African dance


African dance

In this article African dance refers mainly to the dance of black Africa, and more appropriately African dances because of the many cultural differences in musical and movement styles. These dances must be viewed in close connection with African Music, as many African languages have no word to define music. [Steppin' on the Blues. by Jacqui Malone. University of Illinois Press. 1996. page 10,11. ISBN 0-252-022114]

These dances teach social patterns and values and helps people work, mature, praise or criticize members of the community while celebrating festivals and funerals, competing, reciting history, proverbs and poetry; and to encounter gods. [Steppin' on the Blues. by Jacqui Malone. University of Illinois Press. 1996. page 9. ISBN 0-252-022114]

The most widely used musical instrument in Africa is the human voice. [Steppin' on the Blues. by Jacqui Malone. University of Illinois Press. 1996. page 17. ISBN 0-252-022114]

Although nomadic groups such as the Maasai do not traditionally use drums; in villages throughout the continent, the sound and the rhythm of the drum express the mood of the people. The drum is the sign of life; its beat is the heartbeat of the community. Such is the power of the drum to evoke emotions, to touch the souls of those who hear its rhythms. In an African community, coming together in response to the beating of the drum is an opportunity to give one another a sense of belonging and of solidarity. It is a time to connect with each other, to be part of that collective rhythm of the life in which young and old, rich and poor, men and women are all invited to contribute to the society. [SEBASTIAN BAKARE, THE DRUMBEAT OF LIFE, WCC Publications, Geneva, Switzerland. 1997.] .

Characteristics

Traditional dance in Africa occurs collectively, expressing the life of the community more than that of individuals or couples. Dances are often segregated by gender, reinforcing gender roles in children. Community structures such as kinship,age,status are also often reinforced. [Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience By Henry Louis Gates, Anthony Appiah 1999 Basic Civitas Books page 556 ISBN 0465000711]

"Musical training" in African societies begins a birth with cradle songs, and continues on the backs of relatives both at work and at festivals and other social events. The sounding of three beats against two is expeienced in everyday life and helps develope "a two-dimensional attitude to rhythm". Throughout western and central Afirca child's play inculdes games that develope a feeling for multiple rhythms.. [Steppin' on the Blues. by Jacqui Malone. Universiy of Illinois Press. 1996. page 21. ISBN 0-252-022114]

African dance utilizes the concepts of polyrhythm and total body articulation. [African Dance. Kariamu Welsh 2004 Chelsea House Publishers pages 28 ISBN 0-7910-764155]

Shoulders, chest, pelvis, arms, legs etc., may move with different rhythms in the music. They may also add rhythmic components independent of the those in the music. Very complex movements are then possible even though the body does not move through space. [http://africa.si.edu/exhibits/kankouran.html]

Different parts of the body are emphasized by different groups. The upper body is emphasized by the Anto-Ewe and Lobi of Ghana. Subtle accent of the hips is characteristic of the Kalabari of Nigeria. In Agbor strong contraction-relase movements of the pelvis and upper torso characterize both male and female dancing. The Akan of Ghana use the feet and hands in specific ways.. [Steppin' on the Blues. by Jacqui Malone. Universiy of Illinois Press. 1996. page 13. ISBN 0-252-022114]

Dancers are able to switch back and forth between rhythms without missing movements. [African Dance. Kariamu Welsh 2004 Chelsea House Publishers pages 34 ISBN 0-7910-764155] It is extremely important that the dancers maintain clarity. [Steppin' on the Blues. by Jacqui Malone. Universiy of Illinois Press. 1996. page 16. ISBN 0-252-022114]

Dancers in Nigeria commonly combine at least two rhythms in their movement, and the blending of three rhythms can be seen among highly skilled dancers. Articulation of as many as four distinct rhythms is rare. [Steppin' on the Blues. by Jacqui Malone. Universiy of Illinois Press. 1996. page 16. ISBN 0-252-022114]

African dances are largely participatory, with spectators being part of the performance. With the exceptions of spiritual, religious, or initiation dances, there are traditionally no barriers between dancers and onlookers. Even ritual dances often have a time when spectators participate. [African Dance. Kariamu Welsh 2004 Chelsea House Publishers page 35 ISBN 0-7910-764155]

Many dances are performed by only males or females, indicating strong beliefs about what being male or female means, and strict taboos about interaction. Examples would be dances that celebrate the passage from childhood to adulthood or for spritual worship. [African Dance. Kariamu Welsh 2004 Chelsea House Publishers pages 19,21 ISBN 0-7910-764155] In the Jerusamera of Zimbabwe the major movement for men is the mbende step, a quick darting movement from a crouched position. Twisting of the waist and hips is the main movement of the women. [Zimbabwe Dance. Kariamu Welsh Asante. African World Press, Inc. 2000. page 56 ISBN 0-86543-492-1]

