Dance is a series of rhythmic body movements. It is the art of expressing oneself by interpreting choreographic compositions. It is a rhythmic and harmonious sequence of gestures and steps. Every parent should teach their child to dance from the very first steps. Dancing develops the child’s cardio, muscles and pleasure in movement. It helps develop their sense of balance and improves their reflexes. During this period, the child discovers himself through dance. They become aware of their sensitivity and use their imagination. They learn to coordinate their movements to the rhythm of the music.
All these qualities of dance contribute to the well-being of the toddler. It should be remembered that dance in general often goes hand in hand with music. As each region of the world has its own specificity, traditional African music is very diversified due to the multitude of ethnic groups and cultures. As a result, there are countless and infinite styles of dance and music. What is most interesting is that these cultures draw on virtually the same instruments, melodies, dances, and rhythms for different results. In the African tradition, music and dance represent the expression of an entire people or group of people. They play a very important role in communication.
No matter what the event, dance and music are always present. Whether it is to admire and praise the courage and bravery of warriors in the past, for the release of the newborn, dowry ceremonies, marriage, mourning, etc.. Dance and music in Africa find the melodies, steps and rhythms to accurately express these events in our African languages.
They express above all the emotions, the joy of living together in order to transmit the tradition, to magnify the ancestors, to glorify the deities, to carry out rituals. They even allowed the African slaves of the 16th century in Brazil to think and develop the capoera, a technique of self-defense hidden in their cultural rituals in order to protect themselves against their masters for need of freedom. Beyond any formality, the moments of dances and traditional music are moments of conviviality and joy.
Unfortunately, the practice of traditional dances over the years, knows a regression at great pace leaving place to classical and contemporary dances with the advent of the RNB, the coupe décalé or others. What can explain this state of affairs? What has become of these dances that used to accompany our traditional music in Africa? In order to be more precise, let’s take only the case of Benin. What is the result? How many of us can dance the Tèkè1, the Zinli2, the Toba3, the Tipenti4, the Zandro5, the Agbadja6, the Ogbon7, the Massègohoun8, the Adjogbo9, the Tchingoumè10, the Kakahoun11, the Guèlèdè12, to name but a few. Dances that beyond the entertainment not only tell a story, transmit a message but are also the expression of our habits and customs.
Just to illustrate the relevance of our opinion, let’s take the example of Guèlèdè registered on the representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO in 2008. It is a masked dance, performed in harmony with the rhythms of 4 tom-toms and Nagot or Yoruba songs at the end of the harvest, during certain births, deaths, marriages, epidemics or droughts. This dance, beyond the beauty that it transmitted and which makes the Nagot people say that “oju to ba ri Guèlèdè, ti de opin iran13” The dances in Africa had a deep meaning, they connected the young people to the elders and took part in maintaining the dialogue between generations and organized the transmission of knowledge, of the wisdom essential to the perpetuation of civilizations.
Should we let our dances disappear? Without a doubt no. On the contrary, it is precisely the moment to make known our culture in a world where each part of the globe tries to impose or at least to preserve its own. Otherwise, we will be ”recolonized14”, alas. For “Black people must assume their own history and contribute to the civilization of the Universal”. Thomas Sankara’s speech on April 21, 1986.