My Last Day In Ghana

The words “I did it!” keep repeating in my mind on my last day here in Ghana. 

It is a truly empowering experience to successfully move to another country alone for an extended period of time without a set schedule or plan. I’m so thankful for all of the inspirational people I met and for all of the amazing adventures I went on. This trip will be something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. 

Here are some of my favorite moments:

 

My first trip to the beach
  
Tilapia from Treasures in Haatso…I went there at least once a week while staying in Haatso.
  
Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park
  
Amazing teachers and students of Osu Dance
  
Two amazing Osu Kids Dance students
  
Teaching the awesome kids at OK Dance
  
Choreographed for the opening of a mall in Achimota
  
Teaching at the University of Ghana at Legon
  
Rehearsal with these amazing dancers
  
Walking over a forest
  
The amazing fruit
  
Meeting these two beautiful ladies
 
The Squad
  
Many great memories at Purple Pub
  
Huge thank you to Ofori-Ata for taking me under his wing and allowing me to teach at the University of Ghana
  
So thankful I met this beautiful soul and creator of Dancehall Divas
  
Mmmh waakye
  
At the premier of Ghana’s first action movie
  
I met some stars
  
My first music video
  
Talking about being a full time dancer on GH1
  
Having a proper Thanksgiving dinner with fellow Americans
  
The super talented music producer JR
  
Had a blast working on the viral video for Samini’s latest song
  
Viral video shooting
  
Eating sushi at Soho
  
Dancing with the amazing Gbeke
  
Photoshooting for the Dancehall Divas website
  
The queen Dancehall Diva and the makeup artist
  
Group shot
  
Poster girl
  
Witnessed a Ghanaian wedding
  
Palava sauce is life
  

 

Made new friends from South Africa
  
Siya!
  
Adwoa!
  
3rd time is a charm. My third and final residence for my stay in Ghana in my favorite neighborhood, East Legon
  
Huge thank you to Pulse Fitness for the complimentary membership during my stay!
  
Senchi Resort
  
Keeping it real in Akosombo
  
The gorgeous Volta Lake
  
Senchi Resort
  
The Volta Lake
  
The incredible talent in the School of Performing Arts at the University of Ghana
  
Tilapia from Senchi Resort
  
The best tilapia award goes to Chez Clarisse
  
I had a lot of clothes made but this is my favorite outfit
  
Second time to the castle in Cape Coast
  
My favorite chill spot in East Legon: Coco Vanilla
  
365 days before this photo I said I’d bring in the New Year on the beach in Ghana. And I did!
  
I’ll be back Ghana!
 

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3 of the Most Liberating Words

I Don’t Know

Yeah, not what I expected either. 

It all happened at dinner. I was asking a new friend, “What is the biggest thing you’d like to accomplish in life?” They answered and when they turned the question back to me, it seemed like time froze as my brain frantically searched for an answer.

Up until that moment, I’ve always had an answer to that question. I have since I’ve been a child. I knew that my life’s mission was to be the first woman president in the US…and then a surgeon…and then an astronaut. Even though it kept changing, I’ve always known the answer. 

For four years prior to this trip to Ghana, I dedicated the majority of my energy to healing from some childhood/early adulthood events. As a part of the process, I constantly have to identify negative beliefs and coping mechanisms that I want to let go of. 

While it is extremely exciting to be in a place where negative beliefs no longer run the show, it has left me in a place I never suspected existed. It’s this place where I am aware of what I don’t believe and what habits I don’t want, but then I’m just…empty. I mean, I know what’s NOT true…but what is true? What habits do I want? What do I actually want?  

And as I sat thinking about the question I originally asked my friend, I heard myself utter the words, “I don’t know.” And I haven’t known. I was coping. 

After the words came out, I took a moment to see if panic would overtake me, but something unexpected happened: My shoulders relaxed, a calmness washed over me, and I felt no need to apologize or cover up my answer. I felt complete relief.

Relief?! How could relief come over me when I’ve just admitted that I don’t know what I want to do with my life? All this time, all these projects, all these plans…and I don’t know? Then what am I doing here…or anywhere??

But then I realized not knowing gives me an incredible amount of freedom. I no longer have to force things to work that were never meant to be. And I have the permission to allow things to happen I never knew could be. 

This J-cation (J Lyn + vacation) has been a perfect example. Before coming I had the hardest time explaining to people why I was traveling to Ghana for such a long period of time. I’d say things like, “to set up a program for my students to be able to visit Ghana” or “to teach dance” or “to network”…and all of these things were true, but the answers never felt complete and I couldn’t place why. 

Shortly after admitting not knowing, I realized I came to Ghana because I didn’t know why I wanted to come to Ghana. And now, thanks to this journey, I’ve discovered many positive beliefs and new habits I will hold on to for the rest of my life.

Before coming, one of my hopes was to figure out what changes I wanted to make in my life career-wise. While this was one of many goals I didn’t meet, I know it’s okay that I don’t know. 

I know that I love dance. I know that I want to explore Lagos, Nigeria. I know that I am excited for this program for my students to travel to Ghana. I know that I am ready to come back to NYC. I know that my experience in Ghana has been both amazing and amazingly challenging and I know that I’m ready to move on. But after that…

I don’t know.

And that’s a relief.

