Dance Week Uganda 2015 takes place this weekend (April 17-19) at Kampala’s National Theatre but low publicity will not see that many bums on seats this time around. Now in its 13th year, Dance Week Uganda has soldiered on as a calendar arts event showcasing contemporary dance. This even with the diminished opportunities for practitioners vis-à-vis its music and drama counterparts. It could be that dance is a highly visual medium while music and drama can be given audio treatments and that offer residual satisfaction.
This has put contemporary dancers in a spot of bother on how to live off their craft which is mostly seen as abstract art pieces in motion. And considering that it takes a lot of exposure for the craft to o grow on you, the lack of regular showcases means that contemporary dance doesn’t bait as many consumers enough to create a critical mass of enthusiasts. Well, not enough to create the requisite festive buzz you’d expect of a festival toasting to its 13th uninterrupted offering. So as expected, this year’s three-day showcase will feature the same clichéd mzungu audience complemented by participating dancers’ relatives and friends. Potential new audiences wishing to experience dance beyond grinding music video vixens will probably lose out yet again. Perhaps contemporary dance could borrow a leaf from its more sensual counterpart “salsa” that has seen a proliferation of social evenings that tutor fans into measured steps, twirls and hip-shaking. But then again, it could be that the contemporary dance clique doesn’t merit adulterating its art form by way of a Celerac indulgence all in the name of hooking eyeballs.
But the fact that it is just the visiting dancers (SA’s Fana Tshabalala and Benin’s Marcel Gbeffa courtesy of Alliance Francaise) that are the most visible highlight on this week’s programme is an indictment on the organisers who now have to dance to the tune of cultural organisations paying the piper. For now, the art form will continue to haemorrhage its talent to youngsters distracted by the “white visa” phenomenon where they hook-up with mzungu spouses with the promise of a better career in the Western world. That’s if upon arriving there, these mostly hulking lads (there’s a disproportiante ratio of more males than females in contemporary dance) are not reduced to being henpecked househusbands. Maybe government will one day warm to the idea of stimulating the creative economy, or music video producers will get to appreciate the aesthetic that comes with swapping video vixens for contemporary dancers or a theatrical producer will birth a Broadway musical that incorporates a sizeable dance element. It’s all maybes.
Text: MOSES SERUGO