Crosswinds rocks to the African beat

val0220crosswinds ghanaian dance troupeWeb
Perpich dance student Chayse Erickson, front left, mimics the Saakumu dancer to his right, students from as Perpich Arts High School and Crosswinds Arts and Science School dance with the troupe on stage at Crosswinds in Woodbury Feb. 14. (Photo courtesy of Mindy Rinkenberger)

Saakumu, an internationally known West African dance and music troupe from Ghana, performed Feb. 14 at Crosswinds Arts and Science School in Woodbury, offering loud and vivid dancing and drumming, education on African instruments and the opportunity to get up and dance with abandon.

The final number during the performance included six students from Perpich Arts High School, led by music instructor Janice Hunton. They joined the Saakumu performers, playing traditional West African xylophones called the gyil.

The crowd responded enthusiastically throughout, clapping, participating in call and response and, of course, dancing.

Barnard Woma, who leads Saakumu, owns and operates a school of traditional African music and arts, the Dagara Music Center in Medie, a northern suburb of Ghana’s capital, Accra. He welcomed the opportunity to perform at Crosswinds.

“I have worked with kids of all ages,” Woma said. “The younger they are the more open they are to trying the things we are doing. We will get them all up and dancing today.”

Woma’s prediction was correct. As he told the audience of students in grades six through 10, “Bad dancing will never hurt the ground!”

Before the performance was over, just about every student had danced either on stage or in a free-form dance line that at one point snaked through the audience.

Hunton, the Perpich teacher, has studied at Dagara and arranged the Crosswinds visit as part of Saakumu’s current tour in the U.S. Last year Saakumu performed at Perpich and in June 2013 Perpich students and Hunton traveled to Dagara Music Center. Perpich Center for Arts Education manages Crosswinds.