…) Regardless, we made it home fine and enjoyed some chips (fries) at the bar across the street from where we were staying before heading to bed. Vanessa didn’t come back to Luweero with us, as she was starting her travels around Uganda and Rwanda the next day. She’ll be doing than until early December, and then will stop by the volunteer house for a night to pick up the rest of her things, before flying back to Canada in time for Christmas.

Ali’s friend Ashley Barnes, who is a great photographer, was nice enough to share her photos of the dancing with me. I’ve put together an album from the show, most of which are her pictures. You can check out the album on my Flickr site, and see more of Ashley’s photography on her personal website.

I put together a couple of YouTube videos of the evening as well. The first is a quick (humorous, amazingly enough) anecdote our emcee told about Idi Amin. As the video starts, he’s reciting how one should formally address Amin, listing all of the various titles he holds:

UPDATE: After multiple failed attempts at getting the video clips of the various dance performances uploaded using excruciatingly slow internet connections, it’s finally on YouTube:

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  • Kelly_traynor

    amazing..

  • Heather

    The energy of the night must have been amazing. The dance costumes are wonderfully colourful and evocative — Kelly would love the zebra print bottoms! Cross-cultural humour — you’re really getting to experience and be a part of such diverse aspects of life in Uganda. What a privilege for me to be able to experience all of this through your great posts!

  • Dave Traynor

    What a terrific evening and a terrific account of it. The photos are really something. You can see the energy of the dancers coming through. I’m looking forward to the video of the action.

    Those are quite the costumes they have. And nice work on the presentation of your story. You’ve certainly mastered using your blog, YouTube and Flickr to tell a great story. It’s a pleasure to follow along. I’m learning a lot more about Uganda, thanks to your stories. And who knew that it was possible to tell funny stories about Idi Amin? Definite proof about how resilient the human spirit is.

    Thanks for capturing it for me.