Home Institution

Columbia University

Publication Date

Fall 2014

Program Name

Ghana: Social Transformation and Cultural Expression


  • Objective: The goal of this study is to explore the composition of dance that blends traditional Ghanaian dance with movements from American hip-hop and tap. In order to achieve this goal, the objectives were:

i. To study traditional dances from West Africa, especially Ghana, including the movements, histories, and meanings

ii. To learn about the process of choreographing traditional dances for the stage, particularly as dances from other cultures are blended in

iii. To investigate the risks and rewards of the cultural exchange and transformation that occur when traditional dance is mixed with other forms

  • Methodology: Research involved learning several traditional dances from West Africa in addition to a few dances choreographed using both traditional and contemporary African movements. Research also consisted of composing a piece using the vocabulary from traditional dances learned and from hip-hop and tap from America. Furthermore, research included observation at dance rehearsals at two schools: at an international school, which involved participation in drumming; and at a senior high school, which involved participation in dancing and including students in the blended choreography. Finally, interviews were conducted with various members of the Ghanaian dance community.
  • Findings: The movements of traditional West African dance have many similarities to the movements of American hip-hop and tap. The styles are aesthetically pleasing when fused together in a composition. Still, traditional dances express cultures that must be respected and not distorted when modified. It can be exciting to blend different forms of dance and to note the universal qualities, but one must be aware that preserving culture through maintaining traditional dance is an important part of multicultural appreciation.
  • Conclusion: Research must be approached with respect for other cultures. Learning about traditional dance and drumming before creating a composition was necessary. More time could have been spent understanding what a range of people in Ghana think about the study, and it would be interesting to compare the perspectives of different generations.


American Popular Culture | Dance | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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