If you asked people why they follow this genre of dance, you will hear answers that range from “it’s a good workout” to “it helps me feel connected to the continent”. But, African dance is neither a workout nor, a frivolous gyration of body parts. It’s a way and expression of life for a people on a continent.
Enthusiasts of North, East, West and South African dance styles know that each movement and the accompanying rhythm celebrate different aspects of life: harvesting, planting, marriage, rights of passage, war, death, mining, machismo, seduction and procreation. To me, African dance represents more than everyday life; it represents an awakening and upliftment of the spirit. The communal experience and dialogue between drummer and dancer open the same meditative and spiritual centers that yoga does.
The dancer creates movement with mind and body engaged while the drummer gives life to the animal skin tightly spread atop the drum. The energy moves from calloused hands, through drum skins, rope and wood, producing sound that scamper along the ground through feet and into dancers’ heart and soul. The dancer, in turn, gives life back to the drummer. It’s a continuous circle of energy, of one person feeding the other, until the dance and the rhythm merge together. It is this union, this oneness, that makes African dance a spiritual experience. I encourage you to put on your lapas, your geles, your kaftans and sign up for the next class celebrating the rhythm and dances traditional to Africa.