Ghana’s foremost dance choreographer, dance teacher, dancer, researcher and consultant, Prof F. Nii Yartey took his final bow in India where he had led a group of dancers to the Africa-India Summit held there recently.
He fell ill and was hospitalised but subsequently kick the bucket on Saturday, November 21. He was 69.
Prof. Nii Yartey, who started his working life as a bailiff in 1965 with the Central Revenue Department of Ghana now Ghana Revenue Authority, left a year later and in 1968, obtained a certificate in dance, a diploma in 1971 at the University of Ghana and a Master of Arts degree at the University of Illinois, USA in 1975.
He was from 1976 to 1993 the Artistic Director/Choreographer of the Ghana Dance Ensemble, University of Ghana. When the group moved to the National Theatre, to become the National Dance Company of Ghana, he became the first Artistic Director until 2006 when he retired.
He became an Associate Professor of the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana the same year and proceeded to Swarthmore University, Pennsylvania, USA where he was a Cornell Distinguished Professor for a year.
He returned in 2007 to work with Ashesi University College, as an Adjunct Professor. In 2008 Prof Nii Yartey went back to the School of Performing Arts (SPA) of the University of Ghana to teach dance and became the Head, Department of Dance Studies, SPA and in 2012 took temporary responsibility of the university’s dance group.
His knack for unearthing talents in the area of dance and its associated disciplines was uncanny and some of those around him sometimes found it strange how he managed to transform some of those talents into stars.
One of the things that he often joked about was the fact he could form about 30 Ghana Dance Ensembles from among the former quality performers of the company who are scattered all over the world.
Prof. Nii Yartey’s research interests for the past several years have been the creation and development of contemporary African dance in Ghana and the continuation of the development of dance-drama initiated by the late Emeritus Professor Albert Mawere-Opoku.
He formed the Noyam African Dance Institute, the first of its kind in the country to explore his new ideas in dance movement and to train young dancers who otherwise would not have the kind of education required of a dancer, to break into the world’s mainstream professional dance community, because they do not have the requisite educational qualification.
Prof Nii Yartey was elated and said he had realised part of his dream when some of his students managed to continue their training overseas and are currently undertaking their Master’s programmes there.
Nii Yartey would be remembered for his numerous choreographic pieces. They number over 30 and include world- class pieces such as The King’s Dilemma, Bukom, Solma, The Legend of Okoryoo, Musu-Saga of the Slaves and Atamga which all brought joy to thousands of audiences in Ghana and around the world.
Among the many events he was involved with that thrilled many people worldwide were Asipim a dance-theatre commissioned by the East Bay Centre for the Performing Arts, San Francisco in USA which he co-choreographed with Prof. C.K. Ladzekpo and The Journey, a contemporary African dance piece he choreographed for the Adzido Pan African Dance Ensemble in the United Kingdom.
In 2008, he directed the dance and choreography components for Ghana CAN 2008, (the 26th Africa Cup of Nations Soccer Tournament) opening and closing ceremonies in Accra.
He choreographed several other major productions and published several articles in journals here and abroad.
Prof. Nii Yartey travelled extensively in the course of his work and also organised numerous workshops, seminars, and dance training sessions and lectures across the globe.
He also won several awards including the Head of State Grand Medal (Civil Division) for his contribution to choreography and dance development in Ghana.
Credit: Graphic Online