Duo out to promote dance art among Nairobi slum children

Joseph Gichinga and an acrobat during a recording session. The recorded material is then sent to the children through their gurdians as a way of training. 

Photo credit: Pool | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • In two years, Joseph Gichinga he has been a student, teacher and a performer. 
  • He has been helping in documenting the process of creation, rehearsals and performance in both dance and acrobatics in terms of short videos and pictures.

Two years ago, Joseph Gichinga started a project to teach art to children mainly from the slum areas as a way of equipping them with necessary skills for survival.

This was after he moved from Nakuru to Nairobi under a project dubbed Sarakasi Amani Lazima.

“So I came over to Sarakasi as an acrobatic student having worked with dancers and actors around the country. I wanted to work with acrobats and for this I had to become one, just like I was in dance and acting, the aim being fusing theatre, dance and acrobatics,” said Gichinga.

In the two years, he has been a student, teacher and a performer. He has been helping in documenting the process of creation, rehearsals and performance in both dance and acrobatics in terms of short videos and pictures.

This led to the introduction to “Sarakasi kids” by his coach, John Washika, who allowed him to share his talent with them.

“So in March this year, after the first case of Covid-19 was reported, it was risky for us to continue teaching the over 60 children at the dome, considering that we have some as young as three years old,” he added.

At the children’ home, Gichinga with his coach brainstormed on what they would do to ensure learning continues without risking their health.

Short precise classes

“We first thought of going live online, but this was limited to only those whose parents were available online and considering that most of the children come from slums, it would be difficult,” he said.

They then came up with the idea of recording short precise classes then group their parents into three different WhatsApp groups, beginners, intermediate and advanced level.This was then followed by sending weekly videos on the same topic.

“For example, for handstands, we shoot the different levels then send according to levels. Since the videos are short it is easier to monitor the session. Parents can send questions via text or voice notes then the children are required to do homework and send them to us via the group for assessment so we send corrections and recommendations,” he added.

This worked for them and has since seen children graduate from one level to another while training in the comfort of their homes.

“To us these kids are the future of performing arts. Some performed for the US First Lady Melania Trump and Kenyan First Lady Margret Kenyatta at the National Theatre and currently we have acrobats who are working internationally who are products of the kids program,” he added.

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