The past good number of weeks have seen many people stage dance shows with a bias towards traditional African dances - from Nandujja and The Planets at Theatre La Bonita to Flavia Namulindwa’s Cultural Explosion, such troupes have successfully announced that they are more than just introduction and wed-ding ceremonies.
Last weekend, House of Talent, at the National Theatre walked the same journey as they invited the audience to join them serve a taste of Uganda.
It was a show scripted around the life of a child, from a time they are simple innocent kids to when they grow up and get married - but the entire story was threaded in different traditional dances from different parts of the country.
These were dances that defined different cultural practises like initiation to manhood or marriage.
With music direction by Kaz Kasozi, Grace Ibanda’s choreography, it was an impressionable show, the dances especially for the opening show were brilliant, colourful but almost just that.
For a show that promised a journey across Uganda through dance and story - Taste of Uganda fell short - it easily fell into a trap of becoming just any other traditional combo dance show just that this was a prolonged version of things.
It’s not that it was a bad show, it was simply one that took Ugandan’s love for their cultures for granted, one that easily refused to think out of the box and aimlessly presented us dance without a purpose.
Of course, there was a purported story, it is just that it was a weak one, it failed to convince us to stick with it and neither did it build a character or characters - thus we kept moving from one dance routine to another and yet only a few of these routines were explained.
But this is not just a problem of House of Talent, it is a trap that many traditional music dance troupes have found themselves in as they make transitions from twenty minute wedding or introduction ceremony routines to full shows, they tend to transport the gardens experience to the stage forgetting that people probably come to auditoriums to seek more than a group of girls gyrating with animal skins on the waist.
In other words, the production didn’t at any one time divorce from the formula of giving us divided groups of dancers either doing the same thing or in conversation, thus, not at anyone time did the production show us a new thing like a traditional solo dance or solo song performance.
And for a show celebrating the taste of Uganda, those subtle karaoke performances were a big insult considering a fact that the country is gifted with such musical instruments like the akogo, ndingidi, magwala and mulere among others.
It is also true the show had a numbers issue, it was like all the time as it went on, there were about ten and above active people on stage which most of the times created confusion for a viewer.
But of course the show had its positives, for instance, they tried to explain many of the dances they presented and also tried to pre-sent some rare dances that many people may have forgotten existed.
The show as many other shows ended with a Kiganda routine of bakisimba, which the group seemed to do effortlessly with little flaws.