African dance is a way of life. It is the map that guides and educate us on our culture. There is no form of ceremony in Africa that does not include African dance traditions.
Because dance is so important to us, this is how you are looked upon if you can not dance.
He who cannot dance will say The drum is bad!.
~ African Proverb
If you take African dance from African society, you have taken the heartbeat of the land. Show me an African country that does not have it’s distinctive African dance styles and will show you an African man who carriers all of these wonders in his body.
Welcome my friends. This month, we are exploring African dance. So sit back and relax why we mingle with this phenomenon culture.
Overview of African Dance
Africans have more than a million different languages and culture. By this estimate, am referring to all African countries join together. If this is the case then there are probably as many dance patterns known and unknown to mankind.
What then is the meaning of dance?
As dance styles vary greatly, so also is the definitions of dance. The concept of dance among the westerns is so different from that of the African man. The belief also differs within culture and clans. I will attempt a definition of African dance so you can get a basic understanding.
African dance is verbal and a nonverbal way of communication, through the rhythmic movements of the body and sound waves that speaks to humans and spirit alike.
Furthermore, from the definition, you should understand that apart from the fact that African dance is a representation of our cultures, a way of life, it is also a medium through which we speak to the gods and our ancestors.
Nevertheless, the role of dance in African society calls for togetherness and harmony amongst members. It helps brings a sense of belonging and a deeper meaning of friendship.
Reasons Why We Dance in Africa
The westerners might be dancing for entertainment or should I say, dance is more of a physical process but in Africa, dance is a whole lot. It is way more than just a dance. It is the joining of both the physical and the terrestrial.
The values, attitudes and beliefs of the people determine the African dance. It is a cultural behaviour hence the bond between dance and other aspects of tribal cultures are shared.
It also contributes to the stability and change of the community, a unifying mood revealing relationships among individuals in groups and society.
African dance cuts across human psychology, economy, and politics. It is an inbuilt attitude in the African man. The way he thinks, the possibility of accumulating income from dance as a career, and a need for survival and sustainers of the art, birth the idea of dance and the African man.
African dance is extensive and can be practised by all regardless of age, sex, religion, culture and social status. The social-cultural occasions at which dances are performed deals with individual and group celebration.
For instance, processions, and rites of passage dances deal with individuals who move from one status in life to another. From boyhood to adulthood, single to married, married to a widow and the list goes on and on.
All these and more are the cycle in the life of the African man. Age grade celebration is also a cycle in all African society.
Dance As A Communication Tool
Dance in African society is used as a tool to express feelings and emotions. At festivals, marriage ceremonies, naming ceremonies, communal purification and cleansing are all ways through which dance is used to communicate.
The patterns and forms the dance take is also significant in the process. Each movement is a repetition of a past episode in the clan/community. Therefore, it should not be seen as just a move but a story.
The forms of dance can also be classified and analysed Into categories. Each African country have their specific dances, for example, we have Atilogwu dance from Nigeria, Adumu from Kenya, Zulu from South Africa…
The dances that survive and thrive within the communities are called traditional dance. This set of dance is representative of the people, for the people and by the people.
The dance making waves in the school environment is modern oriented. Something I like to call and hybrid of movement. A combination of western dance plus traditional dance. There are also dances in Africa that are not traditional nor Western but a unique style that is practised based on the 21st century.
The youths in African and music artist are creatively establishing new styles of dance. For example, shoki is a form of dance in Nigeria West Africa. It is a dance for the youth and not attached to any tradition.
However, the mixture of both traditional and modern dance gave birth to a new trend. Taking into account the above, dance performance are regarded as a creative expression.
The dance space is a significant factor in African dance. It does not only serve as the venue for performance but it also adds some efficacy to the dance.
How do you feel when you are at home? I guess you feel much comfortable and relax. This is how it feels when some ritual dance in Africa is performed in their sacred space.
For a space to be chosen as sacred ground, it must have a story about it. It might be the place where an ancestor or a deity appeared to a priest or anytime a performance is carried out and there a tremendous manifestation then, it will be agreed that it is space the gods has picked.
In conclusion, Africans have been subjected to slavery and colonialism by the west before the dawn of independence. Hence the psychological state especially concerning aspects of our culture has been bent.
However, we strive to uphold our honour and pride in our culture through every possible means creating a hybrid of dance performances that will in turn stand in the test of time.
Thanks, friends. I believe you enjoyed this episode. Please share your thoughts with me and also you can request an article for any African culture you love.