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Researcher's renewed focus on role of dance in post-genocide Rwanda

New research on the role of traditional dance in creating a ‘new Rwanda’, as the country recovers from the impact of the 1994 genocide, will be carried out at the University of Roehampton, thanks to a 110,803 Euro grant.

Posted: 27 November 2014

image for news story Researcher's renewed focus on role of dance in post-genocide Rwanda
Dr Carine Plancke, who will be researching traditional Rwandan dancing

Dr Carine Plancke will begin a year-long fellowship at the University, on Monday 1 December. In addition to conducting research at Roehampton’s Dance Department, she will undertake three months of ethnographic fieldwork in the East African country, focussing on one of its most prominent dance troupes. Her work is supported by Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, an EU funding scheme.

The University of Roehampton has an internationally-renowned reputation in this area, and is the only university in the English speaking world to host a master’s qualification in Dance Anthropology.

Situated within the discipline of the anthropology of dance, the project will study the revival of traditional dances in post-genocide Rwanda and how this contributes to the development of a new nation and the creation of a national identity.

While in Rwanda, Dr Plancke will work alongside and perform with Inganzo Ngari, considered to be the best troupe in Kigali, the country’s capital, which regularly performs at government sponsored or related events. This visit builds on her seven months of fieldwork between 2011 and 2013, when she first worked with the company.

She said: “Rwanda’s recent history has been hugely damaging to the country and has raised the need to construct a new, national identity. The revitalisation of traditional dancing contributes to developing this ‘New Rwanda’, which is projected by the government as a unified, modern, resilient and proud nation. The aim of my research is to examine this process as well as the transformations it causes to the dance performances.”

Her study will analyse the creative reconfiguration of the troupe’s repertoire and the way elements from different regions, periods and socio-cultural settings are brought together to present a unified, modern Rwanda.

Attention will also be given to the growing emphasis on the spectacular side of the performance and the increased attention being given to uniformity.

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions fellowships are highly competitive, with fewer than 17 per cent of applications being successful.

Dr Plancke holds a PhD in Social Anthropology and Ethnology from the Ecole Des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and the Catholic University of Leuven, both elite universities. She is an associate researcher at the Laboratoire d'Anthropologie Sociale at the prestigious Collège de France. Since 2008, she has been a member of the Paris-based Rwandan dance troupe Mpore, directed by choreographer Nido Uwera, who was trained in traditional Rwandan dances by the masters of the last royal ballet.

Her mentor during the project is Professor Andrée Grau, a specialist in the Anthropology of Dance and convener of the MA in Dance Anthropology at Roehampton.

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