African Dance


African dance is the basis of many styles of dance originating in America due to the immigrant population. African dance influenced the beginning of swing dance, jazz and hip-hop, just to name a few.


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The words “African Dance” are used loosely to refer to dances from Africa. There are 54 different countries in Africa boasting over 1,000 different ethnic groups that have different dances to interpret various ceremonies. Dance was used as a form of communication before any formal language existed in many African cultures. Generally speaking, most dances have a specific meaning, and are outfitted in appropriate attire for that meaning. Some examples of types of dances are warrior dances, dances of welcome, dances of love (such as for weddings and anniversaries), coming of age dances (rites of passage) and dances of possession and summoning (spirituality).




o       Djembe (goblet-shaped drum) originally from the Mandeng people (Guinea, Mali).

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o       Krin (percussion) is played using two wooden sticks and originates in regions of Guinea.



Polyrhythm is used in African dance – where different parts of the body move with different rhythms in the music (arms, legs, chest, etc).


Some vocabulary:


Some important things to remember while dancing:

ü      When you are moving your body, relax your shoulders and open up your chest.

ü     When you are moving your body down, soften your knees and bend (chest should contract). Your head should respond to your body so that when you bend or soften your knees, your head looks down.

ü     Always life your legs up and down no matter what movement you are doing (if you were wearing shakers, this is the only way to produce sound!)

ü      Arms need to be more “energetic” than graceful – this means sharper movements with intention and “energy”!

ü      The WHOLE body is always moving, never just one part of your body!