AFRICAN DANCE: AN INTRODUCTION The Continent of Africa 54 countries Land mass is more than that of the US, China, India, and most of

Europe combined 3000 ethnic groups 2000 languages Incredible cultural diversity

Most national boundaries (nation states) were created by European nations that colonized the continent during a period of Partition-1881-1914 People of different ethnic groups

cross national boundaries The Era of Independence began in 1958 WEST AFRICA

FUNCTIONS OF TRADITIONAL AFRICAN DANCE Traditional dances serve a function in life; Art for Lifes Sake No separation between the sacred and secular Dance is used as prayer, medicine, celebration, communion with ancestors Dance is an integral and major part of social life

AWARENESS AND SPIRITUALITY In African traditions, natural and cosmic laws are not understood as abstractions The body is of primary importance; it is the necessary intermediary without which spiritual life would be an abstraction To dance is to recognize that humans are inseparable form the universe


Torso slightly bent forward Knees bent Wide, solid stance Feet flat on the ground Reflection of many traditional work postures Honors the earth

Honors the world of the ancestors MOVEMENT VOCABULARY

Polycentric: All parts of the body are moving Angular bending of arms, legs, and torso Shoulder, torso, and hip movement Scuffing, stamping, and hopping steps Asymmetrical use of the body Fluidity in movement INNOVATION, IMPROVISATION, AND

CREATIVITY Traditional African dances depend upon repetition of basic movements and on improvisation around those movements Improvisation in this context is not a result of spontaneity; it demonstrates the mastery of a dancer and her/his ability to use ones imagination without deviating from the original structure of the dance

The new must be born from the old AESTHETIC OF THE COOL "Control, stability, and composure under the African rubric of the cool seem to constitute elements of an all-embracing aesthetic attitude. -Robert Farris Thompson Virtuosity, strength, and grace are valued yet are performed with a sense of cool.

Many ritual dances include holding something in the hand, masks and costumes, staffs, whisks, pieces of cloth, and other items MASQUERADE DANCES Masquerade refers to the whole body covering as well as a head covering It is believed to be a spirit embodying the

mask; not a human Anonymity of the human inside the mask is respected One is initiated into the tradition MUSIC In much of Africa, percussion dominates the music. This is often in the form of a drum, but many other percussion instruments exist.

Music is often led by the lead or master drummer with the ensemble musicians playing additional rhythms around that beat. POLYRHYTHM AND POLYCENTRISM African musical rhythms consist of several rhythms being performed at the same time Dancers move the hips to one, shoulders to another, and feet to another rhythm at the

same time RELATIONSHIP OF MUSIC AND DANCE The drums engage in dialogue with the dancer. When the drum speaks, the body must respond and express the intensity of all that life is. The drum ignites the dancer and the dancer puts its meaning in motion.

Each rhythm has a corresponding dance. THE DJEMBE, DUN-DUN, SANGBAN, AND KENKENI By most accounts, djembe and dun-dun traditions come from Mali and Guinea and are of Mande origin (people indigenous to geographical area between Kankan, Guinea and Bamako, Mali)

These instruments create the orchestration form many traditional dances of West Africa NATIONAL BALLETS During the Era of Independence from colonial powers (beginning in 1958), new nation states struggled to create a national identity Ministers of Culture travelled throughout the countries to seek talented dance and music

specialists. These artists were invited to the capital cities to share with one another to develop a shared repertoire. These Ballets are highly choreographed with many dancers moving in unison. Many rhythms are performed, one after the other, so as not to bore the audience members. Spontaneity is lost, but this is made up by

compositional creativity. BALLET AFRICAINS DE GUINEE Established in 1952 by Fodeba Keita in Paris, France. After independence from France in 1958, the first Guinean president Sekou Toure made it the National Ballet. They continue to tour internationally.

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