Posted by on Dec 29, 2016 in African | 0 comments

African traditional dancing has both historic and social traditions that reflect more significance than those of many other cultures.

African traditional dance has traditionally played an essential role in the culture of the tribes. Much more than entertainment, dances communicate emotions, celebrate rites of passage, and help strengthen the bonds between members of the tribe as a whole.

African traditional dance mainly refers to the dance forms of ‘Sub Saharan Africa’ and is performed mainly by different indigenous tribes. Each dance type is distinctly different from the other because of cultural differences in melodic and movement styles. Most of the African traditional dance forms exhibit the social pattern prevalent among local tribes. These dance forms depict the life forms of the community more than that of individuals or couples. Almost all African traditional dances are accompanied by constant rhythmic music that typically includes the constant beating of different types of drums, vocals and stomping of the feet. Some of the most popular traditional African dance types include “dances of love”, “warrior dance”, “coming of age dances”, “dances of possession and summoning”, “dances of welcome”, etc. If you are fascinated by these out of the ordinary dance forms of Africa, steer through the next segment to learn more about the different African dance types.

african traditional dances

african traditional dances

Historical African Dancing

African traditional dance is polycentric, which sets it apart from most other dance traditions in the world. As explained by the National Museum of African Art, this means that the dancer’s body is segmented into separate areas of movement, with each area being able to move to different rhythms within the music. Known as “isolations” in choreographic terms, these moves are quite complex and difficult to master. Most African villages had a “dance master” who taught the members of the tribe from a very young age how to perform the various dances. It was very important that these dances be performed exactly as taught, with no room for improvisation or ornamentation until complete mastery of the form was achieved. While almost all of the dances are polycentric in some way, different areas of Africa have very different dances. The Masai are known for leaping high in the air, for example, while the Kalabari emphasize hip motions. In all cases, the movements are very precise, and the same dances you see today have most likely been danced the same way for centuries.

Introduction to African Traditional Dance


Asaadua was once a popular recreation musical type among the Akan people of Ghana. Its performance is now limited to some few communities in Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions. Like other popular entertainment music, which evolves from the ingenuity of some veteran traditional musicians, Asaadua started as a youth recreational music for the men of the Akan tradition.


One of the oldest traditional dances of the Dagaare speaking people of the Upper west Region of Ghana. Bawaa is a ritual and ceremonial dance performed to celebrate the beginning and end of the rainy season, good harvest, New Year and other social events.


Kwaito became popular in the townships in the 1990s and now is played almost continuously on radio stations, in clubs and in people’s homes. This South African traditional music style puts an African edge on dance music and originally grew from U.S. house music. Tracks are digitally manufactured in the studio and instrumentation is kept to a minimum while the beat prevails. Lyrics are generally chanted or rapped. Well-known kwaito groups include Boom Shaka, Bongo Maffin and Abashante.

african traditional dances

african traditional dances


Gadzo is a war-dance drama of the southeastern Anlo Ewe of Ghana, which came from Notsie in the Republic of Togo. Originally, this music and funny dance was performed after wars so that the warriors could reenact battle scenes for those at home. Presently, Gadzo is performed during ancestral stool festivals, Zikpuiza, state festival Hogbetsotso, funerals of important chiefs and members of the group, and by professional and amateur groups for entertainment.

Welcome Dance

The welcome dance is performed to greet guests. This dance is meant to exhibit the tribe’s culture as well as to express the feelings and happiness of the tribe due to the arrival of the guests.

Other African Dance Types

Yabara Dance

This is a popular dance form from Nigeria and the Western African regions. In this dance form, “The Beaded Gourd Rattle” called ‘Shekere’ in the native language, is thrown in the air to indicate the rhythm changes.

Agbekor Dance

This dance form is performed with a horse’s tail at the time of funerals. This dance form also has its origin in Western Africa.

Kpanlogo Dance

This is another popular African folk dance that is performed by the ‘Ga’ ethnic group of Ghana. The dance is accompanied by a special drum known as ‘Kpanlogo’.

Umteyo Dance

This is also known as the shaking dance as this dance form includes rigorous movements of the abdominal area of the body. This dance form is commonly seen in the Xhosa tribe of South Africa.