Traditional African Dance
African dance is different from many other traditional dances internationally because the movements are poly-centric. This means that each body part is performing different movements to the rhythms of the music. In the choreography world this is referred to as isolations, which is a very difficult task to master. Aside from being poly-centric, different regions of Africa had their own dance identity, some focused more on high leaps into the
air while others were centered around hip movement and motions.
The “dance master” in most villages, would teach the young tribesman and woman dance steps at a very young age. Much of the dances were used in rituals and as a form of expression/entertainment so it was imperative that the dances were performed exactly how they were taught. Now when an individual had mastered the dance form he or she was able to improvise minimally during performances. The movements are so precise, that the same dances we see performed today are most likely the same dances that were taught centuries ago by the dance-masters.
Instruments, especially the drums, play a significant role in African Dance; it is how the mood is set and brings everyone together as a community. The rhythm of the music is the heartbeat of the dance. Dancers express themselves and their feelings via their movements while keeping in rhythm to the music. As in all dance, the music and dance are inseparable, two parts of the same activity.
All Afro dancing have some similarity; whether it be Afro-Cuban, Afro-Haitian, Afro-Portugal, Afro-Peruvian or Afro-Brazilian. They contain traditional African movement meshed with dances of the slave countries natives and/or colonizers.
During slavery, Africans were transplanted from their homeland to North America, South America and the Caribbean. All of these African dance styles were merged together with styles of European dance. Dance, being so important in the daily lives of many Africans, was used by slaves as a way to keep their cultural traditions while connecting to their
Africans that were enslaved in South American, the Caribbean, Spanish and Portugal colonies were given freedom to carry on their dance traditions as opposed to those who were brought to North America, who were prohibited from performing their dances. These restrictions did not stop the dancing, instead it changed the movements. For instance now we see a lot more body/hip movements, bouncing and shuffling instead of leaping and lifting the feet.