Etienne Cakpo: Bringing West Africa to Washington


Each March, Centrum invites young artists in grades 7-9 from around Washington to spend a week totally immersed in art. The goal of our Explorations week is to expose students to visual and performing art from other cultures, widen their horizons, and honor diversity in the creative culture of Washington State.

One of our most popular Explorations offerings is West African dance and drumming. We’re honored to welcome back Etienne Cakpo to lead the 2013 session with Yawo Amponsah.

A master dancer and choreographer from Benin, West Africa, Etienne Cakpo is the director and lead choreographer and dancer of Gansango Music and Dance.

Etienne has been building his repertoire of traditional and modern dance for over twenty years. In addition to conducting personal research to learn regional dances and musical traditions in his country, he has worked in remote areas of Benin with international ethnomusicologists, musicians and filmmakers.

Etienne has performed with artists from many countries, including Haiti, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Senegal, France, Mali and the United States.

Gansango Music & Dance draws on the stunning talent of a multicultural group of international dancers and musicians presenting traditional and contemporary dance and music from West Africa.

The company’s performances fuse music and movement from across the African continent, drawing heavily from the dance and music traditions of Benin, Senegal and South Africa, among other countries. Working with students, Etienne draws from a wide variety of traditional dance from Benin, including Vodoun 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.