It’s finals week. Soon we will all be sitting in strange, hunchback positions, finishing “long term” projects that we started a few days ago. This week is going to be tough, but we will be tougher. And we will dance.
With the help of some African dance moves from the WKU Student Chapter of the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO), we will dance the stress away.
On a sunny Friday a couple weeks ago, Charles Buckner, a Louisville junior and member of NDEO, taught an African Dance Workshop as a part of International Education Week.
Buckner, a dance major at WKU, was first introduced to African dance in high school. After taking a class from a guest artist, he was immediately drawn to the style’s intricate rhythms and movements.
“I started going to different dance festivals, and I would take African classes,” Buckner said. “And then, I just kept doing it more and more whenever I had the opportunity.”
The workshop had a typical structure: first a warm-up, then the students learned some basic technique and carried it out across the floor, and finally they performed steps in the center of the room.
Just like with any other dance style, African dance has a rich history. Buckner had studied ballet and jazz from a young age and was excited to start learning about a new dance culture in his African classes. He included both historical and personal anecdotes in order to add meaning to his African class and inspire his students.
“In Ghana, dance is a way of life. They greet each other saying, ‘How do you dance?’ That’s how important it is,” Buckner said.
As the final minutes of the class approached, Buckner had everyone stand in a circle. Tradition called for each student in the class to share a bit of what they had learned. One by one, students entered the circle to show off their new moves. After everyone had danced, Buckner led the group in a ceremonious thank you to each other, to their creator and to their ancestors. This ritual is a common ending to most African dance classes, and to Buckner it is essential.
“African dance is something that comes not just from the body,” Buckner said. “But from the heart.”
As the semester ends, let’s all thank each other, thank our teachers and thank Netflix. Then, let’s dance.