Black World Dance
The Black Education Free Encyclopaedia
Black Dance as we know it today has been shaped and influenced over decades by African Dance and nations across the world, hence why we refer to it as Black World Dance. From Ghana to Kenya to Portugal to Brazil, The Caribbean, the USA, the United Kingdom and beyond, across the globe Black Dance has its own style. But it continues to be recognised for its artistry and expressiveness, which was always the distinguishing factor from its African origins. Over the many years, world dance has incorporated many black dance forms including rhythmic vitality, a freely moving torsos, break-dancing and hip-hop. It has become popular to wear native African influenced costumes during dance performances, especially in theatre.
Black Dance is the fusion of African Dance and many other dance forms from around the world as a result of the African Slave trade. African slaves bought their dance rituals and cultures with them to their plantations that has evolved into a fused Black World Dance with influences from various African nations and other cultures and ethnicities from around the world. Over the many years, world dance has incorporated many black dance forms including rhythmic vitality, a freely moving torsos, break-dancing and hip-hop. Black dance is recognised for its artistry and expressiveness.
Over decades, African Dance has shaped the and influenced Black World Dance as we know it today. African dance derives from African tribes across the continent. Many African tribes or villages had a ‘dance master’ who was taught different tribal dances from a young age and became the expert and taught other young members of the tribe to dance. For many tribes passing on the dance traditions is part of their fundamental reasons to exist. They all uniquely have their own styles and rituals, many of which have been passed down for generations without alteration. African dance is more than just mere entertainment, it is cultural, it represents family, unity, joy, sadness, prayer, rites of passage and so much more than what we expect from modern dance today.
African dance is characterised by isolated polycentric movements. The dancers body moves in different parts independently from one another. Each tribe’s dance varies in the coordination but they all have similarity in style of movement. Historical African dance is known for drums to be at the heart of movement and the tribe. The drum is known to set the mood of the community and enhance the energy of the tribe. Clapping hands and stomping feet with a steady rhythm are also ways to further increase the energy along with singing while dancing. For those not dancing, clapping and singing is their way of contributing to the performance. Traditionally, Africans would dance for special occasions, such as a birth, marriage, to celebrated and display happiness and joy.
- Aduma, Kenya – A famous dance of the Massa tribe, performed by men during the ‘Eunoto, Coming of Age’ ceremony of the warriors. It is often referred to as the ‘jumping dance’ as each of the warriors aim to jump higher than the previous one. To acknowledge the highest jumper, spectators chant and raise the pitch of their voices based on how high they jump.
- Atilogwu, Nigeria – Known as the ‘Acrobatic Dance’ due to the leaps, turns and intricate footwork. Usually performed at key events and ceremonies in Eastern Nigeria.
- Eskista, Ethiopia – A traditional Ethiopian danced performed by both men and women, a complex and technical dance that involves rolling and bouncing shoulders and shrinking the chest.
- Ewegh, Niger – Performed by men in groups during festivals and ceremonies, birthed by the nomadic Tuareg tribe of North Africa.
- Indlamu, South Africa – A dance by men wearing ceremonial head pieces, belts, shields and spears, associated with Zulu culture, deriving from the Zulu warrior of ancient times.
- Kpanlogo, Ghana – A party dance, believed to have started in Ghana’s capital Accra but soon became popular throughout the country and other parts of the continent.
- Moribayasa, Guinea – A dance by women from the Malinke tribe, showing strength and the celebration of overcoming adversity, a routine in a circle beginning with the women wearing old ragged clothes and changing into newer clothing and burying the old ragged clothing in a designated area, during their dance and singing routine.
- Pat Pat, Senegal – A dance performed by the Jola tribe, rhythmically patting the body with fast leg movements.
- San Dancing, Botswana – one of the oldest dances known in Africa by the San tribe, involving fast rhythmic body movement while singing. Heavily influencing the Black World Dance seen within the African diaspora.
Africans bought their dance and culture with them to the Americas, the Caribbean and the colonised states they were transported too. Their dance styles were full of their African roots; unique and full of traditions and culture. Dance was always an integral part of daily life in Africa. During slavery it helped enslaved Africans reconnect with their homeland and keep their cultures and traditions alive.
The African slaves have been recorded to have sang and danced even during their pain and suffering. They continued with the notion that dance incites joy, particularly in the Caribbean and South America. As it has been noted that slave owners in the USA barred Africans from dancing to further psychologically oppress and control them. The slave owners also outlawed African instruments including the African drum. ‘Stepping’, a two-step move, was birthed by the African slaves as an alternative to traditional African dance and playing instruments. They ‘stepped’ as a disguised dance, as the African’s were very resilient and always found ways around the oppression they faced.
Africans bought their dance with them to whatever land they ended up in. In Europe they were given freedoms to practice their traditions and subsequently their styles and culture were merged with other styles of dance. Whereas in North America, slaves were subjugated to cruel laws that prohibited them from dancing. But even while grossly repressed, the African slave always found ways to adapt their dancing to continue celebrating their culture and heritage in some form. These adaptations stayed within the African American culture and are known today as:
- Hip Hop
- Jazz Dance
- Tap Dancing
- The Charleston
- The Jitterbug
- The Lindy Hop
- The Twist
The dances from the plantations in the USA moved onto the stage of the ‘Minstrel show’ which introduced Black dance to an audience during the 1800’s as popular entertainment for both blacks and whites. In the beginning the blacks were often characterised as caricature that were ridiculed, to further degrade them on stage and psychological oppress them. Again, the Africans quickly learned to still have joy even while being ridiculed and began enjoying making fun out of themselves.
The Creole Show introduced ‘The Cakewalk’, which was the first American dance created by Blacks to become popular with Whites. Followed by ‘the Charleston’, ‘the Lindy Hop’, ‘the Jitterbug’ and ‘the Twist’. The 1920 and 1930s were a time for Black Dance in the USA to really evolve. During the ‘Harlem Renaissance’, innovation in Black theatre, music, literature and visual and performing arts were being introduced to popular culture. The Whites started to embrace Black Art and recognise it for the phenomena that it was and began to give it the respect it deserved. The Black musical theatre continued to become popular and legitimise Black Dance traditions and highlighted Black performers. These performances raised the standards for Black Dance for both Blacks and Whites. The ‘Shuffle Along’ became iconic on Broadway and was very popular among White audiences, and many other shows equally became popular.
When the history of dance is understood there is a different level of respect for dance. It is especially important for young people and children to know the roots and how Black dance has evolved and the reasoning behind the dance evolution. When the origins of dance are understood, dance can have a more sentimental meaning. It can be embraced in a whole new way and incorporated into daily life, as it did back in the Africa. It can become an integral part of a family’s tradition and rituals, it can bring families closer together, give more meaningful personal identity and incite more self-love.
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This page was last updated on 19, February, 2022
African Dance Fusion
Traditional African Dances
- Aduma, Kenya
- Atilogwu, Nigeria
- Eskista, Ethiopia
- Ewegh, Niger
- Indlamu, South Africa
- Kpanlogo, Ghana
- Moribayasa, Guinea
- Pat Pat, Senegal San
- Dancing, Botswana
African American Dance
The African slave always found ways to adapt their dancing to continue celebrating their culture and heritage. These adaptations stayed within the African American culture and are known today as:
- Hip Hop
- Jazz Dance
- Tap Dancing
- The Charleston
- The Jitterbug
- The Lindy Hop
- The Twist