New York Dance Therapy and wild goose chase/the landing will offer the Authentic Movement Retreat again this summer!
Thanks to Alex Masi, I have some photos to share from the Global Innovator Award presentation to Godelieve Mukasarasi, Director of SEVOTA in Rwanda.
Just before coming to Fort Worth, Godelieve was in Washington DC to receive an award from the US Department of State, presented by Melania Trump.
The ceremony started with a beautiful film that Adam created for the event – a collection of photographs and video clips from various sources, including our January visit in Rwanda with Godelieve.
Next the TCU Rwandan community, led by Pacifique Rutamu (in front, and center), danced for Godelieve. They used the dancing to bring her to stage, along with the presenters.
Finally, Elizabeth Gillaspy (Director, TCU School for Classical & Contemporary Dance) and Anne Helmreich (Dean, TCU College of Fine Arts) presented the award – Irené Kwihangana translated, and SCCD dance majors, travelers to Rwanda, presented the actual awards.
Group photos to further convey the festive nature of the evening.
Had a lovely interview with Beatriz Terrazas back in the fall. It would seem being able to condense an hour-long conversation into so few words, still capturing essence, is somewhat like composing minute-long dances, or piano works. (p.15)
Lori Diel’s work is in here as well! (p. 11)
Photo: Alex Masi Dancer: Laura Mobley
One of our TCU friends, Pacifique Rutamu, graduated from Agahozo Shalom Youth Village. https://asyv.orghttps://asyv.org ASYV was founded by American Anne Heyman https://asyv.org/our-founder/ The framework of ASYV mirrors that the model of residential youth communities built in Israel after WWII for orphans of the Holocaust . https://asyv.org/the-asyv-story/https://asyv.org/the-asyv-story/ The goal of ASYV, therefore is …to heal and educate vulnerable Rwandan youth, helping them to realize their maximum potential, and become socially responsible citizens.
Before arriving to ASYV, Pacifique had told us that Ms. Heyman searched throughout Rwanda to find an inspiring site and, guided by a Rwandan proverb that states If you can see far, you will go far – she settled the village into the hilly terrain north and east of Kigali.
We had lunch at ASYV – it was delicious – warm, grounding. We had just come from the Kigali Genocide Memorial and speaking for myself, the beans and rice helped to fill some quite vacuous spaces in my body.
We met director, JC (Jean-Claude Nkulikiyimfura) and public relations fellow MC (Marie Claire Levy), and Fulbright Specialist and volunteer, Phyllis Lerner for a tour as well as some of the incoming first year students. Competition is fierce to enter ASYV. Teachers across the country make recommendations – about 2500 in total – and only 128 students are chosen to enter each year. Notably, 2/3 are young women and 1/3 are young men. Rwanda is prioritizing the education of women.
We toured the campus – it’s several acres. We started in the dining hall/gathering space, went up to visit the classrooms, amphitheater, residential section and agricultural and livestock sectors. In that oh-so-small-world way, when we arrived at the amphitheater, I put two and two together, and realized that new friend and TCU partner, Shelby Sullivan, Volunteer Coordinator of Refugee Services in Texas (Fort Worth division), had been to ASYV! We were talking about Rwanda before the trip – in November – and she mentioned ASYV and how remarkable it was both for how it was designed and developed, and the success it has had. She mentioned weekly performances in the amphitheater. It turns out that Pacifique was on the dance team – he performed regularly in ASYV’s amphitheater. And, of note, when he was there, the team won 2nd place in national competition. Shelby was one of eight fellows at ASYV in 2015. Fellows rotate yearly and are the cousins to the eight households where the students live with a Mama. The residential living spaces and the village itself were created to reflect family structures. It is truly lovely to have found another in my immediate sphere who has a clear picture of where we were, what we saw, some insight into the feelings we experienced, and the spirit of the people we met.
TCU will present this award to Godelieve Mukasarasi on Saturday evening, March 24th during the DanceTCU Concert. There is a reception following the concert to honor Mrs. Mukasarasi.
W.E. Scott Theater / Fort Worth Community Arts Center / 1300 Gendy Street / 76107 Tickets $15 General Admission / $7.50 Students with ID Ticket purchase on line: dance.tcu.edu
See “Loretta” – 8:00pm, Ballet Austin’s City View Lounge, 501 W. 3rd , Austin
Sometimes choreography and cinematography like to jam in this wonderful genre of art we like to call dance film. This year, Austin Dance Festival is thrilled to present “Dance on Film,” the first installation of a dance film screening and sharing which will kick off the weekend of modern dance celebration. If you’re looking to treat your eyes, join us downtown to see a handful of selected works by movers and filmmakers nationwide!
