Discover 10 spectacular African dances celebrating vibrant cultural heritage

Artists of the South African Musical Group perform in the show
Artists of the South African Musical Group perform in the show "In The Ghetto" in the Volkshaus in Basel,

African has a vibrant, diverse, and deeply culture rooted in tradition. Dance, in particular, serves as a powerful form of expression across the continent, with each ethnic group boasting its own unique moves for various occasions. From ritualistic ceremonies to storytelling performances, the art of dance in Africa is as diverse as it is captivating.

Today, we delve into the heart of African dance, exploring ten traditional moves that have left an indelible mark on the continent’s cultural landscape.

1 – Moribayasa Dance from the Malinke People in Guinea

Moribayasa, a ceremonial African dance, celebrates women triumphing over adversity. Centuries ago, amid widespread poverty and misfortune, death loomed large in many African regions.

However, after periods of hunger, the women would circle their village singing and dancing. The lead dancer would be in rugged clothing, which she later buries after the dance.

2 – Agbadza Dance of the Ewe People of Ghana

Agbazda (pronounced as Agbaga) is a vibrant ceremonial dance which originated from western Africa! Derived from the renowned African dance Atrikpui, Agbazda celebrates victories after war and embodies the essence of triumph. The Agbazda dance incorporates five significant movements.

Performers of this dance use accompanying instruments such as Gankogui, Sogo, Kagan, and Atoke, which brings in the rhythm. Agbazda is played by people of all ages to mark important rites of passage and remind its people of their origin, and war success, hence, honouring a legacy.

3 – Adumu Dance of The Maasai People of Kenya

Performed by the Maasai people of Kenya, Adumu is an African ceremonial dance primarily performed during the Eunoto ceremony. Eunoto is a rite of passage that marks the warrior shaving ceremony that represents graduation to senior warriors.

In celebrating this tradition, the Maasai warriors perform the Adumu dance characterized by frequent hop jumps. These high jumps represent the strength and stamina of the warriors. Adumu dance anytime its performed attracts many onlookers for its challenging yet straightforward choreography.

4 – Indlamu – A South African Zulu War Dance

Indlamu is a ceremonial dance that originated from the tribal community of Zulu in South Africa. It is a high-spirited African dance characterized by vigorous and frequent body movements by both men and women, hence the name war dance.

Culturally, the dance is performed in opportune ceremonies like weddings, war preparations, and during harvests. History has it that , the dance served as a power symbol and articulated dominance and self-control.

5 – Lamban: A Griotic Dance from Mali

Lamban, a traditional dance from Mali, is deeply rooted in storytelling ceremonies led by griots, or bards. These performances, whether solo or in small groups, are believed to connect with ancestral spirits, enriching the narrative experience. Such dances play a crucial role in preserving African cultural heritage through the art of storytelling.

6 – Black Panther/Wakanda – Africa/Diaspora

This may sound surprising but yes, the Black Panther movie came with a dance. This dance resulted from the film Black Panther which was released in 2018. The movie featured a black cast in a mythical African country.

This street dance was started unofficially by movie fans across the world. Eventually, it spread like wildfire. The legacy that was in the film was carried forward by the dancers, who are mainly youths.

7 – Mbira African Dance from Zimbabwe

Originating from Zimbabwe, the Mbira dance is a sacred ritual of the Shona culture, performed during the bira ceremony to summon ancestral spirits. It’s known for its role in seeking divine intervention for rain and protection from malevolent forces. The dance’s significance has spurred the formation of the MBIRA Organization, dedicated to preserving Zimbabwe’s ancient dance traditions.

8 – Ikpirikpi Ogu Dance (War Dance) in Nigeria

Ikpirikpi Ogu is a war dance that has survived through civilization. It originated from Nigeria’s eastern part, particularly the Abia state. The African dancers are predominantly muscular men dressed in war costumes who sing and dance to commemorate war heroes.

Today, the dance is still being staged symbolically during ceremonious events such as graduations to show victory and uphold the past legacy.

9 – Yabara Dance

Hailing from West Africa, the Yabara dance is a ceremonial display of respect and hospitality towards visitors. Featuring the Shekere, a beaded net-covered gourd rattle, female dancers showcase their expertise by skillfully tossing the instrument into the air to create captivating rhythms and melodies.

10 – Makua African Dance of Tanzania

Makua is a traditional ceremonial dance performed by both men and women of the Nyamwezi community. It is performed alongside traditional welcome songs to pass the message that the visitor is welcomed.

In Makumbusho, Dar Es Salaam, the most visited tourist attraction site in Tanzania, this dance is widely practiced by the natives who entertain tourists. Makua dancers preserve Tanzanian culture while entertaining people.

African dances embody rich narratives and community spirit. Yet, modern choreographers are reshaping or even neglecting some traditional forms.