KWAKU MANU Curtain Call Costumes Rising Star Teacher Scholarship
I am Kwaku Oppong Manu, born in the capital of the famous Ashanti Region of Ghana. Upon my successful completion of secondary school, I served my Nation teaching Mathematics, English Language, Environmental Studies, Cultural Studies and Ghanaian Language (Twi) at St. Joseph’s Experimental Primary School, Kumasi, Ghana.
I discovered my deep interest in dance after watching a compelling dance performance by a local dance company in my hometown. Their performance touched my heart so I auditioned to become a member of the company. Soon thereafter, I sought and gained admission to the University of Ghana’s School of Performing Arts in 2000. I pursued a two-year Diploma in Theatre Arts with a concentration in dance. Based on my excellent performance, the School of Performing Arts invited me to continue my education and earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Upon graduating in 2004 with First Class Honours, I was appointed a Teaching Assistant position at the Department of Dance Studies, School of Performing Arts for my National Service. I taught Traditional African Dance, Dance Technique, Traditional African Drumming, as well as Ghanaian Dance Forms.
My involvement in dance workshops, performances and festivals on local, regional, and national levels has given me the unique opportunity to gain extensive practical experience. I have been selected on numerous occasions to travel abroad to perform and teach drumming and dancing. I have been an integral part of the orientation for students and professors from universities in Canada, United States of America and the United Kingdom upon their arrival to The University of Ghana.
As part of my teaching experience, I had the opportunity to choreograph a fifteen minute group piece, which commented on how cutting down trees indiscriminately in forests negatively affects communities and their inhabitants. I was able to highlight this through choreographing the importance of trees in our lives, creating movements originating in African dance but also incorporating modern techniques so as to maintain themselves in the minds of the audience. Also based on my creative interests, I co-choreographed other work, including; the Lion King, the Lion and the Jewel, the Legend of Akusika, the Fall of Kumbi, the Story Ananse Told, etc. As a dance and drumming instructor of Performing Arts Work Shop (PAWS), I have been part the creative process of most our performances like: Heaven descending Earth Ascending, A Metro TV/ MTN Sports Academy Closing Ceremony, 1st ECOWAS International Business Summit, The Launching of University of Ghana Business School, Sports Development, etc. I was also part of the creative process of the opening and closing ceremony for the African Cup of Nations 2008 in Ghana as an assistant choreographer. In addition, I taught and choreographed dances for junior and senior high schools in preparation for District, Regional and National dance competitions and beauty pageants.
For five years, I have been employed by the School of Performing Arts, University of Ghana, as Senior Production Assistant and Dance Instructor. I teach Introduction, Intermediate and Advanced traditional African dancing and drumming and dance technique to Ghanaians and International students. I am accustomed to a heavy workload and have the ability to multitask while keeping my grace under pressure. It has been my dream to be a choreographer, performer and teacher. I plan on studying dance forms such as Modern, Ballet, Improvisation and Repertory at the Six Week School at ADF this summer, to be able to blend them with African Dance to come with new movements. Since these dance forms are new to the Dance Department, School of Performing Arts, University of Ghana, I would be proud to be the first person to bring them to my University. I strongly believe that studying at ADF will enable me to gain a deeper understanding of dance and its impact on African society today.
My ultimate aim is to share the knowledge and experience that I will gain at ADF with my colleagues, peers and community members in Ghana so as to further their understanding of the deeper meaning behind dance, often overlooked by today’s society. I intend to use the gift of dance to explore and create work that speaks to developmental, health, social and moral issues in Ghana and elsewhere. Through approaching issues such as gender roles, child abuse, HIV/AIDs and teenage pregnancy through the use of dance, I intend to creatively raise awareness, educate and help contribute to possible solutions. I hope to achieve this through the ADF Six Week School through working with trained performers in order to interpret my ideas and present them in theatres and other contemporary contexts. I believe that the aim of my studies will enable me to share and enjoy contemporary transformations in dance that have emerged not only in Ghana, but other African countries, and across the world. I am confident that this program will complement, supplement and build upon my previous experience. In addition to the value of my past experiences, I feel that a successful completion of Six Week School at ADF would make me a more confident, well-rounded future contributor to the field of dance. I believe that this program is an essential stepping stone to a career in the field that I love.
Enthusiasms, reluctance, determination, exploration, and education were the main factors that encouraged me to come on this journey from West Africa precisely Ghana to Durham, NC in the United States, to partake in American Dance Festival Summer 2010 with the theme “ What is Dance Theater”
My participation in this festival was intended to acquaint me with the various forms of dance such as Modern, Ballet, African (Senegalese dance) and Jazz to broaden and deepen my knowledge and understanding of dance and add them to my repertoire.
I had the opportunity to explore in different types of Techniques, new approach to teaching Composition and also Improvisation, which is not done in my school. This improvisation class really engaged me in an exploration of my creativity. I was able to learn skills and techniques of improvisation, which includes; contact improvisation, releasing technique, and improvisation with speaking while moving, improvisation in site-specific situation etc.
I also met great dance Professors and teachers like Mark Haim who taught me Fall Back into Modern Technique and Composition: Structure in Content/Rigorous Freedom, Gerri Houlihan who taught me Technique, Musicality and The Joy of Movement, Pam Pietro taught me Breaking it Down with Clarity, Jesse Zaritt also taught me Composition, Improvisation: the Practice of Performance, finally Sherone Price and Gibson taught me African technique Workshop and Afro-Modern technique respectively.
I really enjoyed the different approaches that they used in teaching their classes. I learned a lot from their style of teaching which so different from that of the teachers I learned from when I was a student. I am going to blend their style of teaching with mine and come out with different approach.
Watching some of the world-renowned choreographers and their various dance companies performed was one of the most beautiful things that I experienced. Some of the works that inspired me most were the original Pilobolus works- Hapless Hooligan in “Still Moving” and Contradance. These dance pieces were meant to challenge, provoke and inspire the audience causing one’s breath to quicken and pulse to race, which in actual fact did. I was also enthralled by Shen Wei’s Rite of Spring and Folding because he highlighted the importance of initiating movement with clarity, integrity and specificity exploring with physical element such as suspension, center-shifting, momentum, spiral, rotations and joint, muscle and nerve initiations.
I took part in the end of ADF dance performance as drummer in a dance piece choreographed by Sherone Price entitled “KAEMO HENI OJE” meaning “Remember who you are or where you come from!” This choreographic piece was based on a storyline and it was so fun and I was happy to be part of it.
My participation in American Dance Festival came into reality because of the funds I received from Dance Council of North Texas. I thank you so much DCNT and ADF for given me Curtain Call Rising Star Teacher’s Scholarship and making my dreams of learning different dance forms and blending them with Ghanaian dance forms and also my ultimate aim of sharing my knowledge and experiences gained at ADF with my colleagues, students and the community members come true.