Traditional dance is a cultural mainstay in Africa, and an important component of the social fabric of over 40 ethnic groups across Uganda – it even forms a key component of primary school education. Despite this importance, efforts to preserve and develop traditional African dance as a part of this fabric are increasingly at risk, as evidenced by the following:
- Popular dance shows and competitions in Uganda are featuring generic urban dances styles from abroad;
- the Makerere University Dance department, with a mandate to continue the work of the primary school dance curriculum to the professional level, currently has less than five students majoring in the Bachelor of Dance programme;
- in 2012, UNESCO listed Busoga’s Bigwala dance on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, due to there being only four living practitioners of the dance;
- Over 200 established young people making a living as dancers, using imported international urban styles, and incorporating little or none of what they learned through their traditional dance education.
Batalo East was formed on the basis of building a bridge between traditional and urban dance, encouraging young people and dancers to value and incorporate traditional African art forms into their lives and artistry, alongside their development as global citizens and artists on the international stage.
Batalo East is a not-for‐profit company limited by guarantee and registered in Uganda in 2013. It is composed of some of the members of Tabu Flo Dance Company, Breakdance Project Uganda (BPU) and other freelance dance organizations who are committed to the idea of bringing traditional and urban dances together in order to preserve and develop African cultural heritage.
Develop world-class urban and traditional dancers through the provision of quality traditional dance education to urban dancers and young people in Uganda and the region.
Form a conducive and open space for dancers and young people to practice and experiment with urban and traditional dance styles in a safe and constructive environment.
Establish a professional network linking Ugandan dancers and interested young people with regional and international expertise, collaboration and performance possibilities, promoting excellence and innovation in traditional and urban fusion dance.
Fighting cultural extinction, traditional dances and crafts added to UN list of intangible heritage. UN News. Accessed on 1 May 2014 at http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43672#.U2PqAzl1Pdl.