Nigerian Dance Capstone Outline
Thesis Statement: The function of Nigerian dance has changed over time, but the importance of Nigerian dance has remained the same.
Most dances you can separate from their country of origin, but Nigerian dance is close to impossible to separate the dance from the culture or vice versa. The Nigerian culture is rooted in dance. Their stories are told through dance and the stories yet to come will be interpreted through dance as well. Every step and drum rhythm has a meaning and a story behind it. The history of Nigeria is tied to their dance and that is the phenomenal imagery of the Nigerian dances. The dances are used for communication and they “illustrate the meaning and underline the symbolism of those occasions” (Ajai 1). After centuries of history and culture clashes, the function of Nigerian dance has changed to meet modern day needs but, the importance of Nigerian dance has remained the same.
- Nigerian dance/ southwestern culture holds all of the history and stories from the beginning of African time.
“Africa had no history to speak of. Not only were its societies regarded as primitive and unchanging, they were believed, due in large part to the widespread absence of literacy, to posses no collective historical consciousness” (Oxford 3)
“For a visitor to present- day Africa, or for a consumer of African culture outside the continent, this diversity is most apparent in the realm of representation, especially artistic expression: music, dance, the plastic arts, architecture, clothing, bodily decorations, and so on” (Oxford 26).
- The culture clashes in Nigerian history are some of the main reasons for the interpreted stories through dance.
- Ancient Yoruba was a Christian culture, but the practice of Christianity was corrupted by “’heathenism’, political fragmentation, and the slave trade” (Parker 42).
- Being corrupted by colonial conquest with politics and the slave trade is a main reason why Yoruba culture is so rooted in their beliefs and practices. For a second, the Nigerians, realized that their culture could be completely decimated by the Europeans.
- The Yoruba culture is an example of a project or an experiment of colonial conquest. The Europeans constantly attempted the projects of ‘ethnogenesis’ with militarized aristocracy and Christianized elites to “revamp and expand European ideologies” (Parker 43).
- Ethnogenesis (from the Greek ethnos ἔθνος, "group of people" or "nation", and genesis γέννησις, "origin, birth", pl. ethnogeneses) refers to the process of formation or emergence of ethnic groups.
- The dances that the Nigerians perform are all from a story of slave trade, European imperialism and other culture disagreements.
- Because of the imperialism and the conquering of the African continent and Nigeria, itself, dance was used to communicate with others. It was considered a different language; “African dance… [a] spoken language, is a source of communication through which is possible to demonstrate emotion” (Weish 13)
- There are other ways to communicate, but the people of the Yoruba culture in Africa, decided that dance was a better way of communication.
- These dances hold original meaning and representation. Not only are they beautifully choreographed, but they are motion picture of history.
- “African dance translates everyday experiences into movement” (Weish 14).
- African dance is used to interpret everyday life and what is going on. It is like telling a story with music and movement.
- The original dancers were disciplined a certain way in order to keep the secrets of the dances.
- The original dancing was very sexual and was not encouraged for the younger of the children to perform.
- “This movement, pelvic contractions, was used in all categories of dances.”
- It was considered a “sexual notion” ( Weish 15).
- Slavery in Africa was a major culture clash and the disagreement with the practice was expressed through rapid gyrations of the body to a drum beat.
- Despite the distance from northern and southern Africa, most of the same destruction and communication from colonization was the same.
- “Trade, slavery and Islamic colonization have resulted in the Islamazation of African music [and dance]” (Murray 90)
- The history of Nigeria has been one of the main determining factors with the evolution of African/ Nigerian dance.
- “The shape of current Africa music and dance in Africa results from a variety of historical changes: ecological, cultural, social, religious, political” (Murray 92).
- Historically, Nigerian dance was used to unite different languages from different villages that are in close proximity (different dances that mean certain stories that are communicated through the Nigerian culture).
- Dance was used as a form of possession.
- Patterns were the understood language of the dances and music.
- “Musical patterns are often conceived as verbalized in black African cultures” (Weish 93)
- Today, the historical stories that are now performed and traditional dances.
- The dances in Nigeria are portrayed to be very rich in patterns and costumes and rhythms.
- Dance is also used to portray religion/ power.
- Since Nigeria is a very wealthy and powerful African country, the government is very strict and the people, of today are “protesting against oil companies in parts of Nigeria because it is ruining their environment” (Bi-Okoto Educational Packet 7).
- In modern day times, Nigerian dance is still kept traditional.
- The dancers are dancing for a certain purpose.
- There are several dances and reasons to dance.
- Each dance in the Nigerian culture is for a specific reason.
- Fisherman’s Dance
- The celebration for the end of the fishing days
- The dance before Harvest season
- The “twirling” dance
- There is a meaning for all of the costumes.
- The women wear a certain skirt, which depends on the dance that is being performed.
- The headdress is something that is required for each dance, by women (Dagan 45).
- Is the rhythm the same and the same meaning in the African dances performed today?
- The drums are a call and response rhythm.
- In conjunction to my earlier statement, the rhythm of the drums and the dancing are a form of communication for the African tribes.
- The modern day function of Nigerian dance is still used as communication, but more for performance purposes.
- The dances are performed for certain ceremonies and religious events and festivals.
- There are more celebrations in Nigeria than I Africa so there are more reasons and opportunities to dance.
- The teaching of Nigerian dance has changed from generation to generation.
- Today, children are taught the traditional dances.
- My interviewee is a Nigerian dance teacher and he only teaches the traditional Yoruba dances.
- He believes that if you are going to learn how do to Nigerian dance; it needs to be the traditional and original version (Bergho 12).
- The steps and the communication of today still remain traditional with modern function.
- The dances are still used for fun and communication, but not so much for another language to hide secrets.
- African dance is still used to connect languages and break down barriers still to this day.
Ajayi, Omofolabo S. Yoruba Dance: The Semiotics of Movement and Body Attitude in a
Nigerian Culture. Trenton, NJ: Africa World, 1998. Print.
Anonymous. “Bi-Okoto Educational Packet.” Anonymous. Print
Bergho, Felix, Traditional African Dance in Context. Anonymous. Print
Dagan, Esther A. The Spirit's Dance in Africa: Evolution, Transformation, and Continuity in
Sub-Sahara. Westmount, QC, Canada: Galerie Amrad African Arts Publications, 1997. Print.
Murray, Jocelyn. Cultural Atlas of Africa. New York, NY: Facts on File, 1981. Print.
Parker, John, and Richard Rathbone. African History: A Very Short Introduction.
Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. Print.
Welsh-Asante, Kariamu. African Dance: An Artistic, Historical, and Philosophical Inquiry.
Trenton, NJ: Africa World, 1996. Print.