How to west african dance

The African Root - KET Education

This collection of video excerpts explores African dance and its influences. The videos can be used as resources for lesson plans and ideas in the Dance Toolkit.

West African Dance: Description and Warm-Up

Following a performance of West African dance, Harlina Churn-Diallo introduces concepts of African dance while dancers demonstrate warm-up movements.

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West African Dance: The Connection Between Music and Movement

Harlina Churn-Diallo demonstrates and teaches four basic movements of African dance. A group of dancers practices and demonstrates the moves.

Suggested Uses:

  • Watch to build your own knowledge and understanding of African dance and influence, or for ideas on how to teach the dance movements to your students.
  • Show to students to demonstrate and guide movement activities.
  • Show to demonstrate isolation of body parts.
  • Show to accompany social studies activities relating to African culture.
  • Show with other African dance performances in the toolkit to compare and contrast.
  • Show with Afro-Cuban dance excerpts to compare and contrast.

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West African Dance: Choreography

Harlina Churn-Diallo reviews the four basic movements shown in the excerpt “The Connection Between Music and Movement” and guides dancers in combining the movements into a dance.

Suggested Uses:

  • Watch to build your own knowledge and understanding of African dance and influence, or for ideas on how to teach the dance movements to your students.
  • Show to demonstrate and guide movement activities with students.
  • Show to guide students in choreographing their own dances using the four movements.
  • Show to accompany social studies activities relating to African culture.
  • Show with other African dance performances in the toolkit to compare and contrast.
  • Show with Afro-Cuban dance excerpts to compare and contrast.

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Afro-Cuban Dance: Understanding the Clave Rhythm Pattern

This clip focuses on understanding the son clave rhythm and moving to it. The video excerpt begins with a short demonstration of call and response. Then dancers walk in a box, moving to the rhythm pattern. Katherine Kramer teaches the three-measure pattern measure by measure. Concepts include quarter notes, half notes, 4/4 time, pulse, beat, and the measure.

Suggested Uses:

  • Watch to build your own knowledge and understanding of Afro-Cuban dance and influence, or for ideas on how to teach the dance movements to your students.
  • Show to demonstrate and guide movement activities with students.
  • Show in combination with African dance excerpts to compare and contrast.

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Afro-Cuban Dance: Warming Up to the Clave Rhythm Pattern

Katherine Kramer explains why dancers warm up their bodies, then leads a warm-up done to the 3-2 rhythm of the son clave. Concepts discussed include isolation of body parts, quarter notes, half notes, and clave rhythm. Participants use different body parts (head, arms, torso, etc.) to “play” various rhythms. Kramer discusses the Spanish and African influences on dances like the flamenco, in which dancers hold the torso erect while moving the hips and feet.

Suggested Uses:

    Watch to build your own knowledge and understanding of Afro-Cuban dance and influence, or for ideas on how to teach the dance movements to your students.
    Show to demonstrate and guide warm-up or movement activities with students.
    Show in combination with African dance excerpts to compare and contrast.
    Show with the flamenco example “Farruca” on the Dance Performances video/DVD to discuss Spanish and African influences.

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Afro-Cuban Dance: Moving to the Clave Rhythm Pattern

Dancers demonstrate using the clave rhythm movements practiced in “Warming Up to the Clave Rhythm” to put together a brief dance sequence combining locomotor movement and non-locomotor shapes.

Suggested Uses:

    Watch to build your own knowledge and understanding of Afro-Cuban dance and influence, or for ideas on how to teach the dance movements to your students.
    Show to demonstrate and guide warm-up or movement activities with students.
    Show in combination with African dance excerpts to compare and contrast.

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Afro-Cuban Dance: Salsa Dancing

Instructor Katherine Kramer teaches the quick-quick-slow pattern of salsa dance and relates it to the clave rhythm pattern. After the dancers demonstrate the movement individually, they work in pairs to demonstrate the salsa movement.

Suggested Uses:

    Watch to build your own knowledge and understanding of Afro-Cuban dance and influence, or for ideas on how to teach the dance movements to your students.
    Show to demonstrate and guide movement activities with students.

