By XN Iraki
Every year the secondary school that wins the national drama festival books a free ticket to Kenya’s State House where they entertain the president through dancing, singing or acting.
The winners of science congress never visit State House. A quick look at our media outlets reveals several competitions that involve dancing or singing.
A visit to any “joint” late at night leaves no doubt that if dancing got into Olympics we could win several medals. From Mugithi to salsa and other dances, people dance with their souls and hearts.
Some argue that dancing is in our genes; every community had its dance, which is characterised by moving certain parts of the body. Some gyrate their waist like the Kikuyu, others like Luhya shake their shoulders, Maasai do lots of jumping while like the Zulu stomp on the ground.
Others argue that dance provides a simple and cost effective means to entertainment and relaxation for those who cannot afford exotic games like golf or tennis. It is also a means to socialisation where you meet new people informally. Some intoxication makes the shy bold.
What is not debatable is that dancing is very popular in Africa and one of the characterisation of Africa. We dance for tourists and our leaders are often welcomed from trips abroad by dancers. We dance in weddings and in some funerals. Politicians love being entertained by dancers and often dance with them. Jomo Kenyatta, our first president, loved being entertained by dancers from old to young.
A visit to Citizen Kofi joint in Accra, Ghana left me convinced that dancing may hold the key to Africa’s economic growth. Like many Kenyan joints, young people dance their hearts out as the night ages. In the campaigns for the South African presidential polls a few years ago, the eventual winner was shown several times dancing in traditional regalia. We are also familiar with reed dance in Swaziland.
To be fair, there are dances in other parts of the world from Indian, to Scottish to Maori and Native Americans. One of the most memorable dancing moments was dancing with Native Americans during a visit to Choctaw reservation in Mississippi. The Choctaw bead work and attire closely resembles the Maasai, a big surprise to a Kenyan. If dance is so much part of our culture why not leverage on it to turn our economies round?
Dancing demands energy, focus and rhythm. There is no sector of the economy that does not require that. If every worker in every sector of our economy works his heart out like dancers, we could achieve Vision 2030 much earlier. Any time I see youngsters dancing, I wish they could use just 10 per cent of that energy in science and technology to spawn the next generation of innovators.
Paradoxically, the popularity of dancing is driven also by the fact that there is not much “struggling” you just shake your body, we all have a body. In other sectors of the economy things are not that straight forward; designing a new car or a skyscraper needs lots of thinking. Besides not many dances have been invented; imagine if dances evolved like cellular phones.
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