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date: 26 June 2022

Abstract and Keywords

This essay explores what dancers from different cultures can learn through exchanges when they involve concepts of nationalism, performed identities, spiritual practice, and the categories of “art” dance and “cultural” dance. A brief but impactful trip to Ghana by California university dance students and academics provides several scenes where energies, techniques, and ideas emerge. Studying with members the Ghana Dance Ensemble, one of the country’s national dance companies, as well as interacting with the dance department of the University of Ghana, Legon, results in enjoying and questioning embodied knowledge, as well as casting light on several questions: Do Ghanaians have the same freedom to be defined as “artists,” or might they be marginalized as “ancient” rather than “contemporary” people? What can young American university dancers learn about commitment to performance quality and the feeling of having deep roots in tradition? How can each group expand on the habit human beings have of categorizing others as having a “single story,” and how does dance figure in the process?

Keywords: art dance, cultural dance, dance, Ghana, nationalism, performed identities, spiritual practice

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