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African Dance Performances

Imani Dance and Drum Company performs two African dances. The first, lambah, originated in ancient Mali. Lambah is also important musically, a jamboree for the musicians. The second dance is a plantation/ring shout performed to the Jerry Silverman song “Raise a Ruckus Tonight.” This dance represents the style of dance and music found in African slave communities on plantations in the Southern United States, the Caribbean islands, and other locations. Many people danced as a way to cope with their situation; to convey feelings about their lives and owners; and, in some cases, to convey hidden messages. Just as in Africa, the dance was for everyone, but each person entered the dance based on age and gender. Both the lambah and the plantation/ring shout performed on this video were choreographed by Harlina Churn-Diallo.

Suggested Uses:

    Show as an example of traditional African dance and African-American dance.
    Use with West African dance excerpts to discuss African dance movements and purposes.
    Compare to the performance of “Iye, Iye” on the Dance Performances video/DVD.
    Show to accompany social studies activities relating to African and African-American culture.
    Use to stimulate discussion of the influence of African dance on American social dance.

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Hand Jives

Kentucky youngsters demonstrate traditional hand-clapping rhymes. LaKetta Caldwell and Veronica Clark of Paducah clap a game learned from their mother. Ogb Ukpai and Inyang Njoku clap a game that came from Nigeria.

Suggested Uses:

    Have students do the rhymes shown or research and demonstrate other rhymes.
    Show with African dance examples to compare and discuss rhythms.
    Show to introduce the idea of documenting folklore; have students research another traditional children’s game.

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African dance, performing art deeply woven into the social fabric of Africa and generally involving aspects of music and theatre as well as rhythmic bodily movement. See also African music and mask.

The cultural position of dance

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 behaviour 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.

Thought systems traditional to African cultures are rooted in a world view in which there is continuous interaction between spiritual forces and the community. Spiritual beings may inhabit natural elements or animals and may also take possession of human mediums. This possession of persons is usually temporary and confined to ritual, as when the priest of the Yoruba god Shango dances into a state of deep trance at the annual festival, expressing the wrath of the god of thunder with the lightning speed of his arm gestures and the powerful roll of his shoulders. In Zimbabwe the Mhondora spirit mediums, who relate the Shona people to the guardian spirits of the dead, enter a trance through the music of the mbira lamellaphone, to which they sing while performing simple, repetitive foot patterns. Thus, the dances of priests and mediums confirm their ritual leadership.

Dance is used as therapy by ritual societies in many cultures. Hausa women, for example, find healing through dance and spirit possession in the Bori cult. Among the Jukun of Nigeria, a similar organization is called the Ajun, whose elders deal with hysterical disorders in women by exorcising evil spirits in initiation ceremonies. During a three-month period in a house shrine, the sufferer is taught songs and dances that have a therapeutic function culminating in a ceremony in which the initiate publicly joins the members of the society to perform the Ajun-Kpa dance. The female spirit mediums of the Kalabari in the Niger delta, using dance and song as an essential part of their therapy, are also credited with powers of healing.

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Many African religions are based on a bond of continuity between the living and their dead ancestors, who, in some cultures, return as masquerade performers to guide and judge the living. The complex web of human relationships is continuously renewed and restated at ritual festivals through the arts.

African recipe for life | Radio Prague International

One young woman from Prague, Lucija Gava, who is the leader of the dance and music group TidiTade, really knows a lot about Africa. She received her new surname right in the Gambia, where she visits her husband's parents every winter. And in the summer he returns to Prague again to demonstrate the art of West African music and dance together with his large group.

According to Lucia Gava, real African music can be learned right in Prague.

“I think that this music can be learned, but there is a feeling that it is associated with special experiences not only from music, that theater, that dance, but life in general. For Africans, this is life itself, and sometimes music and dance is the only thing they have. They don't have anything else, they don't have shoes, they don't have many other things. But such a rich history of dance and music can be the envy of any other nation. In order for a European person to understand this and respect this, he simply has to sit down and go there, to Africa, or meet Africans here in Prague more often, learn about their life, eat food together, raise children together.

Which, in fact, is what the Czech Lucia Gava does with success. She, along with her black husband, is raising a little mulatto. Lucia came to African music itself in a rather interesting way. She was fond of dancing, as they say from the cradle, and she became interested in Africa because of the African drums, the sounds of which she heard for the first time in Mexico, and then in Guatemala, where she lived for several years. And the dzhembe drums penetrated there and influenced the development of musical rhythms among the natives of those parts. So Lucia began to look for the origins of this music, and turned her gaze towards Africa. And as it turned out, her gaze led to Africa itself two and a half years ago, where she gave birth to a child from an African husband who, according to his passport, is Canadian, and his family lives in the Gambia. How did the husband's family accept the European modern, emancipated girl?

