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African Dance Forms

African dance forms vary as per the occasion like any other dance. When you say African dance, it refers mainly to sub-Saharan Africa and is done closely in sync with African music.
Medha Godbole
Talk of ethnicity, exclusivity, and indigenous culture and the first thing that comes to your mind is African culture. Dance is a major aspect of the African culture. Consequently, fabulous insights into this amazing culture and a particular community can be gained through their dancing styles.


This could be called a warrior dance as it is performed at the time of Eunoto, which is the coming off age ceremony of warriors. It is performed by the member of the Masai, an indigenous African ethnic group of semi-nomadic people native to Kenya and northern Tanzania. It is known as the jumping dance by those who are not a part of the masai group.
Here in this dance, which is what the Masai warriors are known for, the dancers form a circle. Then, one or two dancers go in the center and start jumping and maintain a narrow posture where in they do not let their heels touch the ground.


Sotho, or to be specific Basotho, hail from Southern Africa and now they are settled in South Africa. This group performs this striding dance, which involves striding, leaping, and sometimes even sliding or even slithering on the ground.
The steps here include bahobela, which features high kicks, the Molapo, which is swifter, having leaping and twisting in the air. Hand movements are included in phethola lesotho.


With its roots in Cameroon, Bikutsi is basically a musical genre. The word Bikutsi means to beat the earth. As the name suggests this dance mainly has dancers stomping the feet on the ground. That is the main step in the dance. This is one of the most simple steps in an African dance. It has an intense rhythm and is a part of any gathering of Beti-Pahuin ethnic group, be it a funeral or a wedding.


Mouwa has its origins in West Africa, done by Minianka group. The traditional dance steps regarding this form are inspired from the movements of farm workers, who weed fields. The steps involve workers holding tools, forming a circle and then greeting one another.
The most interesting part is that every individual has a special song and an accompanying rhythm to help the work progress faster. A new rhythm starts for the worker who finishes first and then that person does a solo dance as well. This continues till the field is completely cleared off weeds.


It is done by Fon and Ewe people. Fundamentally, it is an ancient dance which was once called Atmaga. At cultural events and funerals, this is very commonly done. The steps are inspired from battlefield movements and strategies. For instance, using horsetails for stabbing. The steps have phrases of movements and one phrase comprises a turn.
Different dances of various groups are dominated by a particular body part and all of them have an underlying tone of connecting with the spirit and the natural elements accompanied by drums. All these things make African dance unique.