African traditional dances are as diverse as the people and cultures around the continent. Different dances are used for different occasions; the traditional dances exhibited at the coronation of a king are not the same as those at the burial of a king, a wedding ceremony or the birth of new member into the family.
African traditional dances have very powerful moves. Some of these dances require a lot of energy and acrobatic skills, reasons why such dances are reserved for the strong young men in the community. Others are more elegant and majestic, performed by the dignitaries in the community or members of the royal household. The women also have their own traditional dances which they perform during weddings, birth or death celebrations.
Some powerful traditional dances across Africa
The indlamu in South Africa
This dance depicts the culture of the Zulu people and celebrates its warriors. It is performed by young and energetic men. They dress in their magnificent traditional regalia with shields and spears. This dance is accompanied by singing alongside traditional musical instruments, shouting and war cries.
The Atilogwu Dance (Eastern Nigeria)
This dance is performed by youths because of the amount of energy and acrobatic moves. It is characterized by high jumps, people lifting others and other moves that require a lot of physical energy and technique. The Atilogwu dance is performed at the rhythm and music produced by African musical instruments like the gongs, flutes, balafons (African xylophones) and drums. The dancers also wear very bright and colourful costumes.
The san dance (Botswana)
Dance by both men and women, the San dance is the performed by the people of the San tribe in Botswana. The dancers wear animal hide, beaded jewellery carry sticks. They also wear rattles on their feet. This produces the music they dance to, accompanied by singing and clapping.
The Aduma dance (Kenya)
This is a Maasai traditional dance, performed during the coming-of-age ceremony of a warrior. It is also called the jumping dance because each warrior tries to jump higher than the previous dancer when it is their own turn dance. The dancers (warriors) wear bright red dresses, a lot of jewellery (beads) and carry sticks. They don’t have a particular song they dance to, just loud sounds and war cries.
Ekista dance (Ethiopia)
This Ethiopian traditional dance is performed by both men and women. It begins in a slow pace, with dancers swaying and clapping then becomes more vigorous as the dancers move their shoulders and chest in a mesmerising way. It is also called the shoulder dance.
Dancing is an integral part of the lives of Africans. A real African can dance to anything, as long as it has a rhythm.
Many African communities organize annual dance festivals where they showcase their traditional dances and songs and other aspects of their rich cultures. These festivals enable economic growth as people from other parts of Africa and the world visit these communities to witness these dances. An example is the kuru dance festival.
The most interesting aspect of African dances is that fact they are highly participatory, so feel fry to dance along if you find yourself in Africa during any of this dance festivals (except those reserved for the royals or initiation dances).
It is worth noting that African dances require a lot of energy and dancers have to eat well before performing. Others are performed only by professionals because of the technicity of the dance steps.
AFRIC Editorial Article.