“It took some time and it was far from easy. When a person returns there, local people may begin to think a little differently, that a person returns there not only because of the music and dancing, that he is also interested in people. I had to join the dynamics of African rhythms from scratch. Even the fact that I am a great traveler (for ten years I traveled to different countries, and lived in some of them), did not help so immediately. Africa is a very complex country, and a person there must sacrifice so many things that are close to him. For a European who lives rather in the material world, this is not easy, because everything is different there. There is your last money - general money.

When Lucia left the Gambia for the first time, she had nothing left but a newborn baby in her arms. These are the customs... If a foreigner lives in West Africa for some time and is able to integrate into local life during this period, then he receives his own name in the language of oxen. With this name - Gava - Lucia was gifted. What is it that draws a Czech girl to Africa so much if she changed her surname to an African one with great joy?

“For us, it's their music. I have always traveled a lot, looked at architecture, nature, forests, animals, and realized one thing: a person should do his own thing in life, because there is so much beauty in the world, you still can’t capture it in a lifetime. And since then I vowed that if I travel, it will be only because of music, its deeper knowledge, and also because of dancing and singing.

For example, it is far from easy for a foreigner to approach the very depths of ethnic West African music, according to Lucia. It should be with the people who create this very music.

“The only way is to live with them, and live like them. Walk, for example, barefoot. Another thing is that this year we will take with us our son, whom I will have to send to their local kindergarten, with local children ... Thus, the ice is breaking! I also want to add that, just like here in the Czech Republic, there are good and bad people in Africa. There, for example, such a phenomenon as racism takes place, only it is directed in the opposite direction. There I faced both envy and anger because I was white and that my husband and I had money.”

An interesting fact is that Africans have special dances to express their negative emotions. There is, for example, a dance called kasak, when the dancers really demonstrate their different states. The one who is not loved is grabbed by the buttocks. This is a signal that the one who was seized should applaud out of respect and, thereby, admit his guilt. Lucia was also lucky enough to dance this dance at one of the village holidays. Behind her lined up a whole string of local women. One was jealous, the other had claims to be jealous, and she also grabbed her neighbor's buttocks, and so on ... In a word, it's good that you can recognize your enemy in the face! So, 15 women danced together, and the dance ended with general cheerful laughter, because this has not happened in the village for a long time. Maybe in the Gambia, with the help of dance, you can solve all disputes, all problems in relationships?

“I think that's it. Recently, at one of the workshops, I taught to dance one dance that Africans perform at the bus stop when they are waiting for the bus and accompany it with singing. They are not particularly in a hurry, filling every minute with pleasure, which music and dance are for them.

I wish it was like this everywhere. There would be no wars. We danced and all is well again. Well, what can such dances, to the sounds of the dzhembe drum, give to a young modern Czech? Lucia believes that this can greatly affect the worldview of the Czechs, who have long been closed to other cultures. With what?

“With the help of this dance, people not only begin to perceive the rhythm better, as well as dance and singing, they become better, more open. And when a person is open to other cultures, he tries to understand everything from the position of a person who not only wants to learn something, learn something new, on the other hand, then he begins to understand that dance or music expresses the soul of the people. .. ".


The right to dance: 4 effects of rhythmic lessons - Ideonomics - Smart about the main thing

Still from the film "Keep the Beat"

Are you a dancer? Some of us will answer this question with a categorical “No!”‎, but at some point we were all dancers. As a three-week-old baby, you have already synchronized your movements to the rhythm of any music you heard. And even if you now consider yourself a clumsy person with two left legs, it is probably difficult for you to remain completely still when you hear your favorite tune.

Dancing is in our blood, it's more than just an enjoyable form of entertainment, explains Julia F. Christensen and colleagues in a 2017 paper. Rock paintings show that people were dancing 70 thousand years ago, and this is one of our important functions.

Dance brings a person into a state of flow, where we forget about problems, which is useful for regulating biological systems and maintaining long-term health. On a deeper level, it is a way to get in touch with the body and feelings, allowing you to “try on” different emotions and see how they feel.

It turns out that dance is a combination of several activities, each of which is useful as an independent part: physical exercises, listening to music and communicating with other people. If you combine them into one exciting activity, you get a behavior that brings great benefits to mental and physical health.

