Author: Senyo Okyere1
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  • 1 Choreomundus — International Master in Dance Knowledge, Practice and Heritage, Nana Achempong, 107 Kensington Ave, Apt 102 Jersey City, NJ 07304
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This research was conducted on the Brekete Gatsi cult in Ghana to investigate the use of the body in action during the dance in the ritual context. Brekete is a possession cult found among the Ewe’s of the Volta Region-Ghana. Devotees in this cult worship the deities Kunde and Ablewa on every Friday, Sunday and during ceremonial days. They also propitiate other pantheons who are children of Kunde and Ablewa. During ritual moments they call on these deities, who manifest themselves by embodying trained mediums to enter into an act of communion with the religious community. This state of embodiment is manipulated by rhythms paralleled with ritual sacrifices and dance which the community believes attains efficacy through possession.

Therefore, this article will discuss the role of two dances which are performed during the ritual of the cult. Both dances occur during the same ritual events but may be distinguished by the fact that one of them is accompanied by possession and the other is not. I have therefore labelled them as Wu (Dance) and Trɔwo le ewu du (deities are dancing). It is through the analysis of these dances that it is possible for the reader to understand the relationship between the mundane world and the supernatural world of the people who perform in this cult. The methodology used has been that of classical anthropological research approach and more particularly of participant observation of events of which I had no prior knowledge due to my Christian urban upbringing. I wish to highlight the exoticism of the experience for a researcher who, despite his own upbringing, tackled a different religious phenomenon irrespective of his social and religious affiliations.

Thus, with my focus on the bodily actions and how they are used to gain access into the celestial world, I identify dance as an instrument and a medium by which the physical evidence of possession comes about. To that effect, and through the phenomenon that religious possession dance is laden with complexities and meaning, this article will hereby develop how the ritual processes and the differences between the movement of “Wu and Trɔwo le ewu du” teaches us about the ritual efficacy of possession dance. I argue here that both possession dance and the dance without possession (i) are contra-kinetically constructed, (ii) have movement sequences employing sagittal symmetrical principles, and (iii) although they have limited motifs of the steps and arm gesture, the possession dance has many variations.

Finally, the Wu serves as a prelude to Trɔ di amedzi (deity has embodied or mounted its medium) and Trɔwo le ewu du, which has the concept of possession among the Brekete Gatsi cult based on the philosophy of repetitive motif characterised by intense energy, rhythmic tempo and musicality (multidi-mensional, accentuation and phrasing) from the brekete drum.

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