Back in March 2014, our dance program began at the MindLeaps Center in Kigali.  Aboubakar Rutayisire (AKA “Abouba”) was not among the 15 street children collected from the street to attend the program. He knocked at MindLeaps gate two weeks after we had started that cohort.  He said he was looking for a chance to learn dance. He said he heard from other street children that MindLeaps was looking for street children to attend dance classes.  He was told by MindLeaps security guard that the registration was over but there is a chance that next year he could join. Abouba didn’t lose hope.  He kept coming to MindLeaps Center to make sure he hadn’t missed the opportunity to join the next group of street children dancers.

In 2015, Abouba was in the second group of 30 street kids who registered for the MindLeaps program. He was excited since the first day, and until now, every visitor who comes to the MindLeaps Center can see how much Abouba loves dance. His pirouettes are particularly impressive!

In my conversation with Abouba, he told me that it took him one year to be able to turn on one leg. According to his mother, Abouba dropped out of school a few days after he started first grade. She never thought her son could be able to learn anything. Abouba was not interested in school. He told me that dance is the only activity that makes him happy. He added that, in dance, he doesn’t need to learn mathematics or any other related field.

In 2017, Abouba was given a great opportunity to attend Teacher Training for new dance instructors at MindLeaps Center.  This training was led by Carlos Soler and Chase Johnsey from Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.  Only two MindLeaps students were allowed to attend this training with our adult instructors. Even Abouba’s mother was very impressed and proud that her son was chosen. Abouba now identifies himself as a “dancer” – not a “street child”.

Something amazing happened in that training. Chase found a way to interest Abouba in learning English. For the first time, Abouba expressed a desire to go to school!  Our team realized that the more Abouba performs well in dance, the more he will understand that going back to school is important if he wants to become a professional.

Sometimes I stop and think: there is no limit to the power of dance…or “dance education”.

Eugene Dushime is the Country Director for MindLeaps Rwanda.