We arrived just as the music started and a quartet of young African men strode on to the stage dressed in simple white vests and red shorts. We took our seats in the open-air theatre under the stars and watched the dance show unfold before us.
Sweat glistening on their muscles, the dancers flexed and snapped their bodies in time to the beat, a fusion of traditional African music and hip-hop. A feat of physical strength, the hour-long show kept the audience mesmerised, entranced by the rapid movements of the dancers.
The music stopped but the dancers continued, dancing then to the sound of their own voices, communicating both in sharp shouts and gentle whispers. Each dancer performed in their own style, giving spectacular solo performances, as well as a tight cohesion between all four with perfectly synchronised moves keeping the dance flowing from one move to the next with impeccable precision.
At the end of the show the group ‘Tchado Star’ invited the choreographer Taïgué Ahmed to join them on stage to a roar of applause. It was the first time I had seen any show like it, and the first time I had even heard of Taïgué, but I am sure it will not be the last.
Taïgué narrowly escaped being recruited as a child soldier during the internal conflict in Chad. His quick-thinking mother disguised him as a girl, and the rebel soldier groups that came to his home simply passed by. But later forced to serve as a soldier in the Chadian army at the age of 22, the civil wars left their mark, and it was through dance that Taïgué found a way to cope with the fear and trauma.
Since 2007 Taïgué has worked in the refugee camps in Chad using dance as a means to restore dignity to the refugees, forgetting the pain of war and bringing something positive to their lives. He also uses dance to spread messages of health and hygiene practices, education promotion and HIV/AIDs.
Through his collaboration with African Artists for Development, Taïgué has developed a programme ‘Refugees on the Move’ linking dancers with refugees, his vision of restoring dignity and hope to displaced people across the region. A dream of creating an ‘inter-ethnic movement’ of dance is crossing borders and boundaries to restore broken people.