West African Dance
Community Workshop

At Common Room at Zion Lutheran Church
Pittsfield, MA: Feb 20

Event Dates

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Thank you for your interest! Registration for this workshop has closed, and this workshop has reached capacity. Thank you for your understanding and we hope to move with you soon.

West African Dance Community Workshop
with Artist Iddrisu Saaka

Sunday, February 20, 2022 | 2-3:30pm
In-Person* at Common Room
Zion Lutheran Church, 74 First Street, Pittsfield, MA 01201

Part of Love Pittsfield’s 10×10 Upstreet Arts Festival | In partnership with the NAACP Berkshire County Branch and The Town of Great Barrington W.E.B. Du Bois Legacy Festival

Join dancer, storyteller, and drummer Iddrisu Saaka for an exciting workshop exploring Ghanaian culture through movement and storytelling. Families and participants of all ages are invited to learn the Kpatsa, a traditional recreational dance from the southern part of Ghana, and hear about its cultural background and role in modern Ghana. We ask that all participants please observe our COVID-19 policies.

All are welcome, open to all levels, no prior experience needed, wear comfortable clothing to move in.

*Please note that this workshop is in-person. However, due to the continually shifting landscape of COVID-19 in our community, this workshop may shift to a Zoom virtual event in an effort to ensure our collective health and safety. Participants will be notified promptly via email regarding any changes to this workshop.

COVID-19 Health & Safety Protocols

We are committed to creating a safe and healthy environment for Jacob’s Pillow activities for community members, collaborators, and audiences. Everyone’s health and safety is deeply important to us.

  • To attend, we require proof of full vaccination (ages 5+) as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the form of either a vaccination card, a photo of the card, or a digital vaccine record, accompanied by a photo ID for those over the age of 18.
  • CDC-approved face masks are required (ages 2+).
  • Social distancing will be observed.

Jacob’s Pillow is not currently accepting a negative COVID-19 test result as an alternative to being fully vaccinated, except for individuals who need reasonable accommodations due to a medical exception or sincerely held religious belief. 100% of the Jacob’s Pillow staff and artists are fully COVID vaccinated and those present will be masked and socially distanced. If there are any changes to these requirements, all registered attendees will be notified in advance.

What To Expect

  • Upon arrival, check-in to confirm registration and present vaccination status. 
  • Expect to move together, with music, socially distanced, and wearing masks. The workshop concludes with a Q&A with the artist. 
  • Extra masks, hand sanitizer, and first aid kits will be available. 
  • Location: Common Room (Zion Lutheran Church, 74 First Street, Pittsfield, MA 01201)
  • Public parking: Directly across the street at First Street Parking Lot
  • Accessibility: The space is wheelchair accessible. Questions about accessibility? Please contact Thasia Giles at tgiles@jacobspillow.org or at 413.243.9919 x161.

About Iddrisu Saaka

Iddrisu Saaka stands facing the camera against a black background. He is shirtless and wears multicolored pants. He extends his left arm, spreading the palm of his hand toward the camera. In his right hand, he holds a bowl.Iddrisu (Iddi) Saaka ​​is an award-winning West African dance and music performance artist and teacher who specializes in Ghanaian dance and music as well as contemporary dance. Saaka holds a Diploma (with distinction) from the University of Ghana and an MFA in Dance from the University of California, Los Angeles. He has performed and taught nationally and internationally in several venues including Los Angeles, New York, Connecticut, North Carolina, Florida, Israel, Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Guinea. In 2003, he performed for the president of Israel. He has created original multifaceted works that address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Ghana and Malawi and has worked with youths in detention centers across Connecticut as well as with physically challenged youth in Israel, using dance and music to equip them with lifelong skills such as anger management, respect for cultural diversity, and self-dignity. Saaka has served as Visiting Instructor of Dance at the University of California, Los Angeles and San Diego, and the University of Ghana. He has taught dance at Wesleyan University since 2008 and is currently an Assistant Professor of Dance at Wesleyan and a recipient of Wesleyan’s prestigious Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching award in 2018.

Message from the Artist

The fast-paced nature of modern life constantly pulls us in multiple directions. Technology paired with the isolation we have had to endure due to the coronavirus pandemic can make us feel out of tune with our bodies. Dancing can reconnect us with our bodies because it is an activity that develops physical and mental well-being. It makes us strong, flexible, and helps us destress by taking our minds off our daily challenges. Dance is also a gateway to the cultures and ways of life of the people of West Africa. It is the medium on which the very existence of the people is reinforced and celebrated. In this workshop, participants will learn the fundamental principles and aesthetics of West African dance, general West African movement vocabulary, and hone in on Ghanaian dance. In Ghanaian dance, the orientation of the body is downwards, towards the earth, with a relaxed body. There is an organic relationship between music and dance. While the dance is generally energetic and free, dancers must learn to be attentive to the rhythms and the instructions played by the drummer and express their individuality even as they work as a team.

Code of Conduct

We are committed to providing an inclusive environment that cultivates the celebration of the art of dance and its positive impact on communities. We are dedicated to fostering a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable experience for everyone in our community and on our beautiful campus. You, as patrons and visitors of Jacob’s Pillow, are expected to contribute to our mutually respectful and welcoming community, supporting the world of dance and its citizens for generations to come.