This summer, I had the great fortune of being invited to work with the youth of MindLeaps at the Jim Bell campus in Kigali Rwanda. MindLeaps is a not-for-profit organization staffed by dance instructors, educators, social workers, counselors, and administrators, all dedicated to building a bridge to education and positive livelihoods through dance. MindLeaps engages students in fun dance classes that are part of a carefully crafted curriculum to develop the key cognitive and social-emotional skills vital to success in school and work.
For three weeks during my residency, I worked with eight students (ages 16–22) and taught choreography for a new piece titled RITUAL, which was choreographed as two movements.
During my time in Rwanda, I learned that dance is a major element in their cultural identity. When touring through one of the memorials, the very first image on display is of a traditional Rwandan dancer soaring mid-air. After some dialogue with the cast, I decided to name the piece RITUAL as a way of paying my respects to something so integral to their being. The first section represents a clearing or blessing of the space. The second movement is a celebration of dance!
RITUAL was performed by the students as part of the Ubumuntu Arts Festival in July. You can watch the performance online here:
It was such an honor to be in the space with students who were so eager to learn different dance styles. Though the MindLeaps curriculum is structured to prepare the dancers to engage in their academics, it was nice to lead them through genres of dance that they were not so familiar with. I taught the students Horton and ballet, and they took me through popular house and afro beats dances that they love. The exchange was so fulfilling. It was the trip that my soul needed.