Bernard Woma

Year: 2018-2019
DanceForce Member: D. Chase Angier
Artist: Saakumu Dance Troupe
Community Partners: Alfred Almond Central School; Alfred University; Herrick Gallman Funds; Marlin Miller Dance Residency Program
Audience: 865
County: Allegany

This residency was designed to counterbalance last year’s highly successful solo residency of Eiko Otake. With Eiko we were looking to reach the college students, faculty/staff, and the adult community members. This year we partnered with the Alfred Almond Central School and the Alfred Montessori School to engage families – babies to grandparents to broaden our audience. The Alfred University Dance and Music departments in the Division of Performing Arts were honored to co-host Saakumu Dance Troupe for a five-day residency March 18 – 22, 2019. The award winning Saakumu Dance Troupe is one of the leading traditional/contemporary dance and music groups in Ghana, West Africa. Formally led by master musician Bernard Woma who passed away last April, the company continues to honor his legacy with their commitment to introducing audiences to traditional and contemporary African dance and music. Their repertoire features a wide range of West African dance from spiritual, ceremonial, and recreational genres to contemporary African dance forms. Saakumu, in partnership with Slyboots Music, Art, and Dance School located in Buffalo New York, brings traditional and contemporary African dance and music to the communities in the United States.

The week began with a high energy performance at the Alfred Almond Central School, grades 5 – 8. The students, faculty and staff were dancing both in the aisles and on the stage with the performers. It was an amazing exchange of energy and information. The week ended with a performance in the Miller Performing Arts Center at Alfred University on Friday March 22nd at 7pm. Admission was free, and there were 402 audience members (33 of them later were up on stage singing, dancing, and drumming with Saakumu). There were many new audience members, including children from AACS and their parents/grandparents. During the week there were twelve master dance and drum classes, six that were open to the community. The AU Performing Arts Division supplied the drums. On Friday the community who participated in these classes was invited to join Saakumu’s rehearsal and then these 33 participants performed alongside the Saakumu Dance Troupe for the Friday night performance.

The Saakumu performers ate meals with Alfred University students, staff and faculty, Alfred State College faculty members, and Alfred community members. Several Alfred University students from Ghana were thrilled to reconnect with their large Ghanaian community. An AU faculty member from China commented that she appreciated the mixed races on the stage and that it made her feel more included in our community.

This project was made possible with funds from the NYS DanceForce, a partnership program of the New York State Council on the Arts; The Marlin Miller Dance Residency Program, and The Herrick Gallman Fund at Alfred University.