Early commentors on dance from sub-Saharan Africa consitently commented on the absence of close couple dancing, and such dancing was thought to be immoral in many traditional African societies. [Steppin' on the Blues. by Jacqui Malone. University of Illinois Press. 1996. page 16. ISBN 0-252-022114] For the Yoruba, to give a specific example, touching while dancing is not common except in special circumstances. [Yoruba Dance - The Semiotics of Movement and Body Attitude in a Nigerian Culture. Omofolabo S. Ajayi. 1998. African World Press. page 34. ISBN 0-86542-562-6 ISBN 0-86543-563-4]

Master dancers and drummers are particular about the learning the dance exactly as taught. Children must learn the dance exactly as taught without variation. Improvisation or a new variation comes only after mastering the dance, performing, and receiving the appreciation of spectators and the sanction of village elders. [Zimbabwe Dance. Kariamu Welsh Asante. African World Press, Inc. 2000. page 60 ISBN 0-86543-492-1]

Rather than emphasizing individual talent, Yoruba dancers and drummers express communal desires, values, and collective creativity. The drumming represents an underlying linguistic text that guides the dancing performance. However, the majority of meaning comes from the nonverbal cues and metalanguage of the performers. The spontaneity of these performances creates the impression of an extemporaneous speech. This characteristic should not, however, be confused with improvisation, which emphasizes the individual and bolsters her or his ego. The drummer's primary duty is to preserve the community. S/he mediates the audience and the performer interaction. [http://www.comm.unt.edu/histofperf/nonwest/downing/topic_three.htm]

Young girls of the Lunda of Zambia spend months practicing in seclusion for their coming of age ritual. Boys show off their stamina in highly enregetic dances, providing a means of judging physical health. [Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience By Henry Louis Gates, Anthony Appiah 1999 Basic Civitas Books page 556 ISBN 0465000711]

Townships created during the colonial period removed people, and their dance, from the traditional environment. Beer halls became community centers of sorts with drinking socializing, and dancing. Men still played the ngomas and the mukwas, but the dance took on sexual emphasis becoming something akin to bumping and grinding, almost violent in its urgency. Traditional dance clubs were created to protect the "purity" of the traditional dance and to regulate the dancers and musicians who performed on special occasions. [Zimbabwe Dance. Kariamu Welsh Asante. African World Press, Inc. 2000. page 46 ISBN 0-86543-492-1]

Another dance found in Zimbabwe, the Muchongoyo, historically is performed by males with female participation. Women are primarily musicians playing the hoshas (essentially a gourd with seeds inside it, used as a shaker [http://www.zimbamarimbaband.com/instruments.php] ) and singing alongside the men. They improvise or use the standard side to side shuffling movement without lifting their feet from the ground. In contrast the men perform high knee lifts, returning their feet quickly to the ground. The women will sometimes move out of the chour line in a single file and dance aaround the drummer and male dancers until they return to their original positions. [Zimbabwe Dance. Kariamu Welsh Asante. African World Press, Inc. 2000. page 56 ISBN 0-86543-492-1] The Muchongoyo commemorates, celebrates, witnesses and highlights events. Although not specifically a religious dance, it is spiritual, and the repetitious nature takes participants closer to the divine. [Zimbabwe Dance. Kariamu Welsh Asante. African World Press, Inc. 2000. page 74 ISBN 0-86543-492-1]

Cultural functions

Traditional dances often don't appear in isolation but are parts of broader cultural activities:

There are many forms of African dances, some of which are detailed below:
*Warrior Dances. One example of a warrior dance is Agbekor. Franci Elkins, a world renowned African dancer, has been quoted as saying that this is her favorite dance. Agbekor comes from the Foh and Ewe people. It is an ancient dance once known as Atamga. Agbekor is often performed at cultural events and at funerals. Dance movements mimic battlefield tactics such stabbing with the end of the horsetail. This dance consists of phrases of movements. A phrase consists of a “turn” which occurs in every phrase and then a different ending movement. These phrases are added back to back with slight variations within them, and make up the dance.
*Dances of Love are performed on special accessions, such as weddings and anniversaries. One example is the Nmane dance performed in Ghana. It is done solely by women during weddings in honor of the bride.
*Rites of Passage and Coming of Age Dances are performed to mark the coming of age of young men and women. They give confidence to the dancers who have to perform in front of everyone. It is then formally acknowledged they are adults. This builds pride, as well as a stronger sense of community.
*Dances of Welcome are a show of respect and pleasure to visitors, as well as a show of how talented & attractive the host villagers are. Yabara is a West African Dance of Welcome marked by "The Beaded Net Covered Gourd Rattle" (sekere-pronounced Shake-er-ay). It is thrown into the air to different heights by the female dancers to mark tempo and rhythm changes. This is an impressive spectacle, as all the dancers will throw & catch them at the same time.
*Dances of Possession and Summoning These are common themes, and very important in many Traditional African Religions. They all share one common link: a call to a Spirit. These spirits can be the spirits of Plants or Forests, Ancestors, or Deities. The Orishas are the Deities found in many forms of African religion, such as Candomble, Santeria, Yoruba mythology, Voodoo, and others. Each orisha has their favourite colours, days, times, foods, drinks, music, and dances. The dances will be used on special occasions to honor the orisha, or to seek help and guidance. The orisha may be angry and need appeasing. Kakilambe is a great spirit of the forest who is summoned using dance. He comes in the form of a giant statue carried from the forest out to the waiting village. There is much dancing and singing. During this time the statue is raised up, growing to a height of around 15". Then the priest communes and asks Kakilambe if they will have good luck over the coming years, and if there are any major events to be aware of, such as drought, war, or other things.

