African dance, performing art profoundly woven into the social fabric of Africa and for the most part including parts of music and theater and rhythmic bodily movement. In African societies, dance serves a complex diversity of social purposes. Within an indigenous dance tradition, each performance usually has a principal as well as a number of subsidiary purposes, which may express or reflect the communal values and social relationships of the people. In order to distinguish between the variety of dance styles, therefore, it is necessary to establish the purpose for which each dance is performed. Often there is no clear distinction between ritual celebration and social recreation in dance performances; one purpose can merge into the other, as in the appearance of the great Efe mask at the height of the Gelede ritual festival in the Ketu-Yoruba villages of Nigeria and Benin. At midnight the mask dramatically appears to the expectant community, its wearer uttering potent incantations to placate witches. The dancer then moves into a powerful stamping dance in honour of the great Earth Mother and the women elders of the community. The dance continues as the performer pauses to sing the praises of people of rank, carefully observing their order of seniority. In this way a ritual act becomes a social statement, which then flows into recreation as the formal dancing by the Gelede team gives way to free participation by spectators until sunrise. The great Efe holds a central position, entertaining his audience with tales that make comic and satiric reference to irregular behavior within the community over the past year.
The more significant the concept expressed in a dance, the greater the appreciation of the audience and the more insistent their demands for a skillful performance and for movements that fit its purpose. Dance is appreciated as a social occasion but is simultaneously enjoyed as an activity in its own right, entertaining and giving pleasure as an expression of communal life.
Traditional dance from different African countries
Indlamu (South Africa)
Indlamu is a very high spirited and energetic tribal war dance form belonging to a tribal ‘Zulu’ community in Africa. otherwise called “war dance” it is said to have its origins in South Africa, and is frequently performed in festivals and marriage function. This dance also includes ‘drum based’ music. Furthermore, in this dance the performers (both males and females) generally wear traditional “Zulu” costumes. It is carried out by men in full regalia; traditional head pieces, ceremonial belts, shields and spears.
A very popular form of dance that started from the high-life scene in the capital city of Accra but is now enjoyed throughout the country. Kpanlogo is a recreational piece that emerged in the late 1950s, around the time that Ghana gained its independence. Although it was created primarily by young people as a form of entertainment, it contains musical motifs borrowed from older Ga pieces like Gome, Kolomashie, and Oge, as well as highlife. instruments used was Ngongo, Ashakashaka, Ododompo, Tamalin, Kpanlogo mi.
The Moribayassa is a very old type of african dance and rhythm, performed by Malinke people in Guinea, this dance is done by women who have overcome great adversity. The woman starts the dance wearing old ragged clothes. Accompanied by musicians she circles the village several times, singing and dancing. The women of the village follow her and sing too. The woman then changes her clothes and buries her old clothes in a special area. and to this day it plays a major role in the life of African women.
The Moribayassa typically starts and ends at a mango tree. Thus over time the mango tree became known as the Moribayassa tree in some villages. This dance began as a way for a woman to thank god for a child after a period of infertility. the woman would beg god for a child and tell him if he grants her a child she will thank him with the dance. If the womans prayers are answered she performs the Moribayassa after a short period of recuperation.
Eskista is an African dance renowned for using “intense shoulder movements” is an African dance form known as. This rather “complex” dance is said to have originated from Ethiopia, a country located in Northeast Africa in a region called the “Horn of Africa”. This dance is essentially known for body movements that include rolling of the shoulder blade and jilting of the chest. Furthermore, this dance is considered to be more “technical” than most of the African dances. In addition, this dance is generally performed to traditional “Ethiopian music”.
Atilogwu ( Nigeria)
Atilogwu is a traditionally spirited youth dance from the Igbo ethnic group (Anambra) of Nigeria that focuses on vigorous body movement and often includes acrobatics. The leaps, turns, jumps and intricate footwork of the dancers is certainly a sight to behold. The dance is usually performed at key events & ceremonies.
This is one of the most famous traditional dances of the Massa performed during Eunoto, the coming of age ceremony of warriors. It is also know as the ‘”jumping dance” with each of the young warriors trying to jump higher then the previous one. Members of the group may raise the pitch of their voices based on how high one jumps.
Pat Pat (Senegal)
The Pat Pat dance is the traditional dance practiced by the Jola people of Senegal. It involves rhythmically patting the body and fast leg movements.
Ewegh ( Niger)
The Ewegh dance is a dance form performed by the nomadic Tuareg tribe of North Africa. The Ewegh is strong dance performed by men in groups during festivals and ceremonial events.