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Nigeria Traditional Dance

Nigeria traditional dance is like spice in soup – without it, our cultural charm is shaken. It gives flavour to the community, grow communal engagement among age grades and also stands as a seductive tool.

Do you know dance can be used as a seductive tool?

Dance is the hidden language of the soul. (Martha Graham)

Africa Traditional Dance

Discussing about Africa, you cannot take away dance because dance is an integral part of African society. Each African society has its traditional dance depicting one the cultures and traditions of the land.

Famously, traditional dance is used for religious worship, initiation, storytelling and above all entertainment. African dances are unique and fearsome. Especially the ones that deals with rites of passage/occult. If you are not brave at heart, you cannot watch some of these dances when all the elements involved in the dance are present.

With that being said, let’s take a look at some of Nigeria traditional dance. Some of these dances are popular in the country while others are not. This is because; the popular ones are still being practice why the others have been swept under the carpet of civilization/modernization.

I welcome you all to another exciting time with me. Today, we will walk into the green lands of West Africa Nigeria to learn about Nigeria traditional dance.

Bata Dance Nigeria

Bata dance in Nigeria
Traditional bata dance

This dance originates from the Yoruba people. It is a fast pace dance giving reverences to the god Sango the Yoruba deity. Myths have it that, anytime Sango goes to war, he is played a beat from various drums like iya-ilu, omele ako, gangan and Bata.

However, Bata won his heart. Sango expresses himself more when the Bata drum is played and this lead to the creation of Bata dance.

Traditional bata drum
Traditional bata dance drum

There are various models of Bata dance but the original Bata dance can be found from the worshipers of Sango who live in the rural areas of Ibadan.

Origin of Bata Dance

Originally, Bata dance is a Nigerian traditional dance that resides within the family. What this means is that it is a dance movement that is past down from one generation to another in the Sango family. Children are taught the steps from a young age and they represent the family whenever they are called upon by the king or chief.

Bata dance is likened to royal dance. It is one of the major dance styles that the Yoruba’s present at important events like in a king coronation.

In Nigeria, there are cultural groups that present this dance as a form of entertainment removing all the intricacies of the dance. The purpose is to entertain but if it is for worship, all other elements must be involved like fire.

The Nigeria traditional dance Bata has a precise notation. Even if there are diverse forms in the world, there is an underlying movement. Which is moving of the hands front and back, then throwing off the legs high, ended by kneeling with one leg.

Bata costume is a short piece of cloth tied around the waist for ladies, with buba as the top. For the male dancers, they put on shokoto as trousers and a top like the Yoruba algabda, and fila. Fila is the name of the cap the dancers wear.

The Bata dance was originally performed for worship of the god Sango but now it is also used as a means of entertainment.

AKep- kep/Fisher Man Dance

Fisherman's dance tradition
Fisherman’s dance

Fisher man’s dance is a dance that depicts the process of fishing in the Yoruba tribe. Other tribes in Nigeria perform this style of dance, but each style is specific to the tribe. In the course of this discussion, we are looking at the fisher man’s dance from the Yoruba people of western Nigeria.

Just visualize seeing a fisherman going to the river. What will be his tools? He will probably carry a fishing net/ hook, basket, and a paddle. These are the element that follows the fisherman dance.

Entering the stage, you see a group of young vibrant men carry a paddle and the ladies with a basket. Dance movements are made depicting this process. The procedure continues in form of dance until the fishermen close for the day.

Other dramatical elements can be added when a lot of fishes are caught or when it is few.

This Nigeria traditional dance is formed from the day to day living of the fisherman. It is in honour of the fishermen who always fill our pots with delicious fish.

Swanage Dance

Traditional dance/Swange
Swange dance from Tiv tribe

This dance originates from Benue state Nigeria. It is one of the popular dances in this state. The rhythm varies as it can be fast and slow but usually slow. The dancer can swing all part of his body in a wave-like motion. One must be flexible to perform this dance because of the slow pace of twist and turns.

Due to the slow movement of the dance, it is sometimes called boneless dance accompanied by the musical instrument called “Al-Gaita” – a horn-like tool that produces beat.

The swage dance is a recreational dance among the tiv people. In terms of stage markings, it takes the style of the village settings where people gather around in circles and the dancer in the middle. It is performed by both male and female dancers, dancing to the traditional tune of both tiv and Hausa origin. A climax is a solo act by a female dancer who improvises movements to the rhythm of the tune.

Elites in the community enjoy this dance performance as it is recommended and performed at festivals.

Tsuwetsele / Cat dance
Nigeria traditional cat dancer
Traditional Cat dancer


The cat dance is a unique dance move from tiv people. This Nigeria traditional dance is one of a kind with exquisite movement.

The Tiv tribe is gifted with storytelling ability and one of the ways they tell their tale is through dance. Mimicking the big cat in the forest, the cat dance was formed – A symbol of grace and movement.

Only those gifted in the art can actually pull off this dance.

Atilogwu Dance
Traditional dance from Nigeria
Atilogwu dancer


Deep in the heart of Africa is atilogwu dance- a Nigeria traditional dance. Atilogwu dance has gained a reputation for its acrobatics and fast pace movement. By looking at the dancers, it seems easy but it is indeed complicated. The dance comprises young vibrant youth, dancing seamlessly to the amazement of the audience.

Atilogwu dance originates from the Igbo tribe of Nigeria. Participant of atilogwu dance is a member of six to seven, comprising of youth only. The strength and stamina needed for this fast pace dance can only be emitted from youth.

The pace of the atilogwu dance is determined by the music and the major instrument use is the Ogene – a traditional Igbo musical instrument. Also because of its technicality, dancers are taught from a young age.

This Nigeria traditional dance has gone from being traditional to a national appeal for all. Back then, it was performed mostly at festivals but now it is in stages of big cooperation and theaters.

With beautiful colourful costumes, dancers grace the audience with high jumps, dazzling formations, flips and twist.

Ekombi Dance

Traditional dance from Nigeria
Ekombi dancers

Ekombi is a dance performed by black beauties in Nigeria. It is a Nigeria traditional dance made of only girls from Efik people in cross river state.

It is a dance with movements like the ocean. During this dance, one can choose/ look for a life partner. It is peaceful and performed with colourful elaborate costumes. It also shows the beauty and feminism of a woman.

Ekombi dance is performed to entertain; in the course, it tells the culture of the people.


Nigeria traditional dance is elaborate. Dance is tribe specific that is as there are numerous cultures and tribes in Nigeria, so also are dance styles.

Certain elements can be found in all Nigeria traditional dance and they are

  1. It is performed for worship or entertainment.
  2. Elaborate costumes
  3. It always tells the culture and traditions of the people.

I believe this article was worth your time do share with me your suggestions/ experience with each dance style. Thanks for being here and I wish to see you again.

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