Starting this January, students enrolled in LEAP (Liberal Education for Arts Professionals) — the Bachelor of Arts degree program designed for current and former professional dancers at Saint Mary’s College of California — will have the opportunity to study traditional music and dance in the West African country of Ghana while receiving academic credit toward their degrees. This is thanks to a new collaboration with ThisWorldMusic®, a Massachusetts-based company that partners with educational institutions and arts organizations to offer innovative, hands-on cultural learning experiences, both in the U.S. and abroad.

Participating LEAP students will stay and study at the world-renowned Dagbe Cultural Institute & Arts Centre, located in the scenic coastal village of Kopeyia, Ghana. In addition to taking group classes and private lessons in folkloric West African drumming and dance from the Dagbe Institute’s staff of local instructors, LEAP students will have the opportunity to visit open-air markets, observe and take part in traditional village ceremonies and interact with local residents. In the capital city of Accra, the group will visit a drum maker’s workshop and be treated to a private performance and masterclass at the National Theatre with the acclaimed Ghana National Dance Ensemble.

“All of us at LEAP and Saint Mary’s are thrilled about our new partnership with ThisWorldMusic,” said LEAP Program Director Mark Baird. “The new Ghana Study Abroad Program offers our New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas students an exciting opportunity to learn from and experience another culture in a way that is totally immersive and hands-on.”

ThisWorldMusic Founder and Director Jeremy Cohen said: “The partnership with LEAP is a natural fit for us. ThisWorldMusic and LEAP share a deep commitment to expanding educational opportunities for non-traditional students, and both organizations believe strongly in the value of experiential education.”

LEAP, which was founded at Saint Mary’s College in 1999, is an internationally recognized bachelor’s degree program designed for current and former professional dancers. From the time of its inception the program has grown steadily and now serves over 400 students at campuses in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. “LEAP gives artists dignity and a future beyond their lives as professional dancers,” said Baird. “It empowers them through higher education, and gives them the tools and support they need to discover and explore new areas of passion.”

Founded by percussionist, composer and University of Massachusetts Amherst Adjunct Professor Jeremy Cohen in 2007, ThisWorldMusic won the 2012 Top Short-Term Program Award from Abroad101 and STA Travel. Clients include: The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Boston Symphony Orchestra, Knox College, University of Rhode Island, New England Conservatory, University School of Milwaukee, and school districts nationwide.

To learn more about the LEAP Ghana Study Abroad Program, go to: http://www.stmarys-ca.edu/ghana-study-abroad