DanceAfrica showcases Ghanaian dance through traditional and contemporary lenses
This May BAM’s DanceAfrica Festival will celebrate the artistic vitality and revolutionary history of Ghana, through dance, music, and community. Under the artistic direction of Abdel R. Salaam, DanceAfrica 2023 Golden Ghana: Adinkra, Ananse, and Abusua program features one of Ghana’s best and most internationally known dance companies, The National Theater of Ghana’s National Dance Company (National Dance Company of Ghana), long held traditional programs including the Memorial Tribute to the Ancestors and Elders, and several related programs to illuminate a country that became a continental trailblazer, being the first sub-Saharan African country along the path to freedom.
After Ghana gained independence in 1957, the country’s first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, recognized the power of the arts, including dance, to unify the new nation. He believed the cultural emancipation of Ghana, and ultimately Africa, was linked to their traditional arts. The National Theater of Ghana’s National Dance Company was founded in 1962, with support from President Nkrumah, as an experiment between Ghana’s education and government systems to promote Ghanaian culture and national unity through dance. Formed with the mission to create a program to showcase the cultural wealth of Ghana’s many different regions, the company has become a global ambassador for Ghanaian culture.
The company will make its BAM debut and perform traditional Ghanaian dances and music, including the royal court dance kete and fontomfrom drumming, and collaborate with the DanceAfrica Spirit Walkers and BAM/RestorationART Dance Youth Ensemble on stage. To reflect contemporary Ghana, part of the production will take the form of a vibrant club scene, including Ghanaian and Nigerian highlife music performed by the 10-piece ensemble Arkestra Africa with Afropop vocalist Amma Whatt as part of the Opera House show. Lighting design by Al Crawford, set design by Jasiri Kafele, and music and sound design by David Margolin Lawson.
Created in 1977 under the guidance of Founding Elder Chuck Davis, DanceAfrica has evolved into a highly anticipated and high-spirited Memorial Day weekend tradition that brings together the entire community. The month-long celebration is centered around dance performances at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House. It also includes several workshops, the popular outdoor DanceAfrica Bazaar with over 150 vendors selling crafts, food, and fashion, a visual art piece commissioned for DanceAfrica by Pan-African artist Cecilia Lamptey-Botchway, a film series curated by the New York African Film Festival at BAM Rose Cinemas, and a live-music dance party at BAMcafé.
Tickets for the DanceAfrica Festival 2023 performances start at $25 and are on sale now at BAM.org. The Festival runs May 26-29 at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House. For a full schedule of events for the DanceAfrica Festival, visit BAM.org/danceafrica2023.