Sunday, September 14, 2008
University of Ghana & The Department of Dance Studies
I am privileged to be teaching in the Department of Dance Studies at the University of Ghana-Legon, thirty-two years after I was here as a young student of dance, auditing courses in what then was called the School of Dance, Music, and Drama. Now, I am a respected Fulbright Senior Lecturer of Dance Studies. This transition over time testifies to a lot of hard work, both in Dance-Theater and academia. I have now merged my study of dance and the humanities, and am proud to be sharing my accumulated knowledge with the wonderfully attentive, and respectful students in the Department of Dance Studies.
Gene at Entrance to the School of Performing Arts
The former Department of Dance, Music, and Drama is now the School of Performing Arts, under the auspices of the Institute of African Studies, which has always been the overarching academic unit, established in the 1961. Professor Kwabena Nketia, the respected ethnomusicologist, started the Music and Related Arts Section of the Institute at the beginning, and it was that unit that involved into the current School, with fully accredited Departments in Dance, Music, and Theatre. This academic program remains a model in the attempts during postcolonial times to regain a sense of cultural integrity and to ensure conservation of indigenous African culture.
Inspiring Campus Statue of African Graduates in front of Balme Libraray
Headed by Professor, Oh! Nii Sowah (a graduate of UC Irvine's MFA in Dance), the Department of Dance Studies consists of a BA, BFA, Diploma, and MFA degrees, serving as a model in all of Africa, regarding degree-granting in traditional indigenous dance and drumming, as well as courses in dance aesthetics and criticism, dance composition, choreography, labonotation, Theatre Management, and Dance Ritual and Arts. I am teaching a graduate course in Dance Ethnology to the MFA graduate students, and Dance History to the Diploma II students. These latter students will be qualified to go on to teach traditional Ghanaian dance and music in the secondary schools.
Graduate Students Peforming "Bawa" Dance at the opening Convocation of the Fall 2008 Semester
I have turned the Dance History course into one exclusively on the history of African American Dance, a course I currently teach at UC Davis, known as AAS 15 - The History of Black Dance. It is a unique opportunity to teach young Ghanaian students, who are a part of the worldwide Hip Hop Generation and influenced by African American pop culture, the realities of how dance and music sustained African Americans during various historical periods, including, slavery, the minstrel and vaudeville stages, early attempts at creative dance, today's concert black dance, and contemporary black social dance. It is a unique opportunity to add historical substance to an often-superficially adoption of "cool" American popular dance and music. I will be sharing more details of this experience on this blog.
W.E.B. Du Bois Road on campus, with a Hip-Hop Event posted
All dance students have practical courses in the various traditional dances of the Ghana and the theory courses that give them a thorough background in Dance as an academic discipline. There is lots of time for spontaneous happenings, and drumming can be heard throughout the grounds. I'm in my element!!
Dance Class in the Deaprtment of Dance Studies
Nii Yartey & Me
Nii Yartey is a Lecturer in the deaprtment, and a Founding Member of the Ghana Dance Ensemble. He was at the university when I was here 32 years ago. Nii is the former Artistic Director of the National Dance Company of the National Theatre, and the current Artistic Director of the Noyam African Dance Institute in Ghana. He has taught for several dance departments in the US, and focuses artistically on the development a contemporary African choreography, based in traditional dance. I hope to work with his company while I'm here in Ghana.