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Rwandan dancers visit SMC

Rohan Anand | Friday, January 25, 2008

Members of the Saint Mary’s community attended a performance by the Berwa Organization at O’Loughlin Auditorium on Thursday night. This was the second time that the Rwandan dance group, consisting of about 30 members, performed at the College.

“It’s more of a local, regional group,” said Richard Baxter, the College’s director of special events. “They performed at Saint Mary’s about a year ago in a much smaller, intimate setting, and I explored the possibility of having the group return for a larger audience.”

Traditional dance and music play an important part in the lives of Rwandans. At the beginning of the performance, one of the leaders of the group said dance and music are a way to teach younger generations how to live in peace, love and harmony.

All members of the Berwa Organization live in the Michiana area, where hundreds of Rwandans reportedly live. The name Berwa means “be proud” in the native Kinyarwanda language. The Berwa members ranged in age from 9 to 50.

“They use dance to cope with what they have been through and pass the heritage of their dance styles on to their children,” Baxter said. “Watching them perform these dances on a grander scale serves as a great lesson to us.”

The performance began with the “Inganzo” dance performed by younger girls, followed by the “Nyaruguru” dance performed by teenage girls. The second act consisted of the “Abakobwa b’Iwacu” dance that showed, in artistic movements, the typical day in the life of a Rwandan Movement.

Following was the “Ingoma” dance performed by the Berwa drummers, and after the intermission was a series of acts depicting the Rwandan traditional wedding, the Rwandan naming ceremony, and the celebration of a child’s birth. The performance concluded with a fashion show.

“It’s uplifting to watch them dance, because it reaches their hearts,” Baxter said. “It’s hard to talk about dance and how it affects you emotionally, but you are so captivated by their commitment to what they are doing, and you can’t help but invest in the project.”

All proceeds from the event will be sent by the Berwa members back to their families in Rwanda, a nation that has been torn apart by genocide and civil war.