“Dance is an antidote to stress, a way to deal with negative emotions, an elixir for the body, mind and brain,” write Christensen and Dong Son Chang, Argentine tango and swing dancer, in their 2021 book Dancing Is the Best Medicine ‎.

We hope the many benefits of dancing will get you up and moving your body, whether it's at a crowded salsa club, at a wedding, or just in your own living room. According to scientific evidence, there are four reasons why dancing is beneficial.

1. Dance makes you feel better

More than a decade ago, two local government organizations in Lincolnshire, UK, came together to create a program called Dance4Life aimed at promoting the health and well-being of the population. As a result, they organized more than 30 dance classes, in which about 2,000 people took part.

In the program, researchers interviewed 330 people after 8-10 weeks of dance lessons. Most of the participants agreed that the program helps to improve well-being and energy, as well as make new friends. Many noted that dancing helps to express themselves creatively, stay fit and healthy.

But the benefits of dance go beyond what we get from exercise. For example, in a 2004 study, students spent 90 minutes doing African dance, hatha yoga, or listening to a biology lecture. According to before and after surveys, both yoga and dancing helped reduce stress and negative emotions. Interestingly, dance also increased positive emotions, while yoga did not (and studying biology generally sucked all the good feelings out of students).

A study in the 1980s of 133 university students produced similar results. A single dance class session significantly improved well-being compared to sports activities (kayaking, fencing, or basketball) or regular academic activities such as biology or literature. Dancing made the students feel creative, smart, healthy, excited and invigorated. Compared to sports, dance students were more confident, calm, motivated and energetic.

“Dancing automatically gives me more strength in all areas of life. I feel independence and autonomy, as well as creativity and security, vitality, love and gratitude for everything that exists, says a 25-year-old woman in another study. “I accept myself with all my strengths and weaknesses and love myself without hesitation, without much judgment.”

There are two things in dance that are not usually found in exercises: the music and (often) the partner. But what if people are dancing alone or in silence?

In a 2009 study, 22 tango dancers aged 30-56 tried dancing in four different ways: together or alone, with or without music. According to the results obtained, only ordinary dance (with a partner and music) increased positive emotions. The researchers collected saliva samples to see what was happening in the dancers' bodies and found various effects: music helped lower levels of cortisol, a hormone involved in the stress response, and dancing with a partner increased testosterone.

It's okay to dance alone, but many types of dance involve close contact with a partner or in a group, and this brings a range of social benefits.

2. Dance brings people together

At dance events, people often socialize with each other before pairing up and hitting the dance floor. And then they experience another key aspect of the dance: physical touch, from a handshake to a hug in the blues or tango.

In one study, a 53-year-old dancer said, “Social interaction satisfies my needs for group togetherness, intimacy, and physical contact. Despite the fact that verbal communication during the dance fades into the background, we develop friendships in the dance community, which, in my opinion, is very positive and important.”

Something also happens on an intuitive level when we begin to move in sync with other people: physical synchronization affects how we relate to each other. For example, in a 2016 study 94 people took part in a "silent disco" where they learned dance routines and danced together to music on headphones. While some groups were completely synchronized and performed the same movements to the same tune, others learned the movements in a different order or danced to different music. As a result, people who danced completely in sync felt closer to each other than the rest.

"Dance may have been an important human behavior that evolved to encourage social closeness between strangers," write Bronwyn Tarr and her co-authors.

Dancing becomes a way to connect not only with other dancers, but also with the culture and community. For example, dance is central to the cultural identities of indigenous tribes and was banned at certain times in history along with their other cultural practices. Professor Sean Asikluk Topcock founded the Inupiaq dance group in Fairbanks, Alaska to share his tribal traditions with youth, including values ​​such as humility, cooperation, and respect for nature.

“Traditional stories, including those passed down through drumming and dance, provide a meaningful educational approach for passing on cultural knowledge, well-being and identity to youth and future generations,” he writes with co-author Cary Green in the 2016 book.

Another 2019 book describes how West African djembe drumming helps African Americans reconnect with their culture and identity. The dance was banned from slave plantations in the US, and returning to dance with a community of other African dancers is helping people feel healed amid today's realities of discrimination and racism, say Ojaya Cruz Banks and Jeanette "Adama Jewel" Jackson.

“Restoring cultural mastery in West African dance is becoming an essential part of cultural, emotional and spiritual recovery,” they write.

