Instruments such as the embuutu drum and the kora, a 21 string harp-lute, were strewn across the stage of the Monroe County Public Library before the Dance of Hope performance Thursday evening.
Dance of Hope is a music and dance group comprised of Ugandan children, most of whom live in the M-LISADA orphanage in Kampala, Uganda. They visited Bloomington as part of their first U.S. tour.
In the atrium of the library auditorium, DOH sold brightly colored beaded necklaces, leather sandals and hand drums. Members of DOH made the items. The proceeds of the sales will fund the construction of a new children's center back in Kampala, Uganda.
Seating quickly filled. Audience members who did not arrive early stood on the stairs and in the aisles of the MCPL auditorium. Young children joined their parents and grandparents in the crowd.
Sunni Fass, executive director of the Bloomington Lotus Education and Arts Foundation, took the stage to thank the many donors that made the Lotus Blossoms Educational Outreach Program performance possible and free. Fass described the Bloomington families who had housed the children from DOH during their stay in Bloomington.
“The host families and children have made incredible friendships that will last a lifetime,” Fass said.
First to join the stage was a young woman dressed in a multi-colored grass skirt layered atop a bright red skirt. The 15-year-old introduced herself as Sylvia. She told the audience the M-LISADA orphanage is where DOH was born.
“Music has brought us together and made us a family,” Sylvia said.
The show began with Samuel Malangira, lead singer and instrumentalist, dressed in a white linen shirt with green, gold and red embroidered embellishments. He began by plucking a melody on the kora, a 21 string harp-lute, and singing in a deep voice. Soon a young man joined him on stage to play a baseline on the adungu, a string harp native to Northern Uganda.
During the same song, five girls dressed in colorful grass skirts swayed onto the stage. Their sandals and bell anklets provided a percussive element to the song. After their entrance, four boys danced onto the stage wearing golden crowns and leg warmers made from small bead-filled gourds to add another layer to the percussion section.
The girls gathered around two microphones to sing along with Malangira and the boys sat down to play drums. The song ended in a flurry of shaking grass skirts, pounding drums and the steady baseline of the adungu.
Malangira wrote this song called, “My Child.” It is about a father who has not been able to see his son in many years and is feeling sick and sad about this separation, Malangira said.
Next, the group played a song called, “Thank You,” also written by Malangira. This song included call and response between Malangira and the girls and fast footwork and clapping from the dancers. The audience was clapping along by the end of the song and cheering for the speed of the jumping and stepping from the female dancers.
For the third song, Malangira and the dancers invited the children from the audience to sing and dance on stage. Malangira taught the audience members a simple dance move that included stepping backward and forward. The children smiled and laughed as they jumped and sang into the microphone.
For the final song, Malangira took the position of conductor and pointed to each section of the group to signal their part of the song. The group sang, “Fire burning in my soul,” as the adungu player provided a baseline and an enormous smile. The four young boys took center stage with ensassi gourd shakers. They leapt from one foot to the other and spun while rhythmically shaking the gourds.
After this song, the group took hands and bowed before a standing ovation. The stage was littered with instruments and the costumes' hues were every color of the rainbow. Bosco Segawa, founder of the M-LISADA orphanage thanked the audience and the host families from Bloomington. Sylvia also thanked the audience.
“Please continue to support us,” Sylvia said. “This dance is for joy.”
A photo caption incorrectly spelled the name of lead singer and instrumentalist Samuel Malangira. The IDS regrets its error.