Never been to an African dance class before?
The first thing that will be introduced in a West African dance class will be the drum. This instrument will lead, accompany and call all of your dancing feet. There are many different calls that a djembe can do depending on what dance is being danced and this call will often tell the dancers when to begin moving, when to transition into the next move and when to finish.
In Africa, drumming and dancing are a part of everyday life. The music and rhythmic movements bring community together. It creates pure joy. The freedom to express yourself amongst family. The community we have created on the Sunshine Coast are our family. We all breathe the same drum and dance air. There is so much happening in our classes and so many different types of people. Some people come to get fit, others come to study the rhythms and movements. All of our dance classes are with live drumming because they are inseparable and the difference you feel in the class is phenomenal.
In Africa, solo dancing is when all of the dancers form a circle with the drums at one end. The solo djembe player will highlight the soloist moves, they will play together, the dancer and the drummer. There is a call and response exchange where the dancer leads the drum and vise versa until it is hard to tell who is leading and who is following! Solo dancing in Africa is part of the culture, especially at Dundunba events. Each person will take turns stepping into the circle to dance and celebrate their moves. Now, although we don’t focus on solo’s in class it is an important aspect of African dance that can’t be ignored and as confidence builds you may find yourself dancing freely to the power of the drums.
In class, the teacher will highlight that your knees stay bent and your body low to the ground. As strength builds you can play with ‘how low you can go!’ You can expect to leap, skip, hop and jump and the pulsating energy of the drums will keep you energised and strong.
West African traditional dances are based around a story. Whether its about initiation, a dance about showcasing masks, birth, death or an encouragement to the local farmers, there seems to be a dance/rhythm for most important life events. How beautiful! To celebrate life and its tribulations with music and dance.
Perhaps you can tribute your next dance class to something important? or just allow yourself to play and have fun!