Mashirika launches contemporary dance workshop

It all started last year, with the opening of a dance workshop for aspiring theatre practitioners at the Mashirika Performing Arts and Media Company in Kimironko.

The initial class of 22 students was named Team Genesis, and comprised of students who had completed high school and wanted to pursue the arts in their lives.

The idea for Team Genesis was conceived by three local theatre practitioners; Simon Rwema, Arthur Nkusi, and Eliane Umuhire, all affiliated to Mashirika.

“We came up with this idea to share what we have with people around us. Every end of month we would invite the public to come and watch what the students had been doing and this was being done free of charge,” says Simon Rwema, who is conducting this year’s workshop.

Students try a hand at the basics of contemporary dance

While Rwema and Nkusi took the class through contemporary dance techniques, Umuhire was offered basic theatre classes.

Upon graduation of last year’s class, the team took a pause and decided to do it all over again this year. While the last lot was called Team Genesis, this year’s class is called Team Alpha.

Last year’s class lasted six months, but Rwema reveals that the intention this year is to make the workshop an on-going project.

“We’re going to continue and do a lot of research and a lot of contemporary movements. We want to fully equip the class in theater basics and theater history.”

A lady takes on the art

The class opened last weekend with students getting the basics in contemporary dance techniques.

“We started with a dance that every contemporary dancer needs to know –the primary set dance that involves all the technical movements of contemporary dance.

We started with this to give them an idea of the way things are done, then slowly the following week; I will take them bit by bit through the movements. I didn’t want to use the movements today because the movements always bring them out of the character that they are supposed to be in, and they end up enjoying the music more than the dance –that’s why today it was more of a silent workshop. The next weekend I will introduce music to them,” Rwema says.

The classes run on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, and joining is free of charge.

Simon Rwema takes the class through some drills. (All photos by Moses Opobo)

Maria Nesemann, a German national who is part of the class described it as a great initiative.

“I hadn’t done contemporary dance before so I really liked it. One of my favourite parts was the South African Gumboot dance which I would really love to learn,” she said.

Innocent Munyeshuri, an actor with Mashirika, said he enrolled for the workshop mainly to hone his dancing skills. “I’m not a trained dancer, but I like dancing because as an actor it helps my body,” Munyesuri says.

“After everybody is equipped with the basics of contemporary movements and acting classes, we will come up with a concept and then as a group, make and present a play on what we’ve learnt and present it to the public,” Rwema says.