Plot Points & Ponderings : The Dancing Queen


December in Accra is a constant rush hour – no matter the time of the day. This phenomenon is exacerbated by the influx of ‘borgas’ during the festive season, especially when Ghana has recently become a hot destination for the Christmas holidays. Also, whispers of ghosts roaming town around this season circulate, although their purpose is unclear. Although this December situation is a known fact, city dwellers are never quite prepared for it. Setor is met with the shock of the gridlock when he leaves home this sunny Friday mid-morning.

It is a whimsical outing. With no specific purpose in mind for stepping out, Setor feels compelled only because he has spent the entire week at home. The first four of his twenty-one-day annual leave were spent shuttling between his bed and gaming chair, indulging in movie marathons and series binging, and engaging in online games with strangers. It is starting to get depressing, the routine. He struggles to find an alternative activity, given that most of his friends are occupied with work. He has lost count of the number of times he cursed his HR Director under his breath for coercing him to take his annual leave at this particular time.

“I will go wherever the wind leads me,” he convinces himself when he steps out of his house. Opting against driving, he yearns to feel the pulse of the city. It has been too long since he immersed himself in the Accra experience – walking through the sea of people, observing different kinds of people, trying to figure out what their stories are and speaking to the few people who are daring and willing to talk to a stranger. Setor misses that side of his life. His promotion at work a year ago around this same period and the resultant perks and pressures deny him some of these little pleasures.

As he starts out on the bustling streets of Lapaz this morning, he pauses for a few seconds to take it all in. It is strange, but he truly misses the symphony that the business of the town is – the honks of cars struggling to outdo one another in breaking all the traffic rules they can, trotro mates adding their voices and screaming names of towns only those who live here understand, hawkers singing the names of their wares, and the rest of us singing our own choruses in conversations, arguments and sometimes physical fights. He misses the smell of the town. It is a mixture of scents, coming together to confuse one’s nose. If you’re new to the city, it is ripe. However, when you are here for a while, you get used to it.


Estella waits by the traffic light, poised to cross the road. The signal blinks yellow before turning red. She hesitates, well aware that at least one driver will disregard the red light. After a moment, Estella and the others standing beside her step onto the road. Amid the crossing, she pauses again as a crowd flows past her.

In the middle of the road, Estelle places a device in her hands and presses a button. It begins to blast loud music, defying expectations with its powerful decibels. Estella, moved by the rhythm, becomes a fluid entity, dancing with graceful arcs and constant limb motion. She captivates onlookers, who are stunned by her magnetic presence. Some throw caution to the wind and stop with her right in the middle of the road. A good number pull out their phones to record the beautiful madness that unfolded before them. Setor is one of those people.

Estella brings a wordless interpretation of the beats, of the soft strings, in a way the onlookers understand no matter what language they speak. Her dance isn’t simply movement, but the most honest form of communication. She is joy and laughter, love and grace, emotions given a physical form. She is honesty clad in bright silk, her art cutting a path right to her audience’s heart.

Ninety seconds… She courtesies amid cheers, applause and honks. The pause ends as the traffic lights turn green again. Accra must Accra despite the beautiful spectacle the people at Lapaz had just been blessed with. With her music box designed like a handbag in hand, Estella seamlessly blends into the crowd, leaving Setor’s eyes trailing her like they were completing a maze challenge.


“That was beautiful,” Setor remarks when he finally catches up with her at the Papaye Restaurant. “Thank you for making our day.”

Estella looks up, offering a smile in acknowledgement of his compliment. Setor, without waiting for an invitation, pulls a chair and seats himself at her table. The unexpected intrusion surprises and amuses Estella, leaving her momentarily speechless.

“Are you, like, one of those TikTok celebrities? What’s your handle? Was that live, or you will post it later? I didn’t see anyone recording though. Your team is tight. I can’t wait to be part of this beautiful performance you just put up. I hope they recorded me?” Setor’s words flow in a stream, fuelled by his longing for conversation.

Estella continues to flash a polite smile at the persistent middle-aged man seated across from her, wishing she didn’t have to engage in conversation. She is not in the mood for talks; yet, here is someone who seems impervious to her silence.

“It was good! Really good! I loved every bit of it. It’s a shame I could not capture it all. I only got a few seconds. Like, I was so lost in the whole thing that when I remembered to record, it was too late.” He pauses; he seems to catch his breath. “See, I’m a marketer and I must tell you: what you, young people, are doing with the arts these days is crazy. You know, especially with social media. It’s fantastic! It can catapult you right now. Today, you’re just one slender Lapaz lady dancing in the suburbs, tomorrow you are flying all over the world with the gift of dancing God has blessed you with. Your generation is blessed.”

