West African dance team prepares for Heritage Night

The fan-favorite dance team begins to set the stage for their annual performance


West African dance team prepares for Heritage Night
The fan-favorite dance team begins to set the stage for their annual performance
The 17th annual Heritage Night will take place on Friday, March 10th. The event is very popular at AHS and brings in such crowds it often sells out tickets very quickly in the weeks before the show. The event’s popularity among students, staff, and families comes as no surprise as AHS is known and celebrated for the wide diversity of students.
Heritage night is such a specialty night that gives students the chance to showcase what makes the school so unique by embracing and celebrating so many of the different cultures AHS reflects. One of the most memorable performances and crowd favorites from every year is the West African dance team, with good reason.
The group puts on an incredible performance and is gearing up for yet another. The group began practicing earlier this year and continues on their grind for two hours of practice 3-5 days a week after school.
“We practice every time there is a late bus, so Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. But I come every day because I want to perfect the dances early. After all, there is only a week left before Heritage Night. Most people come every day even though we only officially practice on the days with the late buses, but it’s worth it because things are coming together really nicely,” Freshman Ryan Adu-Gyamfi said.
Practicing for these dances doesn’t just end when the two hours are up. The group is constantly working and collaborating at home to perfect their dances.
“Even though we practice in school, when we go home we send each other videos of the dances, we also all practice a lot at home. I try to practice a lot because I am trying to build my endurance,” Adu-Gyamfi said.
One of the very special aspects of the West African Dance team is that the students are the ones choreographing their dances, not the dance teacher. The students all collaborate to pull different dance moves from different West African countries and incorporate them all into their numbers.
“We have a mix of Juniors, Sophomores, and some freshmen and we just ask whoever wants to come to help choreograph the dance and all contribute ideas to create the dance,” junior Yeluma Tatinyuy said. “Coming up with ideas to choreograph to the songs and just being able to see everyone and bringing in different ideas on the choreography and having fun moments, like there are always going to be moments where we go off topic and talk about something else.”
Not only do students have to collaborate to choreograph and create dances from scratch they also have to collaborate to pick songs. The group tries to incorporate songs from each country represented by the members of the group.
“My favorite memory from the team would be us figuring out the sounds to put in the mix because we are all from different countries and it was really surprising and impactful to see what everyone wanted to share and put it,” Junior Jeannie Tarnue said.
“My favorite thing about the team is the diversity. We aren’t all from the same country and each song is from a different country that we are all from,” freshman Laila Kanu said.
Constantly collaborating whether it’s about deciding the choreography or picking a song creates a very strong team bond. Having a strong bond with each other is vital to the team and something really important to put on a great group performance.
“We communicate a lot because a lot of times we all don’t agree on the same things so we mainly like to talk and put our all and try to communicate our best to put all of our ideas into one,” Kanu said. “When we make mistakes we all laugh about it in a good way, it’s just fun.”
The group highly values its diversity and celebrates each of its cultures as the group reflects many different countries from all over West Africa.
“We have Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cameroon, and even though Ghana is not from West Africa we have a few people from there and mostly from Sierra Leone,” Tarnue said.
“Since most African countries have similarities in culture, I feel like that’s what brought us together as a team, and listening to every African country’s songs and stuff, that is what can connect us as a team, through the music, the culture, the everything,” Tatinyuy said.
In additionally to their annual Heritage night performance, the group also performs at a Taste of Nigeria. A Taste of Nigeria is an event put on by the sophomore English classes to allow students to experience a glimpse at Nigerian culture by eating Nigerian foods and getting to watch the group perform after reading the novel Purple Hibiscus, which centers around a family in Nigeria.
The group is very excited about the upcoming heritage night and is working tirelessly to perfect their many routines prepared. Mark your calendars for March 10th, to watch the West African dance group and many more put on an amazing performance in the auditorium.