Behind the scenes with South Sudanese Dance Crew.
We talked to South Sudanese Dance Crew Richard Ambrose, Deel Wekesa and Kambaya Ambrose about achieving success away from home and what peace means to them.
Are you only three?
Yes, we, but we collaborate with different crews on different projects, that’s why in a lot of our videos we appear to be many.
When did you start dancing and why?
We started dancing in 2010. And our passion for dance is the ‘why’. We only wanted to dance, and that’s the only thing we have done for eight years now.
When you talk about success especially in the African context dancing isn’t one of the things that is thought highly of. Does it pay your bills?
Yes, it does otherwise we wouldn’t have been doing it for eight years, now would we? It comes with challenges though, for example when we dance backup for musicians we are not paid well, and sometimes we are not paid at all. As much as passion doesn’t pay bills – if you do it long enough, whole heartedly and strategically it pays. You learn ways to do be perfect in your trade. Sometimes when you are dancing backup you feel like you are hanging from a peg and a strong wind will blow you away if you don’t hold on strong enough.
What drives you to keep dancing apart from passion?
Dance makes people happy, and we love making people happy. Dance needs a commitment, and it can take you away from so much – especially with young people in South Sudan who seem a little idle – dance can keep them engaged to not think about being rowdy. We want to compete in World of Dance someday. We have only participated in Sakata dance competition. We were top ten in the auditions, and that was an amazing feeling!
How is it practicing your art in another country?
It is hard and easy. We appreciate it especially since the Republic of South Sudan has experienced unrest for the past couple of years. Being here means we have some consistency. But we look forward to the day we can go back home and stay. By stay I mean practice our art there. We were there last year launching Lugara competition, “lugara” means dance. A lot of young people came and there was so much energy and excitement. There were over five hundred young people who joined the competition. Only top three were picked as the winners but we have opened a dance school in Juba that mentor and teach young people how to be good at dancing. This keeps them occupied and for those who want to excel at dancing, we want to help them be amazing at it.
What does peace mean to you as a group or individuals now that we are gearing up to the UN world #PeaceDay, September 21st?
Peace means living in harmony with each other. Peace means we are accommodating each other regardless of our tribes, gender and skin color. We don’t have to love each other to be at peace. With peace, we can agree to disagree. With peace, we have the ability to thrive in our various fields. Right now, I wish I had a place in South Sudan, I would move and start life at home. South Sudan is home, I will never know any other home.
Our leaders should set an example of peaceful coexistence for everyone regardless of tribe. Also, it is not the whole of South Sudan that experiences unrest. It’s different parts of the country, but when it is reported in the news it appears as if the whole country is at war. This is just a one-sided narrative, there are parts of the country that remain peaceful through it all.
Apart from dancing is there something else you do?
No, we just dance.
Any parting shot.
I like that the media is talking peace, peace all the time. The more we talk about peace the more people internalize it and practice it. Gearing up to the World #PeaceDay, September 21st, it is a very good thing that the world is marking this day and more so that the UN has identified peace as a human right!
If our art can bring peace than we will use our talent until peace is achieved. We are opening a dance school in Juba, “Lugara School” it is small but we hope to engage young people in their talent to keep them occupied, and help them earn a living through it if they can, to just keep dancing.