The Whole Performing Artist

by Bija Children's Choir


When I sat down for my first drum lesson in Ghana, West Africa, back in 1996, with a drum between my knees,  feet touching the clay earth and shaded by the trees, the teacher announced "And now, we are going to learn a dance called Boboobo."  Dance, I thought?  But this was supposed to be a drum class.  Which is what we did indeed do for two hours-- learn the percussion parts for a dance called Boboobo.  I eventually discovered that there did not exist any words in the Ewe language to separate the activities of drumming, dancing, and singing, as we have in English.  In the Ewe tradition, these are all part of the same one activity, which they translate into English as "dance."  And further, many of these dances had drama/acting elements, and each their own costume / artistic designs.  What a revelation it was, and a life-changing moment.  The "whole" performing artist is one who has a hand in it all -- the singing, the playing of  instruments, the dancing, the visual arts.  Surely there can be one area of particular strength and interest, but all of the other art forms are connected and meaningful to that one.  Having skills in each area only serves to enhance the total experience.  This holistic performing arts education approach is what I've sought to bring into the Bija Choir program, demonstrated by the dance workshops led by Julie Marques leading up to the Indian Story Concert last year, and this year a special Hawaiian Stage Set Art Workshop to be led by Meryl Juniper for our choir students to create their own stage props.  It is a gesture towards wholeness, which is a path towards the human experience of feeling most alive, I believe.           ~Maria