“Thank you,” Estella finally manages to interject.

“You’re welcome, my dancer friend,” Setor stretches his hand for a handshake. Estella grudgingly obliges.

“My name is Setor. What should I call you, Madam Dancer?”

“Estella,” she replies. “And, honestly, I am no dancer.”

“Don’t be modest, Estelle. You looked like a pro out there. The way you moved, your facial expression, and energy and synergy with the beat. I am not an expert in dancing, but I would easily score you a ten out of ten for that performance.”

“Thank you. The name is Estella, by the way, and I was merely doing it for someone”.

“I’d like to meet the person. Is he or she here? Were they around to watch it? I am sure they would have been so proud. I am and I do not know you from Adam. Is the person around?”

“No –”

“It’s such a shame!” Setor interjects. “And oh, the song you used was just perfect. I mean it’s such an interesting song. Different from what your contemporaries use in their videos. You know, for most of them, it’s this afrobeat thing and high-tempo music. You must either have great taste in music or some older person in your life introduced the song to you.”

“Yeah, Dancing Queen by ABBA. My mum introduced the song to me. It was her favourite”.

“Ha! I knew it! You are a queen! A dancing queen! Or, should I say, it’s your mother that is the dancing queen! I stan!” he bows in admiration.

“You can dance, you can jive,

having the time of your life

see that girl, watch that scene,

digging the Dancing Queen

Friday night and the lights are low,

looking out for the place to go

where they play the right music,

getting in the swing

you come to look for a king…” Setor sings parts of the song and mimics Estella’s dance while still sitting.

Estella laughed so hard at his attempt to dance. She wiped tears off her face while she laughed.


Twelve months ago…

Estella and Frances sit at the same table at the Papaye Restaurant. The restaurant is known for playing music in the background to entertain their patrons while they place their orders, wait in queues or eat. Dancing Queen came on. Frances springs to her feet. “That’s our song!” She starts to sing along and dance.

“You are the Dancing Queen

young and sweet only seventeen

Dancing Queen feel the beat from the tambourine, oh yeah,

you can dance, you can jive,

having the time of your life

see that girl, watch that scene,

digging the Dancing Queen…”

“Dance with me,” Frances invites Estella.

“Mum, I’m late. I have to go.”

“Come on…! You used to love this song and we danced all the time to it. Just give me a little jive,” Frances jiggles, singing you can dance, you can jive while persisting that her daughter joins her.

A car honked outside. Estella turned to look. “Mum, that’s Kukuwaa. I have to go we are late for our meeting.” She starts to pack her things in a haste.

“Let me at least say hello to your best friend. It’s been a while since I saw you two.”

“Please stay and finish your food. We will pass by the house soon. We can dance and jive and you can say all your hellos when we come. I love you!”

Photo by Barbara Olsen:


“A few hours after I left, I got a call that my mum had been knocked down by a vehicle. Right where I danced earlier. It was a hit-and-run. She died on the spot. I missed the opportunity to have one last dance with my dancing queen. If only I knew.” Estella finishes her narration.

It feels like someone has poured ice on Setor as he listens to Estella narrate her story. He is frozen in his seat. His lips shake. It is obvious he wants to say so much but something seems to have held him back. All he manages to say is, “Oh my God, Estelle.”


They both laugh, lightening the heavy mood.

“So when I tell you I am no dancer, I mean it. I have never done anything like that in my few decades on earth. It was totally unplanned. I was going to come sit at this table and play this song and maybe dance quietly in my seat and hope that I can relive that missed opportunity with my mother if her spirit is forgiving enough to show up. But when I got to the middle of the road, something took over me. I felt like I needed to dance there, something defiant to the wicked driver who ran her over after the light had turned red. And I am glad I did it. Although it does not feel like I passed any message on directly, the catharsis is good for me. I feel slightly better now. So there are no cameras, no recording, I even left all social media after my mum’s demise. If any of you who recorded it posts it, I hope you find them and tell them I’m thankful and my dancing queen is too”.

“God!” Setor sighs. “And here I was going on and on as you were engaged in some vain Gen Z activity. I am really sorry, Est… Este… Estella,” he stammers at the attempt to get her name right.

“It’s alright. You gave me company I did not know I needed. I blame myself a lot for that day. I never talk about it. This has been helpful. Thanks so much, Setor.”

Estella stands to initiate a hug.



>>>the writer, alias Nana Elikem, is a Business Intelligence Analyst by profession. He is also an author, an editor, and a columnist. He is also a founding member of a writers and readers’ community in Accra, Ghana called the Writers and Readers’ Grotto. The community meets monthly to discuss and peer review the creative works of members. Elikem is also passionate about the development of youths and young people in Ghana. He can be reached via [email protected]

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