For the past 15 years, the DeKalb School System Spanish teacher has been moonlighting as a West African dancer.
In 2009, she became a sponsor of a dance team at Miller Grove Middle School in Lithonia, where she is a Spanish teacher and Connections Department chair. She named it Sankofa, which in the Ghana Akan language means “go back and fetch it.” For Gaddis, that means learning from the past.
“It’s about going back to get the knowledge that our ancestors have put into place. For us, that knowledge is dance, song, rhythms and music in general,” she said.
She learned to dance under the tutelage of Abdoulaye Camara of the National Ballet of Senegal and has been imparting what she knows to students.
Her Miller Grove team of three dancers will demonstrate how dancing can help keep people fit.
The sixth- to eighth-graders meet for biweekly rehearsals and learn steps that are connected to daily life in ancient Ghana.
Gaddis said that the simple task of leaning over and planting a seed becomes elevated when it is repeated in a performance setting. The rhythms and movements have been passed down through the generations, Gaddis said.
She said studying tradition is very important, especially in a predominantly African-American community.
“We learn these things as an expression of our pride and culture,” Gaddis said.
Sankofa will be on the Main Stage, in front of Sears on the mall’s lower level, at 3 p.m.
The Mall at Stonecrest is at I-20 and Turner Hill Road in Lithonia.