Bismark Danyo paints pictures with his words when he describes Ghana, his home, to students at Colorado State University.
Danyo, the guide for CSU’s three-year-old study abroad program “Learn and Serve” in Ghana, is visiting campus as an exchange scholar for a couple of months. It is his first visit to CSU — and the U.S.
“I enjoy telling stories about what my country looks like,” said Danyo. “But we also take ourselves out of the program and discuss things that are happening worldwide.”
Caridad Souza developed the “Learn and Serve” program, which is part of the Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research. She invited Danyo to be an exchange scholar with collaboration of Bridgette Johnson, director of the Black/African American Cultural Center.
“We value Bismark’s work and his expertise and thought it would be great for CSU to experience his wisdom, integrity and cultural knowledge first-hand,” Souza said.
Even though Danyo first arrived on campus in April, he is no stranger to the campus community. Students he has led during the “Learn and Serve” program have told him that he made them feel so welcome in Ghana and that they were happy to see him during his visit.
While he loves talking about his homeland, Danyo would rather dance. He is a master dancer, singer and drummer in traditional Ghanaian style and culture.
Danyo has been teaching dance for 17 years. His father was a dancer and would take Danyo to a traditional drumming session every weekend. At the time, Danyo was participating in street dance but loved the idea of learning about the traditional dances of Ghana.
“Street dance is about instinct, it is something that you create, you perform according to the song that is being played,” he said. “Traditional dance it is a way of storytelling to people. Every step has meaning, everything you do has a meaning, so I stopped street dancing and focused on traditional dance.”
Touring, then teaching
Danyo began touring other countries, learning about the different types of traditional dance that started in other regions of Africa. Traditional dance was his passion, and he danced his way through the 1990s. In 2000, Danyo started teaching dance in elementary schools throughout Ghana.
“This is what I love doing,” said Danyo. “Dancing is my part of who I am, and I love seeing kids dance and learn at the same time. Dance is a way of telling them about our culture and that we should not lose our culture. Traditional dance is a foundation. If you are lost from your roots, you don’t know where you are going, but if you have your roots you are never lost, and those come from the history of traditional dance.”
This spring Danyo performed at the “Gifts from Ghana” celebration on campus where students shared their experiences about their Ghana trip with friends, family and interested students. He also did a performance at the Black/African American Cultural Center’s Awards Banquet, and he performed at the Ethnic Studies and Women’s Studies Graduation Luncheon.
Studying abroad should always include dancing, he said. He will head back to Ghana at the end of this month.