Living the Golden Life: DanceAfrica Welcomes Ghana to Brooklyn

Abdel R. Salaam did not have a deep knowledge of Ghana’s music and dance traditions until he visited Ghana last fall. But the country dates back to when Chuck Davis celebrated it at the festival he founded, Dance Africa, and held a special association for him. It was his 1978, his second year at the festival, and Davis’ opening words were call-and-response in Twi. Candy! “

These words express a willingness to listen and pay attention. It’s a haunting memory for Salaam, the artistic director of the festival that will bring Ghana back to the Dance Africa stage this week. Immersed in the culture of the country, in different regions he held auditions for 21 companies before winning the following titles: “Golden Ghana: Adinkra, Ananse and Abu Sua”

Before independence in 1957, Ghana was known as the Gold Coast. But Salaam thought beyond that. He likened “Golden Ghana” to the idea of ​​”living your life like it’s gold,” as sung by Jill Scott. “We want to have the highest level of light, not just physical gold,” Salaam says. “It is the light within.” (Adinkra is associated with symbols associated with wisdom. Ananse in folklore is often shown as a spider and is known for traits that include intelligence and mischief. point.)

The Ghana National Dance Company will perform at the festival, which opens Friday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. (Dance Africa also includes a film festival and a vibrant bazaar that spans the streets of Fort Greene.) The company is known for its kete, elegant court dances from the Eastern and Ashanti regions imbued with respect and dignity. We will present a wealth of traditional works, including Hands and arms roll and swirl through space, as if delicately drawing the air. As Salaam said, “It’s gorgeous.”

Founded in 1962, this national company attracts dancers from all regions. “You’re getting the best of all dances,” said Coco Killingsworth, the academy’s vice president of creative and social impact. “We taste it all.”

The first half of the program will feature performances that combine African styles with hip-hop and modern dance, while the second half will focus on traditional Ghanaian dance. Among them is Gela, originally made for hunters. In this dance, the dancer wears a pillow attached to her waist that bounces off her as her footwork speeds up. “It looks like a sexual or sensual dance, but it’s not,” said the company’s artistic director, Stephanie Ursula-Yamoah, who explained that the pillows were “to show off the drug.” You can get hurt when you go hunting. I have to prepare. “

In the religious dance Tigali, dancers wear flowing batakali tops that float with every turn, adding layers of movement, Yamore said. Cheerful and youthful, Asea is a dance for young women whose sole purpose is to show off. Fast and energetic. The dancers hold shards of horsetail and use them to cut through space with sharp, unified enthusiasm.

Based on sacred dances, Sohu includes members of the BAM Restoration Dance Youth Ensemble. Yamoa and Kofi Antonio, artistic assistant director of a Ghanaian theater company, were impressed with how well they learned the choreography from the video. But the act of uniting on stage is more than just dancing.

“You have to leave your mark,” said Antonio. “How can future generations relate to Ghana?”

“Young people today need to progress,” he added. “But they need to progress wisely. They need to learn from their elders.”

In other words, in order to look forward, one must look back, which connects to the vibration of the spider, which Salaam called Ananse, its mind and web of ancestry. Yamore says Ananse is also a metaphor for wisdom and creativity, as well as community and unity. “Does Ananthe have any meaning in modern times?” she wondered.

“When you say someone weaves a net, someone is a weaver, they have to be creative,” she added. “Ananse is a mathematician, Ananse is a scientist. Everything around us is Ananse.

Weaving a net requires intelligence. “It takes concentration,” she said. “It takes technique. It’s so complicated. This is a story about the complexity of life. We are all different, but we are woven together.”

The first half of the program focuses on the idea of ​​uniting with a nightclub-set scene that celebrates hip-hop and features Dance Africa Spirit Walkers. Then six restorative dancers and a national theater troupe join them to perform Ghana’s version of “Bus Stop”, her dance for social lines.

While in Ghana, Salaam and her colleagues at Brooklyn Academy did more than just study trained dancers. they went to the club Despite their exhaustion, Killingsworth said: I will do more than the company, more than the audition. I had to drag everyone out every time I went. But it really paid off. “

Mr Salaam agreed. “We go in there and listen to Motown songs sung by Ghanaian bands,” he said. “And then they flip over and get into traditional Ghanaian afrobeats. It was shocking.”

It was salsa night at another club. “And it was just a Ghanaian showing salsa to Eddie Palmieri. or I was just amazed,” he said. “So I look at how the diaspora got to where it is and how the two countries have fed each other, their cross-pollination.”

When it comes to Dance Africa, Killingsworth prefers to see the big picture. What can she bring from Ghana to Brooklyn?”Part of the process of putting together the show was going out at night and seeing this world,” she said. “It was part of our experience.”

The same is true for viewing outdoor performances, which is a challenge in bringing traditional dance to the proscenium stage. “It’s very exciting to see how it translates,” Killingsworth said. “It always comes down to translation.

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