The title of this performance, Asa, means Dance in the Akan language of Ghana. It also points to a trend—dance styles produced and performed by youth across Sub-Saharan Africa to voice sociopolitical and economic concerns. Spurred by the fast-growing technological age in some African countries, African dance has been migrating from its traditional regional locations and subjective spaces to a wide united front. Dancers from across the continent are able to share phrases and creative threads via social media. They are collectively and creatively evolving traditional Afro-Pop with movements representing everyday activities, such as phone conversations, typing on a computer, golfing, washing, driving, and putting on makeup.
The dancers, Philip Amo Agyapong and Roshonda Parker, are also educators. They created this choreography by mixing African popular dance phrases from various regions—learning them as they were exchanged on social media and from African Contemporary cultural space. Moves from Nigeria, South Africa, and Togo mix with these moves from Ghana: truck-pushing in a marketplace (pusher); side sliding in oil spills (anwa); twisting leg and moving hands in a washing motions (azonto); to and fro movements with pauses (pilolo).
The music is also a mix of popular music from across the continent. The musical theme is love, and the dancers sync rhythms and phrasing to the fast-tempo song Solo, by Article One.
Dress for African popular dance is borrowed from the Western lifestyle, with sneakers, t-shirts, flexible pants used for performance and printed African fabrics to signal the dance’s origin.
O D K has its origins in Ghana. As assistant lecturer at the Dance Department of the University of Ghana, Artistic Director Philip Amo Agyapongsaw the need to investigate and expand the new dance form as an exercise for faculty and students. He created a class as research space and avenue for participants to freely move to Popular music and its enchanting beat. He came to Oakland in 2016 and founded O D K with Benedictus Matson, with inspiration from Terry Bright Ofosu; and the group shares their experience in African popular dance with the community, for both cultural diversity and exercise.
July 6 & 7
Dance Origin: West Africa
Choreographers/Dancers: Philip Amo Agyapong, Roshonda Parker
DJ: Irina Azu
Photo: RJ Muna