The History of West African Dance

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Rumba: A Dance and Music Form with Historical Significance

Rumba is today one of the common music and dances performed in ballrooms. Having only been introduced in the United States during the 1930s, Daniel explains that it was originally from Cuba during the 1860s. The history of Rumba depicts the sense of togetherness for the people of Havana and Matanzas given that it signifies both an activity and music. Learning about the dance and music highlighted how it came to be through the exploration of the Cuban people coming together for various reasons after the slavery period.

The Rumba Dance: Expressing Emotions Through Graceful Movements

The Rumba dance is basically a completion of Cuban dances where the man takes the lead and the woman responds or reacts to it. It is done in a graceful manner as the dancing couple completely take on a simple routine to express emotions through their dancing. The speed of the dance is often set by the tempo of the music. Both the dance and music are said to have originated from Cuba as a form of party music and dance. It is a form of music and dance that was traditionally associated with the poor given the neighborhoods that it originated from. There are three main forms of traditional rumba that are the yambu, Columbia and guaguanco (Daniel).

Evolution of Rumba: From Cultural Celebration to Worldwide Enjoyment

Yambu means box music and takes on more of a drum beat. It is known as box music because boxes were the musical instruments that were used in replacement of drums. Columbia is purely performed by men while guaguanco is the fasted music out of the three. From the three, other forms of rumba have since been developed as the music and dance were adopted into other parts of the world. As such, it started off as a dance to celebrate festive events or different social occasions, the rumba dance has grown and developed into a ballroom dance that is performed and enjoyed throughout the world.

Personal Experience: Discovering the Beauty of Rumba Dance

On a personal note, I did enjoy learning about the history, more so its origin and traditional forms to what it currently is about. As a dance, I really do like it because it can either be made up of simple or complex steps. I also like the manner in which the dancing couple takes on different roles thus resulting in a graceful performance. Learning the dance was not as difficult as I thought it would be because the professor made it very easy to understand and perform the key points. By setting up the steps and helping us with the dance technique, the professor was keen to allow every student the chance to master the steps at their individual pace.

I can easily relate the rumba dance movements to those of belly dancing. This is because both incorporate the movement of hips and the torso remains as a possibility still as possible. With both forms of dancing, it is important to move the legs with slight or complex movements but the hips play a very important role. I also feel like if one can easily move their lower body parts to any form of music, they can learn to rumba in a very short period of time. I definitely enjoyed learning to dance the rumba and in the future, I would like to perfect on my moves.

Journal 2: West African Dance

West Africa comprises of different countries but basically, they share some similarities in their cultures and languages. As such, it is common for their dance and music to also have some resemblance. The traditional West African music is largely based on different cultural beliefs and happenings. As such, it was common form music to be performed based on occasions as each event was individually unique and entailed a different array of practices. The same can be said about the West African dance as every occasion most likely called for a different kind of dance movement.

Rich History: Traditional West African Dance Passed Through Generations

Some of the West African dances are very old as they have been passed down from one generation to the next. Kosmos Camp explains that it has become easier for dances to add on new styles and music rhythms due to modern civilization. The dances have had to incorporate movements from other forms of dances dues to constant interaction of people. As a matter of fact, it is highly considered that music and dance originated from Africa. This is due to the fact that traditional African songs had a major influence on the other forms of music giving the role music and dance play during and after the slavery error.

Vibrant and Energetic: The Unique Characteristics of West African Dance

The West African dance tends to be very vigorous as it calls for every part of the body being moved. While learning about the dance, it was observed that West Africans have to move both arms and legs in different directions while still directing either the torso or hips in diverse ways. As such, there is always two or more bodily moves being performed as a means of creating a West African dance. Furthermore, the dancers are always in groups such that there is rarely a couple dancing together at any point. The groups have to dance in formations that keep on changing. In every performance, women, and men different dances and so do the girls and boys if they are present in the performance. Therefore it can be concluded that different sexes and age groups do different dance moves.

Learning the Dance: Coordination, Rhythm, and Storytelling

Learning the dance was exciting because it did challenge me to strive to be a better dance. The professor helped by teaching on the importance of coordination especially in relation to moving our bodies in different ways at the same time. The pattern of music help to define which movement would accompany it because as Kosmos Camp explains, “the dancer interprets the rhythmic nature of the music through movement.” Another thing that helps in learning to perform the dance was the fact that the music and movements were supposed to tell a story. Therefore it was more like a theatre performance only that we had o move our bodies in a vigorous manner.

Similarities with Other Dance Forms: West African Dance and its Connections

Given the incorporation of different movements all at once, the West African dance to me resembles the hip-hop dances. Both forms of dances take on more than one body move making it a challenge. It can easily be said that Hip-hop as a dance takes on moving the body in a break like movement. The way hip-hop dancers move to music is closely related to how West Africans dance to the beating of a drum. Apart from hip-hop, this dance has some resemblance to twerking; a modern kind of movement where females shack their backsides just as it is with West African females.

Works Cited

Daniel, Yvonne Payne. “Race, Gender and Class Embodied in Cuban Dance.” Contribution in Black Studies 12:8 (1994).

Kosmos Camp. “The History of West African Dance.” Kosmos Camp, n.d. web 6 Dec 2018

October 05, 2023


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