Traditional African Dance and Music
In the African community, dance is a dramatic, moving metaphor for life. From the customary to the extraordinary, African dance depicts life’s rhythms and cycles, labors, values, aspirations, history, and economic conditions, religious beliefs and realities. The African dance movement reveals the internal and external conflicts endured by a community and the path of resolution. The dancer dances not alone but with his community, and for his community bringing meaning to the mundane. African dance represents our lives and our story is told as the dance unfolds.
The African dances which inspire us today are those which were created by our ancestral artists and have thrived to become representative of a tradition. Yet, change is inevitable. As life changes, movements and members change and African dance is highly conscious of this evolution. Whereas before, the audience were not simply spectators but co-creators and participants in the story, dancers have had to adapt to a new society in which the spectators may not be ‘’participants’’ but they are still “part”. The message must still be assimilated and understood; clarity is imperative.
The challenge in expressing a clear message resides in the specificity of the language spoken. The language of the drums. The drums engage in dialogue with the dancer. At times they are the motivators with a playful repartee. In the war dances, the drums are the enemy, taunting, challenging and provoking the dancer. When the drum speaks, the body must respond and express the intensity of all that life is. The drum ignites the dancer and the dancer sears its’ meaning in motion.
African dance combines poetry, imagination, realism, and adornment of a culture with movements which are sometimes strong, sometimes subtle. The flex of fingers and hands represent our prayers. The thrusting arms represent our thanksgiving. The stomp and pause reflects our indignation; the leaps and turns, our frivolity and foolishness; the tense core, our defiance; the bow, our allegiance; the halting steps, our reverence.
Our dancers and musicians here in Minneapolis have drawn from a variety of ethnic backgrounds to express the messages on the stage. They have demonstrated beyond a doubt, that through sharing the African dance experience, we are effectively made aware not of our differences, but of that which binds us together – an indisputable unity of people immerse in the human experience.