Award Winners / Artist Profile

About the Artist

Etienne Cakpo (Seattle) is an award-winning professional dancer, choreographer and musician from Benin, West Africa. He is specialized in instruction and performance of traditional African dance from Benin as well as contemporary African dance styles, and has been building his dance repertoire for over 20 years. He directs Gansango Music & Dance, a dance company, and works closely with public libraries, schools and independent arts agencies locally and nationally to make performance of dance and music from Africa available to a wide range of audiences, including young children.

Etienne received a 2008 GAP to develop and present a performance of African dance, featuring all original, new choreography. Cakpo-Gbokou will serve as principal choreographer and lead dancer in collaboration with three local modern dancers and one international dancer. This new work, while culturally-influenced, will focus solely on modern dance forms. The show will be performed with live and recorded music. “The goals of the project are to offer Western Washington public exposure to an African-inspired modern dance performance with artistic excellence, and to simultaneously showcase the exquisite grace, strength, and richness of culturally-influenced modern dance.”

As part of his 2006 Fellowship’s Meet the Artist requirements, Etienne offered an African dance workshop through the Kids for Kenya Club at Endeavor Intermediate and Hedden Elementary Schools in Milton. The event was attended by about 40 children from grades 2–5. Cakpo and two members of his dance company, Siya Manyakanyaka (singer, dancer, drummer from South Africa) and Won-Ldy Paye (drummer, master storyteller from Liberia) taught dances, played drums, sang, and told stories. “It was very fun and interesting. I liked that I got to learn a new dance. I practice it every day. I learned that many different cultures have many different dances,” a student reported.

Information included above was provided by artist at the time of application.