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A performance by Penn’s West African Vibe, one of the University's African-style dance groups, this spring (Photo courtesy of Ugonma Ajomiwe).

Penn’s West African Vibe, one of Penn’s African-style dance groups, won an annual sakata dance competition at Princeton University this past week.

Princeton's premier African dance group DoroBucci hosted the competition on April 8, in which WAVe won $1000 and first place recognition. The sakata competition returned this year after going on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Describing the competition, College senior and group member Edith Oteng said that the team was provided with an “extremely detailed rubric” but not a theme. As a result, they decided to use music from all over Africa that highlighted the team’s “technique, style, personality, and creativity,” which she said led them to place first out of the six teams at the competition.

WAVe's win comes after their 10th anniversary show titled "Genesis: A WAVe Through Time" on March 18.

"It’s nice having that moment on stage and being recognized for all the work we put in,” College senior Toluwalase Akinwunmi said, reflecting on her last year as a member of the team.

Other members also said that WAVe has positively impacted their experiences at Penn, citing how it created a sense of community both on a personal and cultural level. 

“Things can get tough, and WAVe is a way for me to really express myself and let go of everything," Nursing sophomore Ugonma Ajomiwe said. "It’s also helped me get a way into the Penn Black community.”

WAVe was created in 2013 and specializes in dance styles from across West Africa, specifically Ghanaian and Nigerian styles. They perform as an independent group, meaning that they are not recognized by the Dance Arts Council that oversees several dance groups. As a result, members said the team’s victory at the competition felt legitimizing to them. 

“It was a way to show that we were serious," Ajomiwe said.

“It felt kind of legitimizing, and seeing the growth of WAVe has been really special," Oteng said. "I’m really happy to leave on such a high note.”

Oteng added that, as a first year coming into the group, the progress made by the team as a whole despite the pandemic has been “amazing.”

All members said that the next steps for the group included getting DAC and SAC recognized, which would give them a path towards more legitimacy within the Penn dance community. Members repeatedly alluded to the difficulties of being an independent dance group on campus, which gaining recognition may alleviate.