With a deep, resounding voice, a playful facial expression, and a powerful physical presence, eighteen year-old Sessie Agbley filled the cafeteria with excitement as he led his dance troupe onto the wooden stage. The spindly eleven-year-olds in giant boots kept pace with the muscular older teens. They sang, chanted, and yelled in English, Portuguese, Changana, and Zulu. Many of the dancers are from Maputo; others come from all over the world.
Agbley is a senior at the American International School of Mozambique (AISM), busy with school, sports and drama. But after his experience at last year’s Interschool Music & Theatre Workshop, he says he would spend any amount of time dancing with the energetic local teenagers.
The gumboots and cultural dance group Agbley directed was certainly the show-stopper, but was only one of six dynamic workshop ensembles at this event, held at AISM in February. Over one hundred and fifty students from eight different private and public schools in Maputo participated. The ensembles were formed at the start of the event, with the school delegations divided up to ensure a diverse mixture in each ensemble.
On Sunday, the groups came together to present an afternoon of multicultural performances: a play based on an Angolan story performed in Portuguese, English, French and Mozambican sign language, with a brief musical clip from Michael Jackson; dances from Mozambique, South Africa, Israel, Canada, Germany, and Romania; choral pieces from Zambia, Swaziland, South Africa and the U.S; and a demonstration of the Afro-Brazilian martial art of Capoeira.
Local students from two large, public high schools and the special school for the deaf were eager to return for the second annual event. An exciting addition this year was a youth dance group from the bairro immediately bordering AISM. This was an important part of the school's ongoing attempt to build a relationship with the neighboring community through a variety of student-led projects.
Students from all of the schools were excited to meet peers from different parts of the community. “[I liked] the exchange and the fact that each student felt included and had fun,” said one student, a seventeen-year-old attending Polana High School, in Portuguese. “I had a chance to learn from those I didn't know and to show them a little that I do know.”