3. Dance Helps with Depression

In the mid-1900s, dance movement therapy emerged from the mental health benefits of dance. It comes in many forms, but clients often use movement to observe their own patterns, act out difficult situations, and express emotions. Research shows that dance movement therapy helps with depression, trauma, nervous breakdowns, chronic pain, and more.

Even if you don't do formal dance movement therapy, dancing itself is good for depression and anxiety. In a 2012 study, about 100 people with depression were divided into three groups. For six weeks, the first group was trained in tango, the second was engaged in meditation, and the third was simply on the waiting list. Classes were held for 90 minutes a week. In surveys, both tango and meditation helped reduce depression compared to the waiting group, but tango also reduced stress. The researchers then offered the participants a voucher for tango or meditation classes, 97% of participants chose free dance lessons.

Menopausal women are at risk of depression, so researchers from China invited women aged 44-55 to participate in square dance classes. (In China, they are often held in public places for exercise and differ from the American cowboy tradition.) Surveys showed that dancing five times a week for three months helped reduce depression at a vulnerable time in these women's lives.

Dancing seems to help with depression much better than exercising or listening to music. The 2007 study included 31 psychiatric patients with depression. They were divided into three groups: some danced to the music, others listened to it, and others practiced on an exercise bike for three minutes. The first group danced to "Hava Nagila", a joyful, upbeat song, holding hands and jumping. (The researchers chose this particular dance because there is evidence that depressed people tend to move less vertically.)

According to surveys, dancers had increased motivation, coping ability, strength, energy and pleasure, they felt less anxious, tense, tired and lifeless after just a few minutes of dancing. They also had less depression than those who listened to music and exercised.

Many people come to the dance when they are having difficulties in life. On a night when you feel alone but can't bring yourself to call a friend, take a stranger by the hand and melt into the music looks like a very attractive option. People interviewed in one study viewed dancing as a lifeline, a secure, stable routine they held onto when the rest of their lives were chaotic and hard.

4. Dancing keeps you young

Joyful old people dancing in a nursing home is not just a positive TV story. In fact, many studies teach dancing to older people. In many ways, dancing is considered the perfect antidote to age-related problems such as declining health, balance, and social connections. And learning to dance is good for keeping the mind sharp.

In a study conducted in 2007, 60 older Brazilians attended ballroom dancing classes throughout the year. Classes covered a wide range of musical styles: swing, waltz, salsa, tango and others. In questionnaires, participants reported that dancing improved balance, flexibility, and coordination, and made them feel playful and relaxed. The dances not only reminded them of their youth, but also helped them reconnect with Brazilian culture.

Researchers Maristela Mura Silva Lima and Alba Pedreira Vieira noticed that older dancers gained a sense of confidence, self-respect and elegance over the course of the year. Through dance, "the body is transformed from a source of oppression into a source of freedom," they write.

In particular, researchers believe that dance helps with Parkinson's disease. It is a neurodegenerative disease in which movement difficulties such as rigidity and balance problems occur, and many patients suffer from depression. In a 2014 study, 37 people aged 50-80 (most of whom had Parkinson's disease or cared for patients with Parkinson's disease) learned the Charleston or the dance from the movie Saturday Night Fever. After 10 weeks of training, the participants became less angry and their mood stabilized.

In another small study conducted in 2012, a group of people with dementia and their caregivers were asked to participate in a 45-minute round dance class every week for 10 weeks. In these dances, which exist in different cultures around the world, people move individually but hold each other's arms or shoulders. The sessions in this study began with a warm-up and included four or five different dances.

According to participant surveys, dancing has improved the quality of life in terms of health, energy, memory and relationships. The researchers also observed positive changes in the group. Dancing helped people lift their spirits and focus, and encouraged moments of warmth and empathy between dancers.

For caregivers, “the group helped to recognize the reality of the diagnosis and process feelings of grief and loss, and to see beyond the diagnosis of the person they were caring for,” explains Michelle Hamill and her co-authors. “Music, dance and movement promote (non-verbal) dialogue through which people with dementia and those around them communicate and connect more effectively.”

Unfortunately, many of us feel awkward while dancing. But self-consciousness should not stop us. In one study, several people, upon learning that they would be dancing, abandoned the experiment altogether—and ended up missing out on the emotional benefits that existed even for participants who felt uncomfortable.

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