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Published on Aug 21, 2010
Performance at Swarthmore U, Philadelphia 4/24/09. This Atsia dance style comes from the Ewes of Togo & Benin. This dance is traditionally performed only by women. Our stage presentation is a beautiful but tragically condensed adaptation of an all-day event.
In West Africa when this style became popular (I think in the 1950s, not sure), it wasn't easy for women of the community to speak out about social issues
Atsia was created by a group of strong women as a forum where women could speak out. The music and songs are composed by women, and the event is run by women. Short skits are presented where social issues or grievances are acted out, with the male roles played by women dressed as men.
After each skit, a musical episode reinforces the message with song and drum language (eg "don't spend money on silly things", "don't flirt with women when you already have 3 wives", "pay your debts", etc).