Guest Blogger: A Traditional Dance Speaks Much of a People!

**I’m very pleased to be able to share a post from a good friend of mine here, Janvier. Janvier is a priest in my village and, as you can see below, has an extremely high level of English! He likes foreign languages (he speaks Kinyarwanda, Swahili, English, French and German!), philosophy and intercultural exchange. He has graciously agreed to provide a couple of guest blog posts, beginning with this one about traditional Rwandan dance. I see the women in church — from ages 4 to 80 — dancing in church every week as he describes below. It’s really beautiful and part of what makes the Rwandan Catholic mass my favorite mass I’ve ever been to. Next time he will write about traditional taboos in Rwandan culture — a really fascinating topic.I hope you will interact with him and share your reactions to what he was written!**

Different peoples, different cultures, different dances, one humanity! Cultural dances are so precious to many civilizations and generally to all mankind; in a dance you can read certain pieces of a people’s history and livelihood that would otherwise be lost. A dance is a common language that unites us all and also unites us to nature. You can see, for instance, dancers imitating cranes, cows, the movements of clouds, water, and more!
For example, in Rwandan tradition the cow is a very precious animal because it gives milk. For this reason many of the traditional songs and pastoral poems, were centered around the cow. As consequence, you’ll see that in most styles of Rwandan traditional dance, the dancers hold their arms out in a V-shape to imitate the shape of a cow’s horns.

Another thing to notice is the musical instruments used by Rwandans: most of them were made from parts of the cow. For example, ingoma (drums) are made from leather, amakondera (a traditional instrument) are made from the horns. Also, the renowned Intore dances wear clothing made of the cow’s skin. And so on!

The Rwandan intore are unique: they are a well-organized group of dancers with special dance, clothing and special instruments !

Although all regions don’t have the same dance when those different dances are put together the mixture gives the wonderful variety of Rwandan traditional dance which plays a big role in the Rwandan hospitality to the visitors that travel here.

Dance is one of the ways to express our inside thoughts and feelings. The one who watches understands the message easily. Wonderful! And since it is a common language universally, unnumbered folkloric dances in this world have similarity despite the certain influence of a specific culture. Is there folkloric dance in America? What is the special thing that you think has greatly influenced your folkloric dance? Which part of the body do you move the most when dancing? Please, share your findings!

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11 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: A Traditional Dance Speaks Much of a People!

  1. Hi Javier! I find that in the US, especially in the Midwest and South dance itself it is taboo. There is a joke that is often told. “Why are Baptists so against premarital sex? Because it leads to dancing” It sometimes seems that this is true. Many of our churches do not allow dancing even at weddings. The church that I attended in Portland while at seminary, for the first time in there 60+ year history allowed dancing at a wedding held in the building. That being said, I studied Dance at the university and agree that it is an important form of communication, one which we unfortunately do not take enough time to learn or practice. America has seen a renaissance because of shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and the increasing influence of music videos. America is in transition and I hope to see dance taking again its role of cultural expression.

    • Thank you so much Shane for having shared me your knowledge and experience about cultural dance. It’s a very wonderful subject to deepen! Don’t you think that in the days to come, people all over the world are going to have one cultural dance because of globalization?

  2. Hi Janvier,

    It was very interesting to read how dance is part of Rwandan culture.

    And thanks to YouTube, I was able to see examples the Intore dancing. The costumes are beautifully bright and the long white (blond) wigs are very dramatic on the men. My favorite part though, is all the chanting voices coming together as one instrument.

    Here in the United States right now, there is a popular dance from Korea: Gangnam Style. Maybe Gretchen can show you how it goes!

    Thank you for writing.
    Torrey

    • Hi! Thank you very much for appreciating my post! I’m really happy to talk about dance especially traditional dance because it’s one of the channels through which people pass different messages. And in the rwandan traditional dance you can read a history and a mentality of a people! I can guess that the US must be the hub of almost all the world’s cultures and this makes it a special nation rich in culture! About the gangnam style from Korea, Gretchen told me she is too shy to dance it!!! May be is it hard to perform? I hope that when you will be together she will not refuse to perform a rwandan traditional dance, because she told me she likes it too much!

      I hope you will also be interested in another coming post on ” totems in Rwanda”.
      Janvier.

  3. Janvier, your questions are excellent. Thanks for describing and explaining the Rwandan dances. America has a wide variety of folk dancing because there are so many cultures in the United States.
    I wish I could say that my ancestors taught me the dances from their European countries. My heritage was lost when my ancestors integrated into the American culture a couple generations ago. I did learn some country-Western from the American cowboy subculture and square dancing which has its roots in Europe. I rarely do those dances now.
    However, I’ve have seen many dances performed here. I’ve attended several Native American Powwows where dancers from many tribes across the US come to dance in elaborate feather, leather, bead, and bell costumes to hypnotic drumming and singing. I’ve also enjoyed watching dances from Japan, Russia, China, Germany, Austria, Ireland, Romania, Mexico, Spain, South America, Turkey and Hawaii. The abundance of cultures is one of the amazing qualities of the US American culture.
    I move my feet, arms, and hips most when dancing. Occasionally, head and torso. Next time I dance and put my arms in the air, I’ll think of the Rwandan dance with horns of the cow. I have a connection to cows because I grew up on a small dairy farm.
    I look forward to your next post!

    Jari

    • Hi Jari! Thank you so much for your good comment, and also for sharing your various experiences on cultural dance. As you have been in Rwanda, you understand very well what I was talking about on may subject.
      Very soon comes then, another post on ” Totems in Rwanda”. I hope you will be interested. Then you will tell me if there are such stories of totems in US culture!
      Looking forward to your comments!
      Janvier.

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