Audience participation is key to any performance by Ghanaian troupe, Fanti Acrobats.
The dance group rely on crowd energy to get them through physically demanding routines and energy and strength are just two of the special ingredients that make the recipe of Fanti Acrobats so successful.
Down on the South Bank, they regularly entertain the huge crowds that pass along the Thames.
And on Bank Holiday Monday, they caught my attention when I saw man standing on someone’s head – literally!
With their love for colourful Kente cloth, Fanti Acrobats (the name ‘Fanti’ is a dialect spoken in the south-western region of Ghana)
Moving along to Ghanaian ‘HiLife’ music, the leader of the troupe instructs the crowd to “clap if you like it, and if you don’t, still clap”.
The leader of the troupe, Edwin Kobina Yankah, warms up by spinning a metal pan on his index finger then balancing a stool on his head.
According to Edwin, “it’s all about control”.
He said: “This is like training for us. We can’t be afraid. We spent a lot of time touring, doing corporate gigs and performing at private events, festivals and shows. We use this time to train our bodies. It’s like a warm up.”
Edwin says he got involved in gymnastics when he was “very very young”, growing up in Accra, Ghana’s capital.
The group was founded in 1996 and the troupe of eight are trained in various disciplines. For example, acrobatic, gymnastics, limbo, fire eating and contortion.
They’ve been performing on the South Bank for the last seven years and Edwin says the energy and crowd enthusiasm encourages them to work extra hard to put on a great show.
But with the show being so fast-paced and the troupe doing backflips on the pavement, have they ever had any slip ups or accidents on while performing?
“Only a few, but nothing too serious,” says Edwin, “a few bruised bones but we make sure we practice like mad. The crowd don’t want to see blood and gore!”
A show can last between 15 and 30 minutes and the dancers are careful not to strain their bodies or tire out too quickly so they try to limit themselves to four shows a day.
While they decline to share how much they can make in a street performance show, Edwin says the crowds “give us whatever they can, and for that we are very thankful”.
–Words and Video by David Woode