Students in Colorado State University’s Honors College took learning outside the classroom with traditional African dance.
In Professor Frances Glycenfer’s seminar, “Move It”, students learn through active experimentation. Glycenfer recently brought in the group, Fale, an African drum and dance collective based in Fort Collins.
“I think it is essential for learning,” Glycenfer said. “You can only discuss so much regarding movement in dance until you eventually have to get up and do it yourself.”
Fale played the drums and taught the class a dance originating from the coastal region of Guinea. The dance is now commonly performed during celebrations in different countries in West Africa.
The honors students were apprehensive, but excited to try the new moves. Malia Desmarais is one of the students who participated in the class.
“Dance labs provide an exuberant and exciting start to Friday mornings,” Desmarais said. “They give us a sense of the history behind the motions of different types of dance.”
Jennifer Todd and the other members of Fale dressed in traditional West African patterned skirts to add to the cultural experience.
“We love music,” Todd said. “We have found West African music to be a tremendous outlet to express ourselves.”
The youngest member of the group is 13-year-old Lauren Lant. Lant has performed for six years, and encouraged her father to become a part of the community as a drummer.
“The most impactful part of West African dance is learning the customs and exploring the culture,” she said.
Fale started the class by teaching students how to follow the music by listening to the drumming call. West African dance does not use counting, but uses a distinct drumming cue to signal switching moves.
Cole Helwig is another student in Professor Glycenfer’s class. “I think the dance labs provide the class with a much more in-depth experience regarding different cultures in dance,” he said.
As the class progressed, even the hesitant students seemed to loosen up and fully engage in the expressive dance.
“For college students to expose themselves to different forms of cultural experiences … it provides a wider perspective of the world,” Helwig said.
Learning African dance is not limited to honors students, however. The African drum and dance collective of Fort Collins offers drum and dance classes every Sunday at the Studio West Dance Studio.