June 3, 2012
by Ssali Joseph Eugene
It has been five months since the street children at FIDESCO (a temporary safe-house in Kigali) started their dance training with the Rebecca Davis Dance Company (RDDC) program. Before RDDC came to FIDESCO, the kids didn’t know anything about dance; they never knew that if someone wants to be a dancer, they must train to become proficient.
I remember the very first day I was there – when this program was introduced. As a dancer, I believed that even though someone was not born with talent, that person could train and become a good dancer if he/she is committed and loves it. Once he gets an opportunity to receive good and proper training and he uses it well, he will get to reach his dream. Actually, I’ve seen many who didn’t know anything, and now, they have become professional dancers.
But when I came to FIDESCO, I was so disappointed. The kids seemed to be in love with it, but when we started, all I could see were shouting kids moving all over the place. I couldn’t keep any of them in one position. They didn’t seem to care about what Rebecca was telling them. They were very violent. The next day, I didn’t want to go back, but I had to. We continued with the program, but still my hope for these kids was little – not because they were not talented but because of their inability to focus.
Sometimes we make decisions to quit when we have not taken any action to look for solutions of how things could work. Because I didn’t want to disappoint Rebecca, I had no choice but to be there, and I realized that these kids needed my love and patience. Why? These kids have seen things far beyond their age. By the age of 15 years, they are already used to taking care of themselves through living on the street. They simply don’t know how it feels to be loved.
Since we understood and shared our love with these boys, they have revealed their potential to us – that they can do more than we expected. They understand every reason for what they do.
One of them (Jean de Dieu) said, “I used to watch peopIe dance and try to imitate them because I admired what they do. I always wanted us to learn those moves, but now I know that dance is not knowing how to do certain movement – it is knowing where the flow is.” He went on to say, “I can start from here to achieve my dream of becoming a professional dancer because I’m in the process of doing all that I admired. Before, I didn’t take it seriously, but the RDDC teachers came back and they are seriously training us.”
Right now, when you enter our dance studio, these amazing boys draw some of the moves we teach them on the walls. They love to dance a lot – really a lot…. And dance has not only filled their desire to dance, but even mentally they are helped; they have really changed their behavior. They used to fight all the time, but now we teach classes where none of them has fought one another. They play just like any normal kid would play. When they enter, you don’t have to tell them where to leave their shoes and their T-shits. They fold them, put them in one place, and they put their shoes in a line. They never leave without permission.
RDDC has not only helped these kids, but I, too, have learned a lot from these kids – like patience and how to love and be social. I have learned that it doesn’t always have to be about me. I need to get out and share the little that I have with someone out there. I go to FIDESCO to meet my brothers – not some kids that I have to teach. I counsel them as my brothers and I count on that opportunity!
I love how they don’t care about what they wear; they just dance whole heartedly and they come every day on time. I really believe something has been done in their lives through RDDC.
Ssali Joseph Eugene is one of the Rwandan RDDC dance instructors that leads the FIDESCO program. He is a contemporary dancer and frequently organizes performances in Kigali.