Habiba Addo’s energy is contagious. Children hear her creating a beat with an African drum, and soon everyone is moving. by: COURTESY PHOTO - Habiba Addos blending of dance and storytelling happened by accident one day, and the combination stuck.

“Dance is 10 percent of it,” Addo says. “The rest is pure, simple humanity.”

Addo invites people of all ages to her workshop at the Hillsboro Public Library, located at 2850 N.E. Brookwood Parkway. The event is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20. The workshop is suitable for the whole family.

A native of Ghana, Habiba moved to Hawaii when she was 18, and then to Portland in 1988.

She earned a degree in theater and a certificate in dance from Portland State University, where she worked as an assistant, teaching a combination of African and Cuban dance. Soon she was teaching and performing dances from Ghana and Senegal at local schools and child care centers.

One day, she told the children a story to calm them down after the dancing. “I enjoyed it tremendously,” Addo said. “The dancing and stories work together.”

Twelve years ago, Addo stopped teaching at PSU so she could devote her time to community performances.

“I’m an all or nothing human being,” she said.

When dancing, Addo explains the purpose, movements and clapping to the audience.

Growing up in a city, Addo didn’t hear traditional West African stories. She’s learned them through extensive research.

“I will read 200 books of stories in order to find one book that is appropriate and resonates with me,” she said.

Addo believes stories in African cultures entertain, inspire and provoke, and one of her favorite authors is Verna Aardema.

“Storytelling promotes communication, self-confidence, diction and the love of reading in children. The more we share the more we realize how similar we are,” said Addo.

She beleives there is a moral lesson in much African literature.

“Stories teach us right from wrong, remind and educate us about our own world and those worlds far, far away. In the story ‘Anansi and the Pot of Wisdom,’ the spider’s greed and trickery backfires to remind us greed does not pay,” Addo explained.

Her own story is rooted in a love of dance and art. Yet, she says, “I defy everything. I’m large — or thick — and yet I am a dancer. I defy color because I’m in between [bi-racial].”

This enables Addo to truly be in both cultures, she said.

“I don’t assimilate. I’m culturally considerate,” she noted. “Part of the solution for us is to remember there is a world beyond our back yard, beyond the United States. We need to be good citizens of the world.”

The Ghanaian community in Portland is very small, so Addo makes trips to Ghana and New York periodically to renew and share her cultural heritage. But she always comes back to the Northwest.

“It’s clean, it’s affordable,” Addo said. “We’re able to break barriers.”

And it’s close to Hawaii.

“Hawaii is very similar to Ghana. It’s all about family,” Addo said.

You can learn more about Addo at her website,

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