My Last Month In Ghana

I can’t believe I only have one month left on this J-cation (J Lyn plus vacation 😩)! 
It’s been both a challenge and a great experience so far. Even though I almost came home early a couple of weeks ago (the struggle was SO real), I am so glad that I’ve stuck with this trip. And who knows what this last month holds? 

To celebrate, I’m excited to release this viral dance video I did for Ghanaian artist Samini and his team. 

Huge shout out to Gbeke for learning this choreography in one rehearsal! Go follow him on Instagram @gbeke_gh He’s amazing!  

Video Link:

https://youtu.be/4P9LTOlA43U

My First Ghanaian Flash Mob

I had so much fun working with these 36 talented dancers for performances they did at the Achimota Mall opening.  I was originally asked to give the dancers flash mob style choreography, but once I saw them dance, I had to go in. Here are some pictures and videos from rehearsals:

    

    
    
    
    
 

Ballet is [not] the foundation of dance. 

“Ballet is the most important style to train in.”

“Ballet gives you the foundation to do all dance styles.” 

“Ballet is the foundation of dance.”

For the past month and a half I have been living in a country where ballet and ballet-based genre classes barely exist. I don’t see pointed feet. Teachers don’t communicate in French terminology. Not in recreational dance classes, not in rehearsals for the National Company, not in the Dance Department’s studies at the University of Ghana. Here taking a technique class means training in Traditional Ghanaian dance. Here claiming to be a dancer means you are skilled at both Adowa and Azonto. Here Traditional Ghanaian dances are the foundation of dance exploration and studies.   

Here an Afrocentric approach is enough. Is valid. Is complete. 

Yet in the States I can’t escape hearing, “Ballet is the most important style to train in. Ballet gives you the foundation to do all dance styles. Ballet is the foundation of dance.”

Our genres of dance reflect a specific group’s story. So what are we really saying when we reinforce this false hierarchy of genres? We’re saying that one story, one experience, one group is more valid than the rest. Do we, as a community of artists, really think it valid to perpetuate the divisions we see in our country in our art, a place we have the power to cross and break through the boundaries of racism, sexism, and classism?

Please understand that when you buy into the myth that ballet is the  foundation of dance, what you are truly saying is that a Eurocentric approach is more valid than other approaches. And the further you are from that approach, the more primitive the viewpoint. 

Isn’t that what we really mean when we say stuff like, “I’ve trained in hip hop for 2 years and am ready to audition” while knowing not to walk into a professional level ballet class after training for the same amount of time? Isn’t it what we’re saying when we say that ballet is the only solution to “having clean lines”, to having “proper” posture, to having “full” body awareness? Isn’t it what we’re saying when we use the term “trained dancer” as synonymous with training in ballet and antonymous with Afrocentric styles? 

Ballet is not the root of dance. People’s lives, experiences, beliefs, hardships and triumphs are. And for as long as we buy into the myth that one group of people’s story is more valid than the rest, we will never experience the art form of dance in all of its freedom, purity and glory.  

Kusum Beach

There’s no denying that I am obsessed with the beach 🙈 So when I was invited out by my dance friends the  Azonto Twins to check out one I hadn’t been to yet, I couldn’t turn it down. Unlike Labadi and Titanic Beach, there aren’t restaurants and DJs. The (long) (and bumpy) dirt road ride might deter a lot of people from coming to this beach which makes for a super quiet and super clean beach. If you want a peaceful beach experience, I highly recommend Kusum Beach. 

 

Quiet and Clean 🙌🏾
  
No, you’re not seeing double. It’s the Azonto Twins
   

Flashback Friday

It’s been a wonderful month exploring Ghana 💃🏾 So much dancing, learning, and meeting great people. Here are random(ly awesome) photos from some experiences I haven’t already posted.  Enjoy!

 

My first visit to the market in Teshie Nungua
  
I still can’t believe I walked on a narrow wooden plank over the top of a rain forest 😳
  
The following are pictures from the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park
  
    
  
The following pictures are from the W.E.B. Dubois Memorial Center
  
    
    
  
Unfortunately it was closed when I visited but I’ll be back to check it out
  
The following pictures are of the Slave River historical site. This river was the last time the men and women were allowed to bathe before being sold and shipped off into slavery.
 
Artwork on the fence outside of the site depicting the reality the men and women captured for slavery faced
  
    
    
Where the men and women were auctioned off before being sent to the Elmina or Cape Coast castle to await the ships.
    
The river
    
Memorial set up to honor us in the Diaspora who have traveled back.
  
The Cape Coast Slave Castle
  
    
My first traditional wedding experience. The dancers were amazing!
  
My new favorite soda…and DJ
  
I’m still making a separate post for food but this tilapia with banku is my new Sunday ritual because it’s basically a religious experience 🙌🏾😩
  
I had a blast last night working out and networking at the Fit Ghana event.
  
Beautiful sand sculpture on Labadi Beach
 

Lunch On A Plane

I was so excited to try La Tante DC 10 Restaurant across from the airport in Accra today! The restaurant is set inside of a former Ghana Airways DC 10 carrier. Cute idea!

The outside of the plane:   
We sat in coach 😏 :

 
Me and the lovely DeZiya ready for lunch: 


They even had vegetarian options 😍😍😍 :

Me about to devour my palava sauce with fish and jollof rice: