By John Owoo
(National Theatre – Accra)
The National Dance Company of Ghana last week presented a stunning rendition of “Asipim”, a piece comprising a dramatic fusion of various traditional Ghanaian dances at the National Theatre in Accra.
Employing wide-ranging movements from Northern and Southern Ghanaian dance forms, the artists unveiled a story of greed, gallantry, war, peace, spiritual warfare and struggles for power amidst cheers from the audience.
Accompanied by an assortment of African percussive instruments and xylophones, the group through a striking performance managed to express in a refined way, the beauty and diversity of traditional Ghanaian dance forms.
Directed by Nii Tete Yartey, the performance was a fascinating diversity of movements and a subtle exploration of interactions between conventional and modern dances while revealing the significance of both.
“It is fascinating to see a wide variety of our traditional dance pieces theatrically put together in a manner that vividly showcases unity in diversity. It was purely traditional but laced with contemporary elements”, said Yaw Opoku Addo, a poet in Accra.
“This is a show with rhythm – the singing, dancing and drumming converged and rose to the roof. It was an evening of spectacular and fast moving scenes”, added Elvia Hayes, a volunteer from the United Kingdom.
An allegory about the struggle for leadership in Sub Saharan Africa, ‘Asipim”, is interspersed with ritualistic dances that equally highlighted the issue of super natural battles. Undeniably, it is rich in musical and dramatic nuance and actually rises to the scale of the set design.
With a near bare but outstanding scenography, which comprise a King’s stool and giant umbrellas alongside over two dozen dancers and musicians, the choreography is quite elaborate with bodies crafted by years of training engaging in fluid and swift movements.
Stylistically, the late F. Nii Yartey, who co-choreographed the piece with Prof. CK Ladzekpo, has deeply steeped himself in the language of dance – often reinventing it with a rhythmic and visceral weight, thereby unleashing a new gestural vocabulary.
The performance formed part of the 2016 edition of Ghana Theatre Festival, which ended last week at the National Theatre in Accra.