Many Ghanaian communities generally regard dance and other forms of artistic and cultural expression, as important components of the events of life. Therefore, traditional belief systems, concept of birth, education, religion, politics, economics, death and other social activities manifest their importance in artistic forms such as dance, music, poetry and the visual objects etc. Dance, as a non-verbal communication tool is one of the most powerful symbols and social indicators in the Ghanaian tradition.
The communities tend to share and cherish some common basic cultural and aesthetic values. For example, the notion of beauty in body posture is conceptualized in terms of 'curves' and other circular images. The body is slightly rounded, the knees relaxed, while the weight of the movement is earth bound. The belief is that, circular images give a sense of perpetual motion and completeness of being. The African dancer is therefore expected to perform with an inner sense of roundness and balance. This aesthetic notion clearly runs counter to the linear and angular body stance maintained in some non-African dance forms. In the case of the latter, beauty of body alignment and technical perfection seem to be the over riding factor.
Dance and other artistic forms serve as agents for the creation of meaningful relationships, mutual respect and a sense of belonging among members of the communities. They also serve as index of the value systems that enable the community to express and interpret the various events of life. The practice of these values as community experience provides the necessary linkages based on kinship, religion and common language. The following constitute some of the basis for the evaluation of Ghanaian dances:
b. Symbolic Meaning
c. Aesthetic quality
The creation and sustenance of dance therefore depends on the ability of the creators to arouse and inspire emotional involvement, aesthetic, symbolic and significance of the dance in their communities. Social, religious and other needs often help to create these dances. However, historical, ecological, environmental, climatic, aesthetic and other considerations dictate the basic characteristics of each dance. To paraphrase Nketia, “…What may be considered proper and beautiful and therefore, acceptable in a dance from one area or in a particular period may be deemed unacceptable in another…” (1) It depends on the circumstances and factors that gave birth to the particular dance form. The people usually bring such dances into the open for public approval. The following form the basis of appreciation and evaluation of dance in Ghanaian communities:
1. Constant improvisation within the structure of the dance,
2. Creativity within the dance,
3. Freedom of individual expression.
4. Emotional input by participants,
5. The use of circular images,
6. Basic maintenance of rounded body and relaxed knees.
7. Limited exaggeration of movement.
8. Repetition of basic movements.
9. Inter connectivity of movement, rhythm and beat.
10. Contextual reference to the dance.
11. Simultaneous uses of several movements and rhythms.
It is only when such dance creations conform to the norms of the community's dance traditions, that the dance earns such approval. Additionally, groups from neighboring towns and villages usually ‘borrow’ dance movements or whole dance forms from one other. Such borrowers add new movements to the ideas they have acquired. They expand the rhythmic interpretations and other relevant elements, based on their own dance experiences to create new dance forms of their own. It is also worth noting here that, the various communities do not usually analyze and formally discuss aesthetics and other norms of traditional societies in Ghana, and indeed in many parts of Africa. Rather, manifestations of these in legends, folk tales, songs and riddles, and of course dance, occur through the experience of participation in such events and the support the individual receives from other members of the community.