My schedule for classes is pretty steady now – and I absolutely love it! I am taking three dance classes, which means I have a minimum of one dance class per day, some days I have three. A friend from St. Olaf, Molly, is also taking almost all dance classes so for most of the day we hang around the dance department. Our teacher for two of the classes is quite a character and I don’t even know where to begin to describe him. He is an older man who doesn’t look like he has much energy but once he starts dancing he suddenly seems to be about 20 years old. For the first week I don’t think I heard him say one word, except for calling role. He would just go to the front of the class and begin the dance moves, which we were expected to follow. For two of the classes, we have live drums since they are traditional type dances. These classes are an absolute blast and always put me in a good mood.
One great advantage of always being near the dance building is learning about other happenings in the department. Molly and I heard about something called Future of Dance, although we weren’t quite sure what it was, but some teachers invited us to the rehearsals. The first night, we showed up ready for anything and not knowing what to expect. I’ve come to understand that not many people have clear answers for what is going on and usually the best way to find out is to jump right in and figure it out for yourself. We arrived when the rehearsal was supposed to start and, as usual, there were very few people there. After about a half hour people slowly started showing up and we began about an hour after the scheduled time. The dancing started, and soon Molly and I were told to go learn one of the pieces in another room, so before we really new what was going on, we were a part of one of the dances.
Later we discovered what the show was all about. The same show, Future of Dance, was performed last semester after one of the professors in the department died. The first piece, titled Tribute, was in memory of this teacher. Since it was such a hit, they decided to do the show again, but they needed to add people to some pieces and change some parts. In the end, Molly and I were a part of two of the dances (and there were about eight altogether) and the only white people in the show.
The rest of the rehearsals were very similar to the first. Molly and I knew they wouldn’t start on time so we would show up fashionably late, but we still were almost always the first ones there. The week before the show most of the rehearsals went until past 11 at night but it was definitely worth it. Our final rehearsal before the show was on a holiday, so we were told to show up at 9am. Molly and I arrive at about 9:30 and find…no one. At about 10:30, some people start showing up but they begin working on the set or getting their hair done for the show or helping sew costumes. By noon, we see more people in the show and chat with them for a while and finally at around 2, we learn that we probably will start rehearsal around 7pm. Being on time is simply not part of the culture here.
Another fascinating part of being in the production was my role in publicity. I have helped do publicity before in my small town, which usually involves putting some posters up around town. I didn’t think I would be very helpful with lights, set design or costumes so I volunteered for publicity. One quick side note on Accra is that although there may be a few street names, nobody uses them or knows where they are. This makes it very difficult to have addresses or get clear directions so you simply need to know how to get to your destination. This also makes it very difficult to send invitations to a dance production. Instead, we hand delivered all 25 invitations to different businesses around Accra. I went with one other Ghanaian and we traveled to four different parts of Accra in tro-tros, taxis, and on foot and located the different businesses to hand them the invitations to the show. About four groups went delivering and it took almost the entire day. Efficiency is also not a huge part of the culture here, although it was a great way to tour the city.
Our efforts in publicity must have paid off. We had three performances and they were pretty full every night. The shows were outside and on the last night it began to rain a bit but it actually made the dances more exciting and intense. I’m so glad Molly and I decided to go to that first rehearsal because I may never again have an experience like that in my life.