A Meeting Of Cultures Through A Shared Value Of Dance
They Dance For Rain is an dance-making project that works with arts-for-social-change organizations in urban Nairobi, Kenya. We bring Tap shoes and the art form of Tap Dance to people with an interest and need for this unique kind of artistic self-expression. We bring hoops to dance with and teach others the skills of making long-lasting dance hoops. We bring visibility to an otherwise unrepresented population of slum and ghetto dancers and dwellers through photography and film.
In this area of the world, Tap Dance is still quite young and the eagerness to learn it is immense. Through this continuing global exchange of artistic dialogue They Dance For Rain inspires a new generation of Tap Dancers. These dancers will innovate the form through use of their own culturally distinctive ideas and styles.
They Dance For Rain is created and directed by action-based dance artist Stefanie Weber in collaboration with fine art photographer Monika Pizzichemi.
The project began on January 3rd 2012 when I travelled to Nairobi, Kenya, under the sponsorship of a friend living and working there whom I met in New Hampshire during a term of service we shared in Americorps in the mid-90s. She went on to pursue a career of international service while I focused on my profession as an action-based dance artist.
While in Nairobi that first time, I worked with Kenyan musician Eric Wainaina in creating connections with grassroots art-for-social-change organizations ACREF, VOCAL and SARAKASI who were interested in adding Tap Dance to their programming. I taught workshops in Rhythm Tap and shared Tap shoes, leaving some behind for them. I also introduced some of them to Hoop Dance.
During my second residency in Nairobi (Dec/Jan 2013), I brought professional photographer and artist Monika Pizzichemi along to artfully document and expand the project’s reach and goals. We also added two more stops on our outreach trail. First, Shangilia, a very well-established rescue center for children on the streets with a focus on performing arts as the core value in strengthening the community. Secondly, GoDown Arts Center a lively center for creatives which under the direction and collaboration of Nairobi- based dance artists Sara Kwala Opondo and Adams Lucas hosted a series of Tap Dance workshops with professional contemporary dancers that I led. We also brought hoop-making materials to ACREF and had the pleasure of training them in making their own durable and colorful hoops to dance with and sell.
Monika and I had the pleasure and the challenge to return to Nairobi for another residency this winter (Dec/Jan 2014) and get in deeper with the groups we work with and strategize further on making the project more sustainable. (Check back for a more updates and images from our most recent residency.)
This project, which started with a small crowd-funding campaign in December 2011, has already produced an enthusiasm for Tap Dance in the Nairobi art and social-change scene way beyond anything I would have expected. Success has been measured in a number of ways: capturing thousands of artful and engaging images that inspire, donating over 50 pairs of Tap shoes to individuals who studied Tap and will continue to share with each other and pass along to others in need, introducing established dance artists to the possibilities inherent in an art-form such as Tap Dance, witnessing dozens of smiling faces, connecting youth to new options for expression, dialogue and employment, and listening and documenting the stories of courageous dance makers.
Art and Dance making is one way in which we take care of each other. The goal is to continue to develop and deepen the relationships with the organizations and artists we have started this journey with and increase the amount of intentional art and dance making in our widening circle with the knowledge that all circles somehow overlap and effect one another.
Dance is valuable. Countless generations in most cultures close to their indigenous roots understand this and have used (and continue to use) dance for functional, ceremonial, political, creative and occupational purposes. We want to engage with the cultures that recognize and appreciate the need for dance in our everyday lives by sharing our passion, knowledge and skill for the American vernacular art form of Tap Dance and when possible the contemporary, accessible and joyful practice of Hoop Dance. These two forms are not as widely practiced in many undeveloped areas of the world and already proven to be welcome activities during times of extreme insufficiency where all forms of dance are needed to lift spirits, bring hope and inspire change. By including artful photography (and video) in this project, we further increase visibility, community engagement and cooperation. Collaborating with artists across genres (visual and performing) helps to strengthen bonds and limit narrow vision.
Add your moves to this dance. In order to keep this project alive and growing, participation by those in our community-at-large is imperative. Since Dec 2011, I have raised enough funds to get this project off the ground. We still have expenses to to cover that include: transporting suitcases of (donated) tap shoes and hoops from the US to Kenya by air, ground transportation while in Nairobi, and now photo printing and travel expenses for a touring exhibit of images throughout Tap Festivals nationwide to gain even more support. Our lodging in Nairobi has been donated and we always seek out the most cost-effective means of getting the work done but the project is shifting and we will need to purchase our own lodging in the future.
We have a thorough set of goals to work on for our return Fall of 2014 and onward.
Please check back for more updated information.
Can you give something to this project?
What you would spend for a tap class? a hoola hoop? a ticket to a show? or more?
Can you donate a pair of used tap shoes?
Can you direct us to further funding sources?
For any amount $50 and above become a tap shoe sponsor and receive a photo
We use your hard-earned donation to represent with dignity, inspiration and love.
Your spirit of giving accompanies us on this journey and will touch those we are lucky to reach out to.
Make the movement bigger.
Please share the information about this project with the people in your lives who may want to support it.
Every dollar and idea is significant and helpful.
They dance for rain and we too dance because we must. Let’s dance together.
The truest expression of a people is in its dance and in its music. Bodies never lie. -Agnes de Mille
as of January 1, 2014