Contemporary Dance

The GoDown played a pivotal role in the formal development of contemporary dance during its nascency in Kenya. Our space offered dancers the opportunity to explore the artform and its nuances, to network with dance companies from outside Kenya, and the rehearsal and performance spaces in which to showcase their work.   

The GoDown hosted numerous editions of The Dance Encounters under the artistic direction of the award winning Opiyo Okach, Kenya’s first international contemporary dancer/choreographer. The successful first edition named “Retracing Connections”, brought together dancers and choreographers from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, the DRC, Madagascar, South Africa, and Italy.  

The second equally successful edition, “Encoding Identities” brought dancers from even further afield in 2005. These included the renowned Salia & Seydou from Burkina Faso, Ketly Noel the Mailan of Haitian origin, and South Africa’s Boyzie Cekwana.

emerging East African choreography was represented by Juliet Omolo, James Mweu, Lailah Masiga and Neema Bagamuhunda from Kenya, Roger Masaba from Uganda, and Alloyce Makonde with Mionzi from Tanzania. Italian Raffaella Giordano and Quebecoise Melanie Demers also participated in the 2-week long affair. 

The Dance Encounters were initiated by Opiyo’s Gaara (His Compagnie Gaara was co-founded with the DRC’s Faustin Linyenkula, and Ethiopian Afrah Tenambergen) and held in collaboration with The GoDown and Alliance Française - Nairobi. They were a season of performances, workshops and exchanges offering a time for choreographers, dancers, administrators, and technicians to question performance, confront and exchange ideas and share their creativity with a growing audience.  

In 2005, The GoDown also hosted “Dance Traffic”, a continuing series of exchanges between Kenyan and Russian dancers, led by Philip Arnoult and The Centre for International Theatre Development (then also housed at The GoDown). 

We gave early support to the Dance Forum Nairobi program through which students worked with various contemporary dance professionals including Aloyce Makonde, an engagement which saw the students take a trip to Tanzania for the Visa to Dance Festival in October 2010.  We also hosted Dance into Space, a mixed ability dance company, and worked with Kisumu based YAWA Contemporary Dance Group in promoting dance workshops and performances.  

In October 2010, The American Embassy facilitated Carmen Nicole Smith from The Battery Dance Company in New York hold a three-day dance workshop with 15 contemporary dancers from Bone Marrow, Nairobi in one of the dance spaces at The GoDown.