Many people find that traditional dance unites the mind, body and community. There are many different and unique forms of dance across the world, and many are found in Africa. For some communities, dance is a way of life.
WHAT IS CULTURAL DANCE?
Cultural dance is a special type of dance that is shared by a community. It can have specific uses and meanings. These include rituals, ceremonies like marriage and birth, paying respect to ancestors, or simply for enjoyment! The dance is unique to a certain people and their traditions.
TRADITIONS OF DANCE
Many types of cultural dance in Africa are dances of ancestors. They can be hundreds of years old. The types of dance are hugely diverse and each region has different traditions. This makes each community’s dance unique and special.
Playing the drum is very common in African dance. Dancers will often move to its rhythm. The beat of the drum can be like the ‘heartbeat’ of the community.
Another common feature of African dance is polyrhythm. This means that there are two or more different rhythms being played at the same time. Sometimes different dancers follow different rhythms, or a single dancer may follow different rhythms with different parts of their body.
CASE STUDY: ESKISTA
Eskista is an example of cultural dance. It comes from Ethiopia, and the name means ‘dancing shoulders’. Usually, it is performed by men and women, who wear colourful traditional dress. Dancers move their head, neck, chest and shoulders in a particular way that might imitate a snake. It is known as a very technical and complicated dance.
DANCE AND THE COMMUNITY
Dance can be seen as a form of communication. It can be more expressive than speaking or writing. It allows members of a community to interact with each other and express themselves.
The structure of a dance can reflect the structure of the community. For example, a dance might separate people into groups according to age, sex, family, or status. This can make these groups stronger.
As well as strengthening the bonds with others, traditional dances can represent ties with ancestors. It can help us learn about our culture and our history. This gives us a sense of identity and pride.
DANCE AND THE INDIVIDUAL
Dance has a wide range of health benefits. This includes both physical and mental health.
It is a form of aerobic exercise, meaning that it increases the heart rate and causes the body to take in more oxygen. Some African traditional dances are some of the most high-intensity cultural dances in the world. This helps to keep the body strong and healthy.
As well as this, it can feel good to move, reducing stress and anxiety. A scientific study has shown that people dancing to an African drum beat find it helps them to feel ‘release’.
Every traditional dance is different. It is a unique and precious part of the culture that has benefits for the individual and the whole community.