With so much rich, cultural heritage and traditions, it is no wonder there are so many different types of dance forms in Africa. This article will look at a few, but not all of African dance as it is so diverse and constantly changing.
Rhythm is in the DNA of African People, it rushes through the blood like the oceans that surround Africa. Dancing in Africa is incredibly expressive and diverse and almost impossible to teach, unless you were born in a tribe! I am not talking about dancing in clubs, but the traditional dancing one sees on a safari or cultural show. There is something about how they express themselves in their faces and bodies, and communicate their feelings through movement. The simple use of drums, singing and clapping is all that is needed to fire up a dance, anywhere, anytime …and no one dances alone in Africa, so be prepared to join in!
Not only is it unique and full of energy, but colourful as well. Bodies are painted in rich African hues, elaborate beads that have been handmade adorn the women’s bodies. Masks are sometimes worn to depict the spirits they believe in, and sticks and shields are used as props for weapons of war.
The men dance with leaps and jumps, using their whole body, while the women tend to have smaller movements, like shuffling and expressive hand movements.
As I mentioned earlier, I will not be able to write about all the types of African dancing, but many of the dances are based on styles with similar principles, which I will describe below:
Warrior dances depict men in mock fights dancing to the beat of rhythmic drums. The dancing is intense and you get caught up in the excitement and story that gets told through movement. It is mainly performed at funerals and cultural events.
Dance of Welcome
This is a time when the tribe greets a visitor and showcases the talents of the tribe. It is mostly performed by women and is in a sense an ‘ice breaker’ honouring the guests with a warm welcome.
Rite of Passage
By following their traditions of a ‘coming of age’ ceremony, this dance celebrates the initiation of a child into adulthood. It is danced by the children who are undergoing this ritual and is well rehearsed before performed in front of the community. It helps to boost their confidence and celebrate their entrance into adulthood. The Masai tribe perform a dance that involves jumping up and down without allowing their heels to touch the ground. Here they are recognised as becoming warriors of the tribe.
Dance of Possession and Summoning
Due to their religious beliefs, these tribes worship their ancestors, trees, forests and deities by dancing. As they dance they welcome these spirits and ask for guidance for the tribe.
Dance of Love
Last, but not least is the Dance of Love which is performed at all unions and celebrations of love, such as weddings and anniversaries. The main objective is to make the couples feel special and to share their love for each other with the community.
So as you can see, dancing in Africa is not just about playing some music and bouncing around; it has meaning, value and importance in the tribe, bringing the community and visitors closer together. It is a real privilege to experience tribal dancing when on a safari.