West African dance troupe performs at K-State while on professional US tour

Dancing the Bewaa, a traditional dance by the Dagara People of Ghana, the dancers formed a circle around the drummers in the center of the stage. The Saakumu Dance Troupe offered a free concert in All Faiths Chapel on Feb. 3, 2015. (Mason Swenson | The Collegian)

Music, chanting and applause filled All Faiths Chapel Tuesday night as dancers and musicians of the Saakumu Dance Troupe of Ghana performed.

Led by musician Bernard Woma, the dance company performed six traditional and contemporary West African dances.

Woma and his troupe visited K-State to share their love of music, dance and life with the students and faculty.

“We’ve been on tour for three months,” Ernest Woma, Bernard’s nephew and troupe dancer, said. “We were invited to perform here at this school.”

Neil Dunn, instructor in dance and percussion, is long time friends with Bernard Woma and invited him and the troupe to perform for the students.

“I met Bernard in graduate school in 2004 at the University of Arizona in Tucson,” Dunn said. “He was a friend of a friend. After we met, I studied with him in Ghana for awhile in 2008.”

With the help of the Student Government Association and the School of Music, Theater and Dance, the dance program was able to invite the award-winning dance troupe to perform. In addition to the fast-paced dancing, the musicians set the speed pounding furiously on their drums, the calabash water drum and the gyil (the African xylophone). Woma even performed a solo on the gyil, after giving a short lesson on how the instrument is made from wood, gourds and spider egg nests.

Audience members actively participated in the performance with call-and-response activities led by Bernard Woma and the group. The dancers fascinated students with their fast footwork, high energy and bright smiles. Katrina Chitwood, freshman in communication science and disorders, said she recommended the performance to friends and that she would gladly return for another show.

“They moved their feet super, super fast,” Chitwood said. “I could never do that.”

Chitwood and other audience members had their chance to show off their West African skills in the final dance as everyone was invited up on stage to learn and perform the final dance, Kpanlogo.

“I’m excited about teaching Kpanlogo,” Ernest Woma said. “All young kids are happy to dance and want to join.”

Students can catch Saakuma Dance Troupe and Bernard Woma Wednesday as they teach Kpanlogo again. The master class will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. in Nichols Hall room 008. The class is open to all students and faculty, no experience is necessary.

My name is Jamie Teixeira and I am a senior English and journalism with a minor in Leadership. I am the president of Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society, a tutor at the K-State Writing Center,and a member of the K-State Tap Dance Ensemble. My future plans are to become an editor or publisher of children's literature. Outside of school I love to read and cuddle with my kitten, Bert.