Modern dance choreography in Uganda: a study of selected modern dance companies in Kampala District
Mabingo, Alfdaniels Mivule Basiibye
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Modern dance is one of the dance forms that are performed in Uganda. The study aimed to examine choreography as a process through which dance companies create and perform modern dance in Uganda. The study further covered the styles of choreography and how dance elements such as accompaniment, costume, movements, props and makeup are employed by modern dance companies in Uganda. Additionally, the study set out to examine the emergent trends in modern dance that stem from the choreographic activities that are executed by modern dance companies. The research was qualitative where exploratory research design was employed. Interviews were conducted between the researcher and field respondents. The researcher further used observation as another method of data collection putting into account the practical nature of the subject under study. Participatory and non-participatory observation methods were employed, where the researcher attended rehearsals and choreography sessions, and performances of modern dance by the dance companies. Additionally, the researcher analysed visual-audio recordings of modern dance performances, press reviews, and other forms of documentation such as academic theses of modern dance. Evaluation meetings and round table discussions of performances by modern dance choreographers and performers formed an enriching platform for the study. Modern dance as a Western form of dance performance has been embraced by choreographers and performers in Uganda. The growth of this form of dance has culminated into establishment of modern dance companies. It is worth to propound that in a bid to make the dance continue to exist in the Ugandan context, choreographers in modern dance companies have adopted styles that fit the local environment. Modern dance companies are still grappling with the cultural set up that influences the audience’s appreciation of this art form. As such, styles such as dance theatre and dance drama have been espoused to aid the audiences’ understanding and appreciation of dance. This is a manifestation that modern dance is not only an entertainment form of dance, but also an educative, informative and mobilisation tool that companies have utilized to engage communities on various issues that range from health, environment, politics, and culture, among other. The need to popularize modern dance choreography and performance has seen modern dance companies stage performances beyond the theatrical stage, in contexts such as social functions, music videos, film, churches among others. It is worth noting that choreography cannot be complete without the element that constitute dance. As such, companies pay attention to costume, props, movements, accompaniment, theme, and make up during the process of choreography and final performance. The above mentioned elements are used to enhance the aesthetics, kinaesthetics, semiotics, and meaning of the choreographed dances. Further, various dance companies manage the choreographic process distinctively. Whereas some choreographers engage dancers to develop the choreographic concept into movements and later dances, others just teach dancers their already created dances. Modern dance choreography and performance has grown within the entertainment industry and the overall Ugandan economy. As such, trends have emerged that have placed modern dance within a glocal market. The modern dance enterprise has witnessed indigenisation of dance by choreographers in a bid to localize modern dance and give these dances identity. Further, festivals, inter-company collaborations, and international exchange programs have been promoted to enhance technical and professional competencies of modern dance practitioners in the areas of choreography and performance of modern dance, and management of modern dance companies.