16 February 2008

Uganda: About Your Knight - Jonas Byaruhanga


Kampala — Jonas Byaruhanga is one of the few young people that are making a living from their hobbies. He is the founder and artistic director of Keiga Dance Company, which is based at the National Theater. He shares with CLAIRE NABWIRE about contemporary African dance.

Dance is often associated with the female sex. Why dance?

(Giggles) I'm not sure I care about what sex dance is associated with. I have loved to dance since I was just a lad in primary school. I dance because the feeling I get when I dance is unbeatable.

What is the difference between contemporary dance and contemporary African dance?

Contemporary means "today" and so it is not definitive at all. It is any sort of modern dance. On the other hand, contemporary African dance is created from African roots.

Of all kinds of dance, why have you chosen to do contemporary African dance?

I studied dance in Senegal on scholarship and there, I was introduced to contemporary African dance. I grew to love it. It's my favourite because I have always had rhythm as an African dancer. Among all the kinds of dances, I'm most comfortable and happy doing what I do.

Which of your pieces has been most outstanding?

Well, it is a piece that I am yet to perform here in Uganda. It is a 20-minute solo piece that I created, entitled "Mutuleke", about the war in Northern Uganda. I have only performed it Senegal, Mozambique and most of Western Europe.

What benefits do you enjoy because of your dancing career?

Besides having unlimited time to do something I enjoy, it is my source of income. It has also taken me around the world.

If you were to venture into anything else but dance what would it be?

I'd always dreamed of doing mass communication and being a professional television or radio presenter. I think if I wasn't a dancer, I'd either be a presenter or writer... just like you.

Tell me about you besides dance?

Hmmm... I'm an actor as well. When my parents passed away, my siblings became my responsibility. Besides that, I do have friends with whom I hang out. And yes, I'm seeing someone special.

Do you think your special one gets jealous when you deal with the many other females in your dance classes?

I doubt it... she's a dancer herself and she knows what my work entails and she knows how exactly I deal with students.

So, what challenges do you face-teaching ladies?

Honestly, ladies are a challenge to work with. All those that I've taught are always late, and inconsistent with rehearsals. Besides, many of them are quite lazy.

Which dancer inspires you?

To a large extent, Martha Graham inspires me. In my techniques, all I do is add an African flavour to what I learn from her work.

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