Over the last decade, Rwanda has witnessed a revival of ‘traditional’ dances, which are staged as a unified cultural performance. This revival gives expression to the dynamism that characterizes this East-African country in its drive to reconstruct itself after the devastation of the 1994 genocide. It also testifies to the country’s willingness to bypass the ‘ethnic’ and regional cleavages that were so critical during the period of genocide and to achieve a true sense of national unity and identity. The object of the project, which is situated at the intersection of Dance Studies and Anthropology, is to study the evolution of Rwandan dances with regard to their role in constructing the ‘New Rwanda’. The study will be microscopic and will be based on long-term fieldwork combining participation, observation and in-depth interviews. It will focus on the troupe Inganzo Ngari, which is currently considered Kigali’s best dance troupe and which performs very regularly at government sponsored or directly government related events. The study will analyse the creative reconfiguration of the troupe’s repertoire and especially the way elements stemming from different regions, periods and sociocultural belonging are creatively assembled in order to communicate the image of a unified, modern Rwanda which, nonetheless, remains rooted in its past. Attention will also be given to the growing emphasis on the spectacular side of the performance and the increased attention being given to uniformity. In line with the affirmation of Inganzo’s choreographers that Chinese folkloric dances have inspired them in reconfiguring Rwandan dances, the study will further examine how processes of globalization contribute to remodel Rwandan specificity. More broadly, by exploring dance in its dual aspect of rhythmic flow and visual form it intends to shed light on the role of this medium in contemporary societies, inasmuch as they manifest a tension between global circulation and rigid nationalism.
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