Meet Pacifique, assistant dance instructor at the MindLeaps center in Kigali, Rwanda. He is known to his friends as Passy, and to see his buoyant energy as he moves, is to instantly understand his deep love of dance. Watching Passy, you can feel the transformative power of art and education. But what is his personal story?
In 2015, Passy was spending his days roaming the streets, looking for odd jobs, having dropped out of primary school two years before. He was aimless, living day to day. He had heard about MindLeaps from some kids on the street and was curious enough to join the program. At first, he found it difficult. The dance classes required a lot of energy and focus – something not easy for him. A big change came when he saw dancers performing at the Ubumuntu Arts Festival. The festival takes place every July and marks the anniversary of the end of the 1994 Genocide, celebrating healing, peace and community. Watching the dancers, he was struck by the power of dance to tell stories. He began to see dance as a creative process, and began to enjoy the energy and commitment it took.
Life on the street had been about competition for survival – not about cooperation and collaboration. One of the first things Passy learned at MindLeaps was how to work together with others. When he started dancing, he didn’t enjoy choreographing in groups and stubbornly stuck to his own ideas. Over time, however, he began to recognize how valuable the input of others was when creating together. He became better able to share ideas, collaborate and respect the people around him. His reward was a deep sense of belonging and community.
Passy fell in love with dance and realized his goal was to become a dance teacher himself. He knew he needed to continue his education to achieve his dream, and at MindLeaps he had developed the confidence, determination and perseverance to return to school. He entered Primary 6 and is now preparing for the government exam that marks the end of primary school. Though still training in dance for several hours a day, he attends school and tutoring sessions to ensure his success.
Passy’s ambition is to become a certified MindLeaps trainer. He wants to give other kids the opportunity to learn from the MindLeaps program like he did, to mentor them and encourage them to believe in their own ability to mold a better life for themselves.
The future has opened up for Passy, as he now works toward his goal of becoming a trainer, and dances with the MindLeaps Performance Group. He has had the chance to grow through working with trainers from all over Africa and meeting dancers with different backgrounds and talents. As Passy performed with MindLeaps’ international trainers at this year’s Ubumuntu Arts Festival, there was no doubt about his passion for communicating through dance, and how this passion has changed his life.
The impact of the MindLeaps program on children’s lives continues to attract the involvement of professionals in the dance world. In August of this year, Hope Easterbrook, a hip hop dancer from the Broadway cast of Hamilton, visited the MindLeaps center in Kigali and led hip hop classes. The classes were exciting for all, and as Hope summed it up, “These kids can move, let me tell you. I’m thrilled to be here!”
Passy (in the black tshirt)during teacher training
International Artists Fund Dancer Hope Easterbrook