Dance has moved from the realm of common experience to that of precious spectator experience, and one of the delights in presenting African dance to American children is the demonstration of art as an inseparable part of everyday life.
This life-enhancing view of dance currently is enchanting young audiences in the Smithsonian Discovery Theater's presentation of the Arthur Hall Afro-American Dance Ensemble, a chamber group from Philadelphia. "Accent Ghana" emphasizes the arts of dance, music, sculpture and weaving within the context of traditional religion and culture.
In a performance yesterday, the group, dressed in native Ghanian costumes, showed the utilitarian aspects of Ghanian art through the folding of precious, multicolored kente cloths into various styles of clothing and their use in a demonstration of African drums. Focusing on the construction, symbolism and function of these artifacts, the Hall group invited the children to hands-on participation.
The Ghanian dance style emphasizes looseness in the arms, swung from the shoulders on a clear and ongoing rhythmical base of bouncing in the knees and flat-footed stomping. In effect, the body functions as a musical instrument. These selections illustrate how many contemporary American dances have been lifted almost bodily from these African sources. Children at the shows here seemed especially delighted in the recognition of the Ghanian Ewe Dance as their own Funky Chicken.
"Accent Ghana" runs Wednesdays through Saturdays, ending April 3.