Though many cultures and countries have national and ceremonial dances, few of them carry the social and historical significance of African Dancing. These elaborate dances not only help communities celebrate their festivals and specials events, they also help them tell their stories and record their history. Because writing and reading came late to some parts of Africa, music and dance were used as a form of unique oral storytelling that was utilized by people from many different tribes.
These dances were not only celebratory they were also instructive and were used to teach the younger generation about morals and values. They were also used to praise and pray to the gods and give thanks for a bountiful harvest or a successful hunt.
African Dance was one of the first to rely on music from choruses of trained singers who used harmony and complicated arrangements to set the pace and rhythm of the dance. Though the primary instrument for most choruses is the human voice, the second most popular instrument was and still is the African drum. There are literally dozens of different drums that are commonly used in African Dance. The basic bougarabou is one of the most popular African drums.
The drum is often seen as a sign of vitality and life and is considered the heartbeat of the tribe or village. Oftentimes the beating of a single drum will serve the same purpose as a bugle call in the military - it lets the community know that it is time to get up and gather together. The drum is also a symbol of solidarity in African music and Dance and lets people know that they are all different but connected. They are all cut from the same cloth.
Unlike many European or Latin dances, traditional African Dance is a collective experience. There are normally no partners, hand-holding or passionate embraces. In short, African Dancing is about the entire community rather than just a single couple. Many times dancers are actually separated by gender and age to symbolize the different stages of life.
As we mentioned, the main difference between African Dancing and other popular forms of dance is that there is no close couple dancing in traditional African dance. This can be attributed to fact that many early African cultures believed that men and women should not dance together because it was immoral. That is the primary reason why most African dances are gender specific and why men and women rarely even touch during mixed dances.
The following is a list of some of the most popular traditional African dances:
Warrior Dance: As you might expect, this dance was performed before the men of the tribe went off to battle. It is a violent dance that consists of stabbing motions and other battlefield tactics.
Dance of Love: A slow dance that is performed to acknowledge and celebrate special occasions like weddings or anniversaries. It is often danced only by the women.
Coming of Age Dance: Performed to mark the passing of a young person from childhood into adulthood.
These are only a few of the dozens of dances that Africans consider traditional and therefore an important part of their history.