Need Therapy? Try African Dance!

Via on Dec 22, 2008

I’ve met a sagacious Ghanaian dance professor at the University of Colorado named Nii Armah Sowah. He has opened the eyes of many wealthy, uptight white American college students to the possibilities of a therapeutic, truly supportive community. He does this through movement and song in his African dance and singing classes.

Most therapy in the US, especially of the Freudian persuasion, finds most success by focusing greatly on the  individual. We often think about our growth, development, and change simply in the context of our own personal sphere. But in many areas of the African continent, traditional therapy has its emphasis on the community instead. For me, the effects of this change of focus have been immensely fulfilling. 

By getting dancers and singers out of their heads, and focusing on the beauty of group cultivation, Nii Armah teaches important human skills. I myself have learned selflessness, openness, responsibility, love, tolerance, compassion, confidence, emotional strength, physical strength, humor, how to be supportive, how to seek support, how to connect with the earth, how to connect with my fellow man…the list goes on. Nii Armah’s spirit and enthusiasm for the human potential are just the antidote to our technology and materialism driven isolation from one another.  

If you would like to register for Nii Armah’s singing class in Boulder, visit 1000-voices.com

Here are some resources for community dance classes

Maputo’s African Dance Class video. 

About Caroline Clark

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13 Responses to “Need Therapy? Try African Dance!”

  1. Brent Levin says:

    Yay Ghanian Dance!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Shelly Bruno says:

    Thanks for the article! Nicolas and I are looking to sign up for a class with 1000 voices.

  3. Beth says:

    I’ve experienced how Nii Armah gets people out of their heads and participating with the community of dancers. It’s really an amazing experience…

  4. chris mulvany says:

    I concur! Hooray for that beautiful days where I was able to take that as a class for credit.

  5. Sage says:

    I took Nii Armah’s African Dance classes my first two years at CU. I watched people (particularly “normal” sorority girls who had never encountered the likes of dancing with abandon) transform from uptight, shy, and uncomfortable to open, bold, and celebratory.

    Nii Armah reminded us (often) that Africa is a continent not a country, and challenged us to re-think our own cultural baggage. If, when he walked into the classroom of African Dance students we weren’t talking to one another- he would remind us “Talk! Talk to your community!”
    And even if we couldn’t get a step or a move- to do it anyway and do it “juicy” (with flair, with joy!)

    Nii Armah Sowah’s classes should me a prerequisite for EVERY student, EVERY where. It’s about dance, yes- but not dance as westerners know it. It’s about so much more.

  6. SJM says:

    though i have not experienced Nii Armah Sowah’s classes, my first experience with W. African dance and Afro Brazilian dance changed my perspective on dance, my emotions and my life for ever. i had resigned to the reality that ballet, modern and “Western” approaches to movement were all that there were and so quit dancing all together. it wasn’t until i started regular African dance classes, that i realized what true joy could feel like, what a dance community really is and what humans need more of in our society. praises to these traditions! praises to Nii Armah Sowah!

  7. Jessa says:

    I took African dance last spring, and I’ll agree – it was a transformative experience. For me, African dance helped me “unlearn” the American mentality where the individual is always wondering how he or she is being perceived, and to learn the (much more refreshing, vital, and illuminating) mentality of how to receive others in community. African dance got me to step out of myself, out of my head and into the world where we just exist together. It’s a joyful, juicy place!

  8. Amy Roldan says:

    I really believe in alternative forms of therapy this is great! thanks!

  9. Sean says:

    Communal catharsis is awesome! I also like book clubs and poetry readings – there are many mediums for this sort of thing, though dance is probably the most effective.

  10. Sarina says:

    African Drumming & Dance was my FAVORITE class I took throughout my college years. Such a wonderful release and opportunity for deep connection to the human experience through music and movement. Thanks for sending this out…

  11. Welcome the New Age of Dance as a Healing Tool…Let the Mother..Africa bring us back to our Dancing Roots..Welcome the dance of life to help us flow easily through the trials and tribulations of life….The heart beat of the drum brings us home…

  12. [...] began couples therapy and continued for ten solid years. Each therapist would say the same thing: “Well, it’s [...]

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