Kwame Opare Uses West African Traditions to Teach
Kwame Opare stood front and center in a vibrant mythical world of music and dance where trash cans didn't contain garbage, brooms weren't just for sweeping away rubbish, and plastic water bottles took on a whole new meaning.
As one of the stars in the off-Broadway smash musical, "Stomp," Opare's performance often tested one's imagination and schooled audiences on what takes place on many inner-city playgrounds where trash can lids are used as swings, broomsticks for playing stick ball and water bottles replaced wooden drumsticks.
"Opare's dynamic stage persona, and his capabilities as a dancer made him a valuable member of the 'Stomp' team" and an outstanding teacher," said Tim Grassel, manager of the musical, 'Stomp.'
It may not be Broadway, but Opare, a D.C. native will perform with fellow dancer, Graham Brown at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center in College Park, Md., on Thursday, March 14 and Friday, March 15 at 8 p.m. The show, billed as, "The Shared Thesis," Concert will feature traditional West African dance, and also include students from various schools.
"This show relates to my work in the [D.C.] community and it promotes the power of the arts by using West African dance," said Opare, 36.
As a teacher in the Baltimore City Public Schools, he continues to draw from the "Stomp," script by using unconventional props and methods to educate the young.
"I want children to understand how their history is relevant and connected to the persons that they are today because that's what I learned," he said.
Although, he works in Charm City, where he teaches at-risk youth, Opare maintains a residence in Northwest and proudly trumpets the great education that he received in the District. He graduated from Nation House and Ujamaa schools, both located in Northwest.
"When you can educate children properly – give them something that pertains to them, it makes them want to learn. You instill [a sense of] pride in them," Opare said.
"That is why I say that I want to disrupt the mis-education of African-American youth. It is through this empowerment that you can make a better society."
After he graduated from Ujamaa School in 1994, Opare wanted to gain more experience in the dance world, and moved to New York, where he lived on and off for seven years, honing his skills.
He recently received a scholarship to study dance at the Graduate School of Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he also teaches dance.
There's no doubt that his first love is dance, however, Opare uses formations such as the toe-drop and the toe-stand to pique the interests of his young charges in the hope that they will recognize the fortitude of those who came before them.
He said the system's flawed.
"My concept is to use disruption as a method to alleviate the problems facing a particular group of young people. It's an attempt to show, through dance, iconic pop imagery and music, an epidemic of failure in America's methods of educating its youth."