NAfro celebrates 20 years of multicultural movement Dance troupe marks milestone with four-day festival

Casimiro Nhussi was never interested in dance. Dance just was.

Read this article for free:


Already have an account? Log in here »

To continue reading, please subscribe:

Monthly Digital Subscription

$4.75 per week*

  • Enjoy unlimited reading on
  • Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
  • Access News Break, our award-winning app
  • Play interactive puzzles

*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.

Casimiro Nhussi was never interested in dance. Dance just was.

“I come from a family of dancers, a family of artists,” says the founder and artistic director of Winnipeg’s NAfro Dance Productions, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this week. “I learned dancing from my grandpa, from my elders in my village.”

Dance preview

Moving Inspirations Dance Festival
● Gas Station Arts Centre, 445 River Ave.
● Wednedsay to Saturday, various times
● Tickets $30 plus fees at

Nhussi is from Mozambique and grew up in a community where dance and drumming were both ceremonial and part of everyday life. As a young man, he moved to New York to attend the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre school — an intensive professional program that laid the groundwork for Nhussi’s career as a performer and choreographer.

He returned home and became the artistic director of the Mozambique National Song and Dance Company before moving to Canada with his Winnipeg-born wife in 1997.

The move came with a timeline: if he could establish a dance career on the Prairies within two years, the family would stay. If not, they’d move on.

It’s safe to say he found his audience.

When he arrived, Nhussi surveyed the local dance scene and found it lacking in variety and diversity — at least at the professional level. He started presenting African contemporary dance, a style he specialized in, as a solo artist and launched NAfro as a company in 2002.

Incorporating made it easier to secure funding from arts organizations and created opportunities to host exchanges with dancers and companies from around the world.

“I wanted to create this company that presents work that is multicultural,” Nhussi says. “Contemporary (dance) that has cultural traditions of ethnic groups of the world — for NAfro Dance, that was the goal.”

Over the last 20 years, the company has grown to include nine professional dancers and 10 musicians. Live music is a major part of the company’s live performances and ethos.

“It has to do with the culture and the way I come from,” says Nhussi, who is also a recording artist with several Western Canadian Music Award nominations to his name. “I hear the drums, I move the body; there’s no separation between one and the other.”

To mark its milestone anniversary, NAfro is hosting a four-day celebration at the Gas Station Arts Centre this week, called the Moving Inspirations Dance Festival and Symposium. The event will welcome 25 local and national dance companies, as well as groups from Egypt, France, Rwanda and South Africa.

“When it’s a birthday, you call your friends,” Nhussi says with a laugh.

The festivities kick off Wednesday night with a gala party and performance of NAfro’s original dance piece, Shuni. The show is inspired by the lives and personalities of birds — a subject that piqued Nhussi’s interest and led to a research wormhole. Most of his dances start with a trip to the library.

“Before I create a piece, I have a subject and then I do a lot of research,” Nhussi says. “I have to research because I don’t want to be lying.”

Last week, the company was at the Gas Station daily rehearsing for the upcoming show. Shuni features group and solo dances full of bird-like movements: flipping, fluttering, bobbing and chirping. Audience participation is a mainstay with NAfro and ticketholders will be invited to join a group drumming session during the performance.

The Moving Inspirations lineup includes daily evening performances, classes for professional dancers and discussions about issues impacting the global dance community.

Nhussi is looking forward to welcoming dancers from around the world and celebrating the community he’s built around African dance in Winnipeg.

“I’m pleased that we’re still standing, and standing tall,” he says, adding that the next goal is to secure permanent studio space to expand NAfro’s recreational and professional dance training programs. “I’m happy that we made it to 20 and we’re gonna make it to 30; we’ll just keep going.”

Visit for tickets and a full schedule of events.

Twitter: @evawasney

If you value coverage of Manitoba’s arts scene, help us do more.
Your contribution of $10, $25 or more will allow the Free Press to deepen our reporting on theatre, dance, music and galleries while also ensuring the broadest possible audience can access our arts journalism.
BECOME AN ARTS JOURNALISM SUPPORTER Click here to learn more about the project.

Eva Wasney

Eva Wasney
Arts Reporter

Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.


Updated on Tuesday, November 1, 2022 8:43 AM CDT: Adds related post.

Report Error Submit a Tip