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Dance in Kibera: How Muanzo Mpya is Giving Children the Outlet of Creativity

An integral yet overlooked element of life, dance is a practice of self-expression, a form of exercise, and a way to build community. In Kibera, dance brings joy and excitement to the committed youth, however, the monetary strain for families often results in youth stopping dance and makes the creation of an official dance program challenging. Through coordination with volunteers, contributors, and Kiberan community members, Muanzo Mpya has initiated a dance program open to the entire community. Dance uniforms are provided to all participants and classes are taught by others with a passion for the art. The volunteer teachers have now formed their own dance troupe, and have selected members from Kiberans that participate in dance. In a conversation with @lookuptvofficial, the teachers discussed the selection process and how they choose dancers who not only hold a talent and passion for dance, but those who also have a desire to speak and share their stories with the world.

This intense love for dance has been prominent among Kiberan youth and adults alike for many years. In cooperation with Anno’s Africa, the Kibera Ballet School was founded in the early 2000s. This program allows children to s their inner creativity and provides them with an artistic outlet. It also offers direction and routine youth who may be lacking discipline. According to a report by Caroline Ross regarding the intersection of art and public safety, “Research suggests that arts education contributes to the development of cognitive processes and prosocial skills that are especially significant for justice-involved or high-risk populations (Yahner et al. 2015).” In a population with a rate of roughly 50% unemployment, the youth are at a high risk to engage in criminal activity. By providing structure to their days through artistic extracurriculars, like dance, there is an alternative to violence and illegal activities. In addition to the high levels of unemployment, drugs and alcohol also negatively impact the youth in Kibera. Easily accessible illicit substances can increase the risk of addiction and harm the progress of education.

The introduction of dance and other artistic pursuits in Kibera presents Kibera’s youth with a different path than criminal activity and drug use. Dance gives students a way to improve social-emotional skills, be creative, and gives them an opportunity to improve their future and alter the state of their community.


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