Living the Golden Life: DanceAfrica Welcomes Ghana to Brooklyn

Before Abdel R. Salaam traveled to Ghana final fall, he didn’t have deep information of its music and dance traditions. But the nation held a particular affiliation for him relationship again to when Chuck Davis celebrated it at DanceAfrica, the competition he based. It was 1978, the competition’s second 12 months, and Davis’s opening phrases have been a name and response in the Twi language: “Ago! Ame!”

Those phrases refer to the willingness to pay attention, to concentrate. It’s a reminiscence that caught with Salaam, now the competition’s inventive director who this week brings Ghana again to the DanceAfrica stage. After immersing himself in the nation’s tradition — and holding auditions for 21 corporations in several areas — he landed on a title: “Golden Ghana: Adinkra, Ananse and Abusua.”

Before its independence, in 1957, Ghana was often called the Gold Coast. But Salaam was pondering past that. He likens “Golden Ghana” to the thought of “living my life like it’s golden,” as Jill Scott sings. “You want to reach for not just material gold, but the highest level of light,” Salaam stated. “It’s inner light.” (Adinkra relates to symbols linked to the knowledge; Ananse, from folklore, is commonly proven as a spider and is thought for qualities that embrace intelligence and mischievousness; Abusua refers to household.)

The competition’s performances, which start Friday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, function the National Dance Company of Ghana. (DanceAfrica additionally features a movie competition and a full of life bazaar that spills into the streets of Fort Greene.) The firm will current a wealth of conventional works, together with Kete, a chic court docket dance from the Eastern and Ashanti areas instilled with reverence and dignity. The palms and the arms roll and swirl by way of house as if delicately portray the air. As Salaam stated, “It’s gorgeous.”

The nationwide firm, which was shaped in 1962, options dancers from all areas. “You’re getting the best of all the dances,” stated Coco Killingsworth, the vp of artistic social affect at the academy. “We’re getting a taste of all of it.”

While the first half of the program options performances that mix African types with hip-hop and fashionable dance, the second will concentrate on conventional Ghanaian dances. Those embrace Jera, initially created for hunters, through which the dancers put on a pillow connected to their waist that bounces as their footwork quickens. “It looks like a sexual or sensual dance, but it’s not,” stated Stephany Ursula Yamoah, the firm’s inventive director, explaining that the pillow is “to show off their medicines. When you go hunting, you can get hurt. You have to prepare.”

In Tigali, a spiritual dance — it relates to “a prayer or communing with god,” Yamoah stated — a dancer wears a flowing Batakari prime, which floats round as he spins, including extra layers of motion. Atsea, playful and youthful, is a dance for younger ladies with a sole function: to exhibit. It’s quick and energetic; dancers maintain items of horsetail, which they use to lower and slice by way of house with sharp, unified fervor.

For Sohu, primarily based on sacred dances, the firm will likely be joined by members of the BAM Restoration Dance Youth Ensemble. Yamoah and Kofi Anthonio, the Ghanaian firm’s affiliate inventive director, have been impressed with how properly they’d realized the choreography through video. But the act of coming collectively onstage isn’t nearly dancing.

“You need to leave a footprint,” Anthonio stated. “How do you do that with the generation that is coming up, so they can also relate with Ghana?”

“The youth of today need to progress,” he added, “but they need to progress wisely. They need to progress learning from their elders.”

To look ahead, in different phrases, you want to look again, which connects to what Salaam known as the vibrations of Ananse, the spider — its spirit and its internet because it relates to ancestors. Ananse, Yamoah stated, can be a metaphor for knowledge and creativity, in addition to for group and unity. “Is Ananse still relevant in our present age?” she puzzled.

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

It takes intelligence to weave a web: “It needs concentration,” she stated. “It needs technique. It’s very intricate. So this is about the complexities of life. We are all different, but we are woven together.”

The first half of the program seems to that concept of unity with a scene set in a nightclub that honors hip-hop, and options the DanceAfrica Spirit Walkers; later, they’re joined by six Restoration dancers and the nationwide firm performing a Ghanaian model of the Bus Stop, a social line dance.

While in Ghana, Salaam and his colleagues from the Brooklyn Academy didn’t simply examine skilled dancers; they went to golf equipment. Even although they have been exhausted, Killingsworth stated: “I was like, we’re going out. We’re going to do more than the companies, more than the auditions. I definitely had to drag us all out every time we went. But it really paid off.”

Salaam agreed. “We walked into one, and we’re listening to Motown songs sung by a Ghanaian band,” he stated. “And then they flip and they go into their traditional Ghanaian Afrobeat stuff. It was mind blowing.”

At one other membership, it was a salsa night. “And so it was nothing but Ghanaians doing salsa to Eddie Palmieri and that was just mind blowing,” he stated. “So I’m looking at how the diaspora became what it is here and that cross-pollination between how the two sides have fed each other.”

When it comes to DanceAfrica, Killingsworth likes to have a look at the greater image. What might be introduced to Brooklyn from Ghana? “A part of the process of putting the show together was going out at night and seeing this world,” she stated. “It was so much a part of our experience.”

As was watching performances exterior, which is a problem with bringing conventional dance to the proscenium stage. “It’s very exciting to see how it translates,” Killingsworth stated. “It’ll always be a translation. But I think the willingness to try to translate all of what we did and what we experienced is really bold and exciting.”

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