‘An Ananse Tale,’ inspired by a Ghanaian folktale, was both a celebration of Asase Yaa’s anniversary and the strength of the African diaspora worldwide – a core mission of the Brooklyn-based arts organization
On Friday, February 3, the Bessie Award-winning Asase Yaa African-American Dance Theater (AYAADT) celebrated its 17th anniversary with an exhilarating dance production at the Peter Norton Symphony Space. The full-length performance was preceded by a pre-show event by Trenton-based Yoruba folklore performing arts group Egun Omode.
“Since its inception 17 years ago, Asase Yaa African American Dance Theater has been dedicated to the promotion of the rich beauty of African culture,” said Executive Director Kofi Osei Williams. “It is our the goal to unite the diaspora by celebrating our shared heritage.”
The audience cheered the non-stop energetic production of the narrative musical An Ananse Tale, the story of the spider Ananse that tries to receive all of Nyame’s (the sky God) stories. Inspired by an oral folktale from Ghana, Ananse stories show how the smallest creature can overcome adversity with preparation, determination and focus. Moreover, the stories of the character of Ananse, which symbolizes rebellion, give both hope and pride to historically enslaved and oppressed people who struggle to survive and fight for freedom. Ghanaians used these stories for generations as metaphors for real-life events to impart their culture, morals and tradition, and they have been told and retold from generation to generation in West Africa, the West Indies and the United States.
The traditions of African folktales such as An Ananse Tale demonstrate the strength of the African diaspora worldwide, which according to AYAADT-founder and artistic director Yao Ababio, is at the core of the company’s view of arts and culture. Founded in 2001, AYAADT has distinguished itself in the dance and drum world for its bold but authentic productions that bring the uniqueness of African dance to the American stage.
“We aim to always push the boundaries to show the ever-present unique similarities that continental and diasporic Africans share in culture, music, dance and expression,” said Williams.
Since its inception, Asase Yaa has expanded tremendously and today consists of four components: a professional dance theatre company, a school of the arts, a children’s summer arts camp and an arts education program also known as AY T.E.A.C.H.