Hip hop for hope with Poppin’ Chris. Helping street kids dance their way to change

We speak to Chris Hirwa, known as Poppin’ Chris, the Rwandese hip hop dancer who uses his art to improve the lives of orphans and street kids.

Chris Hirwa is an Afro-poppin’ specialist, in other words he brings an Afro touch to the popping dance, a street dance based on fast muscle contractions that cause jerks called pops in the body. He isn’t only an incredible dancer, he is one who fighs for a cause. Using the power of hip hop to encourage positive change amongst youth, through dance he helps the most disadvantaged kids get out of the vicious cycles they are living in, taking them off the streets and away from prostitution and drugs.

“Dancing can take us to a whole other level. I want these kids to get there too, to stop doing all these bad things” Hirwa explains. He travels twice a week around the Rwandese capital Kigali’s orphanages to teach hip hop to children, also wanting to involve more girls since there are very few in the industry. He calls this “hip hop for hope”.


“Becoming a professional dancer isn’t easy”, Poppin’ Chris says, “it requires intensive practice, so many give up”. Opportunities are also scarce. In fact, starting off wasn’t easy for Hirwa: in the beginning of his career he often performed for free just to get his name known.

Times have changed though. These days Poppin’ Chris and Krest Crew, the crew he founded in 2011, have a good local following, perform at events and have their video clips shown on TV. However, there is still work to be done because “the first rule for a hip hop dancer is to be perfect!”, according to Hirwa.


The Afro-Poppin' Specialist, Chris Hiwa © Sarine Arslanian
The Afro-Poppin’ specialist Chris Hirwa © Sarine Arslanian


He will fight hard to put hip hop on Rwanda’s map, and put his country on the hip hop one. He dreams of touring the world to develop his creative skills and, especially, show that Rwanda is home to incredible talent and creativity. Let’s share this and other inspiring stories coming out of Africa using the hashtag #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou.

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