What makes the performing arts so special? While loosely, one might apply the term to any sort of presentation before an audience, critics have historically used the label to separate dance, music, and theater performance from the “static” visual arts. A painter, writer, or photographer can effectively transmit their work and their messages through time and even across significant cultural or linguistic barriers-preserving a moment, a vision, or an idea in a permanent medium. We get perhaps as close as we can to time traveling by looking at a Stieglitz photograph, some lines of Dante, or a cave-painting on an ancient wall, able to see (at least almost) the same thing that the creator did at the moment of inception or execution.The performing arts, on the other hand, are time-limited. We can’t ever really know what a Shakespeare play was like for the audience, aside from a few well-preserved accounts, and are instead left confronting his plays more as a part of literary history than theater. Nor can we ever know what it might have been like to have witnessed the first performance of Swan Lake at the Bolshoi Theater in 1895. Part of the magic is how they serve as a sort of event or spectacle, a one-of-a-kind occurrence that, even in the age of HD digital recording, can still only exist in full in the memory of those who were there to see it happen.Especially over the course of the twentieth century, the performing arts have been host to a few particularly significant developments. At the peak of artistic exploration in the post-war period, dancers, playwrights, and musicians used their mediums to respond to a growing need for new forms-the idea that the changing conditions of the world demanded a different sort of art than what had come before. While this drive could be identified in the visual arts as well, it was on stage that the artist could directly confront their audiences with a new way of thinking about things. Here are three key innovators any theater-goer should know about.Antonin Artuad: A writer, critic, and playwright inspired by the existential writings of Friedrich Nietzsche and Jacques Derrida, Artuad believed that theater for the 21st century must incorporate a sense of life’s harshness in a way that Romantic and Modern forms had been unable to. Emphasizing an embrace of chaos in the face of nihilism and a cross-cultural engagement with a diverse variety of traditional forms, Artuad’s insistence on breaking free of the limits of language and into the unexplored spaces of gesture and sound had a lasting impact on generations of dramatists and performers to come.Merce Cunningham: While Artuad turned to philosophy and Eastern cultures for inspiration, this dancer and choreographer incorporated elements of chance as a way of embracing the organic chaos of the creative process, incorporating random choices into the compositional process. While some of the outcomes might not be artistically serviceable, incorporating this aleatory element opened the artist up to new & surprising possibilities. Later in life, Cunningham continued to push the limits of the performing arts medium by experimenting with film and motion capture technologies, finding new ways to document and archive these former one-of-a-kind experiences.John Cage: Cunningham’s lifelong partner, Cage applied the variable aspects of chance to his musical performances, inspired by the ancient Chinese text I Ching, a divination manual known in the West as the Book of Changes. By consulting the patterns and sequences of the manuscript, Cage sought not so much to bring an order to what he saw as the chaos of life, but rather a redirection of attention; an awareness of the natural state of existence. While Cage may be best known for his composition 4’33”-four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence from a performer sitting at a piano, the performing arts have enjoyed a lasting contribution from his work with unusual instrumentation and innovative use of new recording technology.
Contemporary Ghanaian performing arts have been influenced by foreign culture, technology, and education. It is a synergy of the indigenous performing arts with the Western cultural forms of performing arts. There are three main forms of performing arts practiced by the Ghanaians today. These are music, dance, and drama.MusicGhanaian contemporary music has been influenced by foreign music styles and concepts though there is not a total eradication of the indigenous music styles. Some contemporary Ghanaian musicians blend the indigenous and foreign music styles in composing their songs. The foreign music styles that have influenced Ghanaian music today include jazz, pop music, Blues, Rock and Roll, Reggae, Ragga, R&B, Indian and Arabic songs. Contemporary Ghanaian music includes highlife which has more of the indigenous music elements, the hip-life which fuses slow lyric choruses with Ragga or rap music. Currently, there is the hip-pop music that is an exact rendition of the Western style of music though the lyrics and language are mostly Ghanaian in nature. There is also the church or choral music, brass band music, regimental or military music as well as the classical music.Several foreign musical instruments are used hand in hand with the indigenous musical instruments. These include guitars, pianos, trumpets like the saxophone, foreign drums, cymbals etc. Unlike indigenous Ghanaian music, contemporary Ghanaian music is recorded in high technological recording studios where other artificial elements are added to the originally composed music to bring it to foreign standards. They are then copied on Compact Disks, DVD’S, VCD’S, EVD’S etc.
Contemporary Ghanaian music is played at theatres, church services, parties, concerts, dance halls, and parks. They are played during religious services to enhance praises and worship. They are also played during social functions like marriage feasts, sporting activities and the like to entertain those in attendance. During workshops, talks, and seminars, music is played to relieve stress and boredom during intermissions of the program. They are played to boost the morale of competitors in various forms of competitions. Others are played to educate us on morality, patriotism and nationalism. There are various music contest and competitions held in Ghana to promote music. These include TV3 Mentor, X-Factor, etc.Popular contemporary Ghanaian music stars include Dr. Ephraim Amu who composed various Coral songs for the Ghanaian community. Others include Agya Koo Nimo, Cindy Thompson, Yaw Sarpong, Daddy Lumba, Kojo Antwi, Nana Acheampong, Obrafo, Sarkodie etc.DanceContemporary Ghanaian dance, like music, has been influenced by foreign dance styles. Some of these foreign dance styles include cracking, electric boogie etc. Dance is performed to entertain people and to express their sentiments towards one another. Contemporary Ghanaian dance forms include quickstep, mambo, waltz, foxtrot, salsa, boogie, cha-cha-cha, robot movement, twist, break and now, Azonto. These dance styles are performed at various functions such as church, weddings, funerals, parties, durbars, and festivals etc. Several dance competitions are held today in Ghana to promote dancing such as the Malta Guinness Street Dance contest. Dancing is now a very lucrative enterprise in contemporary Ghana.DramaContemporary Ghanaian drama is performed on a stage in a theatre. Unlike the indigenous Ghanaian drama where the audience sometimes interact with the audience while the performance is in season, contemporary Ghanaian drama is performed uninterrupted by the actors and actresses who play the various roles in the story depicted in the performance. The audience, however, participates by clapping, booing and shouting in a bid to express their sentiments towards the performance. Contemporary Ghanaian drama includes plays, comedies, operas, and cantatas.Popular contemporary Ghanaian drama groups include the Abibigroma drama group, the National Dance Ensemble, Osofo Dadzie drama group, Adabraka drama Troupe and the Tsadidi drama group. Popular drama themes in contemporary Ghana include the ‘The Black African Slave Trade, by the National Dance Ensemble, ‘Ananse and the gun man’ by Joe deGraft, ‘The dilemma of a ghost’ by Ama Ataa Aidoo and the celebrated ‘Marriage of Anansewaa’ by Efua Sunderland.Contemporary Ghanaian drama is staged in churches and mosques to illustrate some Christian themes to educate members about the Christian and Muslim doctrines and the relevance of leading a good moral life in line with the principles and regulations of God. During social gatherings, parties, and festivals, drama is performed to entertain those in attendance. Others are staged to educate the general public on social issues such as healthy living, personal hygiene, laws and norms of the land, patriotism and the like.