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Gumboots in Boston

posted Feb 5, 2013, 9:09 AM by Peter Johannsen   [ updated Feb 14, 2013, 12:19 PM ]
Highly intricate rhythms and harmonies were heard across the Boston area for two weeks in January, as local schools hosted gumboot dancers from the Kliptown Youth Program. The team performed all over Eastern Massachusetts, exchanging our South African culture with many different friends, from those who have visited us in Kliptown to those who only just learned where our beautiful country is!

The visit has been quite an experience, because in all our years working with the Boston community, the KYP dancers have never visited Boston as a group. Hosted by Noble and Greenough School, we have have performed at schools such as Meadowbrook, Weston, Milton Academy, Dana Hall, Groton, Belmont Hill, Dartmouth, Andover, the Frederick Middle School in Boston, and more. Not only are we building relationships with all these schools, we are putting smiles and bringing joy to the whole community of Boston.

“It was amazing to have the KYP Gumboots Dancers help us celebrate Martin Luther King Day,” said Peter Johannsen of the Meadowbrook School. “With our countries’ similar stories of the struggle for equal rights for all people, and with their own great leader, Nelson Mandela, it felt so natural to share the day with them. And after our assembly, the whole school rocked with a gumboots beat!”

Gumboots dance, the distinctively South African art form, embraces the body of an instrument. Dancers sing songs in indigenous African languages while simultaneously stomping their boots, clapping their hands and slapping their shins. Infectious as the flu this season, gumboot dancing or ‘IGUMBOOTS’ as it is called in South Africa, engages audiences completely. Its cadences undulate through their bodies leaving toes tapping, shoulders swaying and hips begging to be released from their polite sitting positions.Not only have we had the chance to share our South African culture, we are also learning a lot about the American culture as our friends host us in their beautiful homes. Though all of us are good English speakers in our community, we can’t fall back on our Zulu, Xhosa, or Sotho with our host families. The food we have eaten, the good resources the schools have, the standard of living of our hosts, and most importantly the excellent quality of the education, keeps most of us thinking: if we had all these, maybe Kliptown would be a better place.Thank you so much to all of our hosts in Boston. Next stop, San Francisco!