Examples

*Yankadi and Macru are two common dances. They are from Guinea, West Africa. Yankadi is slow and mellow, while Macru has a faster tempo with lots of movement. The men and women who participate in the dance face each other in rows; everyone has a scarf, and the dancers put their scarf on the one whom they wish to dance with.
*Moribayasa is a dance used by women who have bad luck. It is also the name of a particular tree that grows near the village in Guinea where this dance originated. The women prepares by putting on ragged and dirty clothes, then goes with a group of drummers to the tree. The group plays, and she sings and dances all around the village before returning to the tree. There she digs a hole and removes her ragged clothing; she buries these at the foot of the tree with a prayer for help.
*Agbekor comes from the Foh and Ewe people. It is an ancient dance once known as Atamga. Agbekor is often performed at cultural events and at funerals. This dance is performed with horsetails, and the movements mimic battlefield tactics such as stabbing with the end of the horsetail. This dance consists of phrases of movements. A phrase consists of a “turn” which occurs in every phrase and then a different ending movement. These phrases are added back to back with slight variations within them.
*Kpanlogo comes from Ghana, more specifically the Ga ethnic group. This dance started in the capital city of Accra, but now it is enjoyed throughout the country. Kpanlogo is known as a highlife dance form performed to conga-like drums. The music of Kpanlogo is especially important. ET Mensah is considered the King of dance band highlife, and played in many bands and locations. Kpanlogo is a fairly recent dance and started around 1940 after World War II, which is when the dance band highlife scene picked up recognition. Odette Blum talks about the movements. There is a free-flowing motion to this dance, with arms swinging around. There is no stillness in this dance, the free flowing motion, of a move either beginning or ending, fills pauses. The torso acts as the stronghold base of this dance since the center of gravity shifts rapidly from one foot to the other.
*Agahu dance was created by the Egun speaking people of Ketonu. Though this dance was believed to be based on the Yoruba dance from Badagry because the Yoruba costume was used, some Yoruba words were used in Agahu songs, and the dance is associated with the Nigerian town Badgry. Agahu is a popular social dance in West Africa. Agahu’s music is also very important to the dance. Dance movements are closely related to the percussive rhythms and songs. The lead drum called an agboba, a large barrel-shaped drum, can distinguish Agahu from other dances. In this dance there are two circles, one with men and the other with women.

ampling list

(incomplete)Adowa Ghana/Ashanti Agbaja Ghana/Ewe

ee also

*Logo Ligi
*Masquerade ceremony

Bibliography

*SEBASTIAN BAKARE, THE DRUMBEAT OF LIFE, WCC Publications, Geneva, Switzerland. 1997.
*Kubik, Gerhard [http://www.lit-verlag.de/isbn/3-8258-7800-7 Zum Verstehen afrikanischer Musik, Aufsätze, Reihe: Ethnologie: Forschung und Wissenschaft, Bd. 7, 2., aktualisierte und ergänzte Auflage, 2004, 448 S., ISBN 3-8258-7800-7]
*Online Reference on Agbekor and Kpanlogo: http://www.alokli.com/site/dances/dances.html
*Online Reference on Agahu:http://www.hoasogli.com/african/ewe.htm

References

External links

"Listed in Alphabetical Order"
* [http://www.alvinailey.org Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre]
* [http://www.adad.org.uk The Association of Dance of the African Diaspora]
* [http://www.betterfamilylife.org/events_blackdance.htm "BLACK DANCE-USA: A Celebration in Movement"]
* [http://cnmat.berkeley.edu/~ladzekpo CK Ladzekpo - African Music and Dance]
* [http://www.danceafreaka.com Danceafreaka]
* [http://www.forcesofnature.org Forces of Nature Dance Theatre Company]
* [http://www.hayorbibimmadance.org Hayor Bibimma West African Dance Company]
* [http://www.kankouran.org Kankouran West African Dance Company]
* [http://www.katherinedunham.org Katherine Dunham - She Lives]
* [http://www.savoystyle.com/african.html Savoy Style: African Influences on Swing Dance]
* [http://awalalhassan.googlepages.com Sohoyini]
* [http://www.spiritofuganda.org Spirit of Uganda]
* [http://www.umfundalai.com The Umfundalai Tradition of African Dance and Philosophy]
* [http://www.westafricandance.com West African Dance with Yousouff Koumbassa]


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