In its 5th year, Dance Life Festival is back at the Goethe Institute. Created by Adam Chienjo, a contemporary dancer, poet and emerging choreographer from Nairobi, in partnership with the Goethe Institute.

The Dance Life Festival was founded to give the rising dance scene in Nairobi a new stage to share, connect and reinvent the local dance practice. 

The aim of the festival is to build a hub for the dance world of East African, creating more space to experiment and to develop new pieces, especially through international cooperations.

For me, dance has always been a lifestyle. It is a career. I teach and I critique. It’s like breathing because every culture has dance. Dance can be used in many ways. It is therapy in that it helps express things that you cannot verbalise. Dance is a vocabulary of movement that is easy to use because it is relatable

– Adam Chienjo

This year the festival will take place on the evenings of 13 & 14 July and the Goethe Institut has just released the programme with performances from Germany, Tanzania, and 3 special commissions from Nairobi, Kisumu and Tana River.

The programme entails 6 dance pieces plus two musical performances. The festival kicks off with “On the Shores of the Lake” performed by guest troupe from Germany, Forward Dance Company. Dancers with different backgrounds and physicalities will engage with the themes of one of the most famous works of classical ballet: Swan Lake, which can be seen to be representative of ballet’s idealised body image and our expectations of what dance should look like. 

The differently abled dancers of Forward Dance weave their own experiences and voices into the performance. They humorously and playfully question what is considered ’normal’ or ‘beautiful’, whilst taking ownership of Swan Lake’s history and writing themselves into it.

Moving on stage as a flock, sometimes harmoniously side by side, other times dispersing and swarming apart, they find their way individually, yet remain connected.

African Roots Dance Group, a dynamic quartet of Tanzanian dancers, use storytelling as a catalyst for social awareness in three separate pieces plus a dance film. “Madaraka Addresses” takes on leadership issues, rather relevant today, while “Connect” celebrates our shared humanity. In the solo “Ujana na Tamaa,” they explore the impatience of youth in pursuit of success. “Akiba Haozi” becomes a mesmerizing dance film. Through their works they’re on a mission to foster change, enlighten hearts, and honor the essence of Africa through the transformative power of dance.

NYAWAWASpirits of the Lake by Paul Muiruri looks to be a fascinating exploration of the phenomenon of spirits of the dead, believed to originate from the Lake, and of the cultural practices involving household instruments implored to ward off these spirits.

See Also

MA’ADHA by Jackson Atulo takes a journey through some of the traditional rituals within the Pokomo community from Coastal region, shining a spotlight on the rituals that take place in different stages of life within its community, from child conception and birth, naming, through initiation into young adulthood and custom marriages as well as traditional healing sessions, iconic symbols of passage from one stage of life to the other. 

KIKE by Marion Munga will explore conversations in, of, and around the womb.

Have you heard of the Tanzanian ruler who used bees to protect her land from colonial forces? Litti Kidanka is the inspiration behind Ian Mwaisunga’s latest contemporary dance piece FROZEN POWER, flavored with Tanzania’s unique Taarab and urban music styles. Weaponized bees, treachery, and fatal seduction make up this epic tale of one woman’s fight to keep her land in the hands of her people.

Interspersed between the dance performances will be live music. Ambasa Mandela, singer, songwriter, and musician renowned for his unique and powerful voice, the message in his music, and his high energy, will play on Saturday.

Between Sunday’s dance pieces, we are treated to a performance by Akoth Jumadi, whose music defies classification by drawing on diverse roots, sometimes giving Benga and others pure ethereality. 

Performances will take place at the Kenya National Theatre and no tickets are necessary – just show up and be immersed in the flow of rhythm and movement!