Gisimba Memorial Center and After-School Program is Patrick Rutikanga’s family legacy. Patrick’s grandparents founded the center as an orphanage in the 1970s. His father and uncle ran the orphanage from 1986 to 2017. In 2012, the Rwandan government began the process of closing all the orphanages in the country, shifting to a foster care system. After the transition, Patrick and his father, Damas Gisimba, shifted the focus to an after-school program, gathering and serving the vulnerable children in this Kigali neighborhood and two other sectors of the city.
The students who meet at Gisimba daily include many who are not enrolled in school. By first-world standards, school fees and uniforms are not expensive. But for many families in these neighborhoods, the costs are well beyond their means. Gisimba teachers – volunteering their time – engage the children in dance, singing, drumming, painting and jewelry-making. They also work with them on literacy and tutor those who are in school in other subjects. There is an on-site library in addition to the several studios and gathering places for performing, sports and sharing time with visitors, like our group.
The children shared their dance and music with us.
We visited the jewelry-making studio and the painting studio. The children sell their work to help support their families.
The children are proud of their library and work there in a creative learning environment.
To say I was impressed with the Gisimba teachers would be an understatement. They are working artists and, in one case, a working surgeon. The teachers’ investment – and their joy – in engaging with the children, is palpable. As is Patrick’s. Patrick designed a summer camp this past year “I Know I Can!” which had great success. He is dreaming of expanding it to last longer, and have greater a greater impact: for example, he would like the children to be able to tour their performance work. Patrick is a graduate of TCUs IEP and we are looking forward to his return to graduate school next fall.
We enjoyed dinner one evening with Patrick and the dance teachers from Gisimba. Eya Khalifa shared one of the AFRO KASA films with us – work he choreographed and performs.
In opening this entry, I noted that the Gisimba Center is Patrick’s legacy. It is also the legacy of the Rwandese people. A legendary act of bravery occurred here during the 1994 genocide. Patrick’s father, Damas, his uncle, Jean-Francoise and an American named Carl Wilkens, country director of ADRA, the Adventist relief organization, stood together to prevent a massacre of over 400 orphans and adults taking refuge in the center. There is a brief account here in this 2011 Guardian article on line.
In his book “I’m not leaving” published by World Outside My Shoes (Spokane WA) in 2011, Wilkens offers a detailed account of his stay in Kigali during the 100-day genocide when the rest of the international community fled and the choices he made daily to move as a human being among human beings through the height of the devastation. It is a difficult read. May we all inherit their courage.
Founded and directed by Emmanuel Nkuranga and Innocent Nkurunziza, Inema Arts Center is defined by its gallery space and its arts programs for children. http://inemaartcenter.com I found this arts center to be such a lively place. The interior walls – including the stairwell – are covered with paintings and mixed media works: those by various of the ten resident artists and an entire gallery of the children’s works. There is the workshop on the ground level and a coffee shop and patio – it’s a gathering place. And there are works all over the grounds to enjoy, with which to engage, that spark imagery and connectivity of spirit. On the street side of the building is a large mural with President Kigali’s portrait and words that both inspire and lead.
I was also taken with the wire sculpture that greeted us on entrance. For all its durable materials, there was something so very humanly malleable about it; so very inviting.
And, this figure is in a position that I inhabit – and often see inhabited – in the dancing that I do, and have grown up with artistically. It felt familiar.
Art with a mission.
There is a balcony on the second level from which one can reach into the city as it climbs the hills and out of view.
The Inema artists provide experiences for emerging artists in African Arts, Crafts, Music and Dance. We had the privilege of interacting with young dancers and drummers: they introduced us to their cultural dance and drumming, and then pulled us out into the common space to teach us a short sequence. I worked with a small master who took a firm grip on both of my hands, held them wide apart from one another, and kept me in motion so that I could “hear” and follow the rhythm of his steps.
This is my teacher in his solo dance.
And these are the musicians/artist teachers – with whom he was working and his dancing crew.
After a long game of water bottle balancing with Emmanuel – flip a partially filled water bottle and try to lay your weight into just so, so that the bottle lands upright – I was reminded of how far play – and laughter – and some small measure of competition goes in settling into the common ground necessary to form a friendship. This photo was near the beginning of the action; Irené had not yet jointed the fray. By the end, we were all circled around, cheering on the contestants! Emmanuel was – hands down (bottles up?) – the champ. But Michael and Irené gave it their all, with gusto.
I bought a painting by a young artist named Vincent who studies in the Inema program. I fell in love with it because it is motion-based.
We gathered with Emmanuel and Innocent just before departing. This is an extraordinary place created, developed and run with such vision.
