Before coming to Denison, Effi Taylor ’12 had lived in Ghana her entire life—a place where dance is part of the culture. Growing up, though, she had never taken a dance class. “Back home,” Taylor says, “you go with the flow. You feel the drums, you feel the rhythm, and you go with it.” Now, at Denison, Taylor has learned about the traditional Ghanaian dances and styles that she had never thought twice about before.
Soon after arriving on the Hill, Taylor took a first-year seminar called Understanding Dance and spent a semester exploring different styles of movement.
The economics major enjoyed it so much that she continued her dance training and auditioned for Kente, choreographed by Stafford Berry, assistant professor of dance. Within the piece, which wove together dance styles from different ethnic groups, Berry had incorporated Ghanaian dance, specifically kpanlogo. It is the traditional dance of the Ga, people native to Accra, and Accra happens to be where Taylor grew up.
She immediately called home to Ghana. “You won’t believe what I’m doing here!” she said to her parents. She remembers her mother’s disbelief: “No, you’re not learning kpanlogo!”
“Mom,” Taylor said, “I’m in America doing kpanlogo dance …. You have to come see it!” Of course, Taylor knew her parents couldn’t come all the way to America, so she sent them a DVD of her performance.
Taylor says Berry’s Kente piece remains her favorite of those he has choreographed at Denison. “He brought that sense of community that we have back home,” she said. “Everyone was happy at rehearsals, and we were just a big family.”
Of her time exploring Ghanaian dance in America, Taylor says: “Having formal training and learning the dance style of the people where I live … it’s an experience I can’t find words for.”