SOFA Spotlight: Etienne Cakpo, The Artist Who Resurrected The African Traditional And Contemporary Dance

Etienne Capko - Spirit Of Africa

Originally from Benin, Etienne Cakpo is the Artistic Director and lead choreographer/dancer of Gansango Music and Dance. Etienne has been building his repertoire of traditional and modern dance for over thirty years. As director of Gansango Music & Dance, Etienne leads the company’s work with dozens of public libraries, schools and independent arts agencies locally and nationally to make performance of dance and music from Africa available to a wide range of audiences, including young children.

Etienne and his Dance Company Gansango has independently self-produced eight public shows for the Seattle-area public since 2001.  Each of these productions reached an audience of 300-900 people. Original choreography, live music, unique costumes and colorful backdrops are hallmarks of the shows, as well as guest performances by visiting artists. Featuring traditional dance from Benin and modern dance styles from West Africa, these ground-breaking and diverse performances have engaged and entertained world culture fans of all ages. Gansango’s performances have challenged audiences’ sense of African music and dance by exposing them to an innovative blending of cultures and highly-rehearsed artistry.

Gansango is directed by Etienne Cakpo, originally from Benin and now a choreographer and teacher based in Seattle, Washington. Gansango company collaborating artists perform regularly in the Seattle area, nationally and internationally for audiences of all ages.

The company performances fuse music and movement from across the African continent, drawing heavily from the dance and music traditions of Benin, Ghana and Togo, among other countries. Instruction and shows often feature traditional dance from Benin, including ritualistic dances, regional social ceremony dances, such as the Chenkoumé dance from Savalou, and royal historical dances such as the Zehli dance from the late 1800’s.

Gansango’s independent productions include:  a Tour Of 5 Cities in Comumbia in 2009, Giant Magnet Festival in 2009, Dance This in 2008, 2012, 2015, and 2016, International Dance Day 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, Gbéplé: The Spirit of Union, 2001, Jijoho: Dance of Peace, 2003, La Calabasse, 2007, Horizon: A line that doesn’t exist, 2010, Mikwaabo nɖù Benin, 2012, DanceGarden, 2015, Crossroads Africa, 2015, Wedou-Wedou, 2016, Africa Remix, 2017.


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