Dance Specialists around the World-A Living History: Dance Educators Share Their Experiences Teaching Internationally

By Musmon, Margaret; Welsh, Kariamu et al. | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, April 2008 | Go to article overview

Dance Specialists around the World-A Living History: Dance Educators Share Their Experiences Teaching Internationally


Musmon, Margaret, Welsh, Kariamu, Heath, Freddie-Lee, Minton, Sandra, Laverty, Mary Ann, Maeshiba, Naoko, Weeks, Sandy, Cardinal, Marita K., Howton, Amy, Tavacioglu, Leyla, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


Introduction

Margaret Musmon

By experiencing and creating dance in the present, we--the teachers, performers, choreographers, critics, and scholars--are the primary source of its contemporary history. As such, we must record for posterity how dance is taught, performed, and perceived today. The National Dance Association (NDA) has been doing this important work for more than 75 years.

Dance currently embraces the entire globe. We offer classes in world dance at our universities, but we must also experience these cultures first hand to understand what is happening beyond our immediate environment.

With the ashes of the recent devastating fires in Greece still smoldering, our dance community found hope at the 21st World Congress on Dance, "Dancers Without Frontiers," in Athens. Both the past and the present of dance were presented at this international gathering of professionals, through diverse papers, lectures, technique classes, video and CD projections, and performances at the Dora Stratou Theatre on Philopappou Hill near the Acropolis. The final evening's gala featured the world famous Dora Stratou dancers from Athens, and I witnessed how dance transforms audience perceptions through the sharing of cultures within our global community.

In the following short articles, nine dance educators record their experiences not only within the art form but within culture at large. We can learn many insights from these testaments of how physical activity influences our life, such as:

* How religious groups and governments view movement

* How folk dance reflects national pride and must be preserved

* How dance is an integral part of physical education

* How the study of other cultures improves our teaching methods

Dance Education in Africa: Philosophy and Practice

Kariamu Welsh

Dance education in Africa, in its institutionalized form, began 50 years ago. By institutionalized, I am referring to the teaching of dance at secondary schools, colleges, and universities. It is common knowledge that dance is pervasive in Africa and that it permeates every significant or traditional event in Africa. However, dance education in Africa is an entirely different matter. In some ways, the presence and pervasiveness of dance in Africa works against the institutionalization of dance in the education arena. The common thought is "why waste precious resources on dance" when there are more important areas to consider. This attitude is not uncommon in the United States, but "resources" is a relative term, and one cannot compare the resources available for education in the United States with the resources that are available in most of Africa. Great credit is due to pioneers like Kwabena Nketia, a scholar and ethnomusicologist, and Mawere Opoku, a choreographer and teacher, who were instrumental in creating the program that became a model in Africa and a beacon for thousands of students who wanted to study African dance in Africa.

There have been extraordinary, visionary efforts to use dance as a cultural resource and as insurance that future generations of "educated" Africans do not lose their connections to their cultural heritage. In this brief article, I will highlight the champion and leader of dance education in Africa--Ghana. Ghana has been and continues to be at the forefront of dance education in Africa. Kwame Nkrumah, the first elected president of newly independent Ghana, understood the necessity of incorporating the arts into the curriculum. During the colonial period, until 1957, when the country was known as the Gold Coast, attempts were made by the British colonial government and foreign missionaries to discourage the cultural practices of the people. Nkrumah approved the establishment of an Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana in Legon and at the Institute of Arts and Culture in Accra. He gave these institutions generous support to strengthen their role in spearheading the restoration and development of African arts and culture and to check the accuracy of written accounts of African history. …

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