On return to Kigali after our first trip to SEVOTA, we visited the MindLeaps/Rwanda studio. MindLeaps is an organization founded and directed by Rebecca Davis, a recipient of the Gratitude Network Award. https://mindleaps.org/en/
The Gratitude Network seeks out the world’s most dynamic and innovative leaders and organizations impacting the lives of children and youth. Those that are selected as awardees receive a 1‐year program of intense coaching, mentoring and strategic advice to help them scale their business model to achieve results they only dreamed of. http://gratitude-network.org
We met Rebecca on our flight from Doha to Kigali – by chance she was heading to Rwanda at the same to we were. To hear directly from Rebecca, listen to her TEDxFulbright talk. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxdZPdiaSO4
The MindLeaps programs are incredible. MindLeaps is staffed in-country, and the focus is “preparing vulnerable children for education” – children who live on the streets and/or who are not enrolled in school. The MindLeaps Rwandan staff works with 65 children every day, ages 9-18, working to teach them dance and life-skills through dance. Each morning, the children start their day at the MindLeaps facility with porridge and a shower. When they are able to gather consistency, community and discipline, they work with tutors: IT, languages, health studies, social studies, science and math. The staff and tutors prepare them to enter boarding schools in the capital and around the country: to have the chance to continue their education; to enter adulthood with options.
We were there to see them warm-up and then they danced for us, and we for them. What a studio full of spirit and energy! There is a healthy amount of competition – I thought those kids were going to jump through the ceiling! I tried to capture this moment of one of the teachers giving each individual a “high 5” after crossing the floor with turns and leaps: these dancers are seen.
Bashir Karenzi, Managing Director and MindLeaps teacher, was a gracious host and offered insight into the goals of the program with both logic and heart.
Rebecca is joining us in late March. She will engage with the students in the School for Classical & Contemporary Dance at TCU – sharing her experiences and her methodology – and with the greater TCU and Fort Worth communities sharing films made about the MindLeaps work as part of the KinoMonda (film) Series – March 28.
Of the eleven SEVOTA centers around the country, we visited two. I think often about those experiences. Godelieve and the leaders in these two communities created means for everyone to move together, and for us, as their guests, to learn more about them in the process of simply being with them.
Elisabeth, Leah and Raavi outside the SEVOTA entrance in Taba.
The 23rd anniversary of the founding of SEVOTA was December 28th but in both of these communities, they waited until our visit so that we might be part of the celebration. As I mentioned in the most recent post, we experienced first-hand the power of dance to communicate and to transport the spirit. When you move your body, you move the space interior to the body, and you move the space around you. When a roomful of people are dancing together – when there is a group of young women filling the space around which we are all gathered – when that space is then alive with a group of men dancing full on with traditional war gear – when you are face to face with a woman who has invited you to dance and you are (dancer that you are!) attempting as best you can to embody the ease and grace of her motion – there is nothing else! We talked about this as a group: we left these gatherings exhilarated and with the sense that we had just come from long conversations with old friends.
Our second visit to SEVOTA: Irené’s group selfie
What did we learn about SEVOTA? Each community center is a bit different. The first SEVOTA center in Taba began as a sanctuary of sorts, primarily for women who were survivors of rape and children who were born of rape. Now each center continues to serve both survivors and the larger community in which it is located. There are focus groups associated with each center. For example, during the second visit, we met members of a group for children, a group for women and a group for married couples. In the center we visited, the focus groups meets together weekly, and engage in either conversation or activities that foster support, education or artistic activities. Representatives of the children’s group danced for and with us; one of the young girls read a poem she had written. SEVOTA also has a division of animal husbandry and supports individuals and families who wish to acquire and care for animals. Just after we left, Godelieve purchased five pigs for a family to raise. When the pigs reproduce, their owners will give the piglets to their neighbors: paying it forward toward the cultivation of long-lasting community.
The new pigs!
Some of the SEVOTA centers provide counseling services; this is a program offering brought forward from the earliest days. SEVOTA also organizes ‘field trips.’ Additionally, the SEVOTA organization has been instrumental in helping community members cultivate land for their own food resources, and to trade or sell produce. And finally, SEVOTA has supported education in its communities as well as helped individuals start businesses. The SEVOTA leaders often meet in Kigali. As Godelieve says: The journey from the countryside is a positive experience. It gives them [the women] a sense of purpose and a chance to leave their home areas. And it gives them a new outlook when they go home.*
Road between Kigali and Taba.
One of the most emotional and humbling moments, for me, at both SEVOTA gatherings was the celebration of the 23rd anniversary of the founding of SEVOTA. Members at both communities honored Godelieve through song, dance and speech. They spoke of her leadership with passion and gratitude, and detailed what SEVOTA has helped them accomplish. Godelieve brought a large candle, and invited us to light it with her. Members then passed the flame from candle to candle through the room, in symbolic representation of the light of SEVOTA moving through the community. To be part of that ritual, so personal to these communities and yet shared so readily, took my breath away.
Godelieve returns to TCU as a distinguished guest in March of this year.