The National Dance Company of Ghana
June 1, New York, New York-- The BAM Howard Gilman Opera House hosted DanceAfrica Festival 2023, entitled Golden Ghana: Adinkra, Ananse, and Abusua. Outdoors, a dynamic and crowded African street fair celebrated the culture and spectacle that would soon appear on stage.
DanceAfrica’s Artistic Director Abdel R. Salaam hosted the National Dance Company of Ghana, the BAM Restoration Dance Youth Ensemble, and the Dance Africa Spirit Walkers.
A two act performance began with Procession. First one drummer and then four more announced a pageantry of dancers, all in glorious costumes, paraded down the aisles from the back, following Candle Bearers in white. Soon children from the BAM Restoration Youth Ensemble pranced, skipped and hopped while honoring the elders, seated in the front row, who were the original founding members of DanceAfrica.
DanceAfrica Spirit Walkers
Memorial: The Living Adinkra, performed by DanceAfrica’s Spirit Walkers, began with a man chanting a prayer to the ancestors, naming predecessors like Chuck Davis and the council of elders before the curtain rose on a god- like bird figure in gold lame’, fanning and flapping elegant wings. This is an Andinkra symbol of the Ashanti proverb “In order to move forward, you must look back.”
Dancers in black manipulating silver canes, enacted the Andinkra Anansi spider figure in insect-like configurations, symbolic of universal magic woven through a web of stories, myths, legends, past and present.
More spider-like dancers arrived, crawling upside down as heavy drumming accompanied three columns of dancers performing hip hop movement. The piece ended with a voiceover reminding us that The Ancestors Live Inside You.
Club New World, honored the 50th Anniversary of Hip Hop. Dancers in colorful street and club clothes were accompanied by Club 77, a brass band with magnificent sax, trombone, and acoustic guitar solos, as well as a female singer, Amma Whatt, who encouraged the audience to get up out of their seats and dance!
Act II featured the National Theater of Ghana’s National Dance Company in Ghanian Traditional Dances. An extravaganza depicting sacred and religious rites, hunting, harvest, social dances, wedding celebrations, warrior dances, liberation and rebirth rituals, were all represented through glorious polyrhythmic drumming and foot pounding.breathtaking costumes, and songs.
Flag bearers waved the US, BAM, Ghanian, and National Theater of Accra flags. The Abisa character dressed in dried raffia grass, symbolizing the Fanti people’s ancestors, flipped and turned somersaults in circus-like fashion, adding humor and flamboyance to a full showcase of long established, and revered dances depicting the history and beliefs of this west African society and its diaspora.
This invigorating African dance celebration ended with the entire ensemble
on stage as Abdel R. Salaam paid homage to all contributors in the Finale.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Mary Seidman