I will highlight a few dances but note that the list may not be exhaustive due to the fact that there are about 3,000 tribes, speaking more than 2,000 different languages. All these tribes have their own dances celebrating different festivals and ceremonies.
The Atilogwu Dance (Eastern Nigeria): This dance is performed by youths because of the amount of energy and acrobatic moves. It is characterized by high jumps, people lifting others and other moves that require a lot of physical energy and technique. The Atilogwu dance is performed at the rhythm and music produced by African musical instruments like the gongs, flutes, balafons (African xylophones) and drums. The dancers also wear very bright and colorful costumes.
The san dance (Botswana): Dance by both men and women, the San dance is the performed by the people of the San tribe in Botswana. The dancers wear animal hide, beaded jewellery carry sticks. They also wear rattles on their feet. This produces the music they dance to, accompanied by singing and clapping.
Mohobelo Dance (Lesotho): The Mohobelo “striding dance” of the Sotho features striding, leaping, and in some cases, sliding, and almost slithering along the ground. Two and sometimes three main movements occur: the slow Bahobela featuring high kicks, the swifter Molapo with leaping and twisting in the air, and the often left out Phethola letsoho, which involves hand movements.
The Aduma dance (Kenya): This is a Maasai traditional dance, performed during the coming-of-age ceremony of a warrior. It is also called the jumping dance because each warrior tries to jump higher than the previous dancer when it is their own turn dance. The dancers (warriors) wear bright red dresses, a lot of jewellery (beads) and carry sticks. They don’t have a particular song they dance to, just loud sounds and war cries.
Ekista dance (Ethiopia): This Ethiopian traditional dance is performed by both men and women. It begins in a slow pace, with dancers swaying and clapping then becomes more vigorous as the dancers move their shoulders and chest in a mesmerizing way. It is also called the shoulder dance.Kpanlogo Dance (Ghana): The dance comes from the Ga ethnic group. This dance started in the capital city of Accra, but now it is enjoyed throughout the country. Kpanlogo is known as a highlife dance form performed to conga-like drums. The music of Kpanlogo is especially important. E.T. Mensah is considered the king of dance band highlife, and played in many bands and locations. Kpanlogo is a fairly recent dance and started around 1940 after World War II, which is when the dance band highlife scene picked up recognition. Odette Blum talks about the movements. There is a free-flowing motion to this dance, with arms swinging around. There is no stillness in this dance, the free-flowing motion, of a move either beginning or ending, fills pauses. The torso acts as the stronghold base of this dance, since the center of gravity shifts rapidly from one foot to the other.
Jerusarema Dance (Zimbabwe): Among the Jerusarema of Zimbabwe the major movement for men is the mbende step, a quick darting movement from a crouched position. Twisting of the waist and hips is the main movement of the women.
Moribayasa Dance(Republic of Guinea): Dance originates from the Malinke people in Guinea, is a dance for a woman who has overcome a great adversity. The woman prepares by putting on old, ragged clothes. Accompanied by musicians, she circles the village several times, singing and dancing. The women of the village follow her and sing too. Then the dancer changes her clothes and buries her old ragged clothes in a special spot. This may be at a cross-road or, as in the village of master drummer Mamady Keïta, under a mango tree.
Yankadi and Macru are two common dances. They are from Guinea, West Africa. Yankadi is slow and mellow, while Macru has a faster tempo with lots of movement. The men and women who participate in the dance face each other in rows; everyone has a scarf, and the dancers put their scarf on the one whom they wish to dance with.
Agbekor (Eastern Ghana) comes from the Fon and Ewe people. It is an ancient dance once known as Atamga. Agbekor is often performed at cultural events and at funerals. This dance is performed with horsetails, and the movements mimic battlefield tactics such as stabbing with the end of the horsetail. This dance consists of phrases of movements. A phrase consists of a “turn” which occurs in every phrase and then a different ending movement. These phrases are added back to back with slight variations within them.
Agahu (Nigeria) was created by the Egun speaking people of Ketonu. Although this dance was believed to be based on the Yoruba dance from Badagry because the Yoruba costume was used, some Yoruba words were used in Agahu songs, and the dance is associated with the Nigerian town Badagry, Agahu is a popular social dance in West Africa. Agahu’s music is also very important to the dance. Dance movements are closely related to the percussive rhythms and songs. The lead drum, a large barrel-shaped drum called an agboba, can distinguish Agahu from other dances. In this dance there are two circles, one with men and the other with women.
Muchongoyo (Zimbabwe): In Zimbabwe, the Muchongoyo was performed by males with female participation. Women are primarily musicians playing the tuba (essentially a gourd with seeds inside it, used as a shaker and singing alongside the men. They improvise or use the standard side to side shuffling movement lifting their feet from the ground. In contrast the men perform high knee lifts, returning their feet quickly to the ground. The women will sometimes move out of the choir line in a single file and dance around the drummer and male dancers until they return to their original positions. The Muchongoyo commemorates, celebrates, witnesses and highlights events. Although not specifically a religious dance, it is spiritual, and the repetitious nature takes participants closer to the divine.
|Dance||Purpose||Country / Tribe of Origin|
|Adowa||Ghana / Ashanti|
|Agbaja||Ghana / Ewe|
|Agwara||Courtship||Uganda / Alur|
|Akogo||Courtship||Uganda / Iteso|
|Amaggunju||Uganda / Buganda|
|Bakisiimba||Celebration||Uganda / Buganda|
|Bwola||Celebration||Uganda / Acholi|
|Ding Ding||Uganda / Acholi|
|Ekitaguriro||Uganda / Banyankole|
|Ekizino||Courtship||Uganda / Bakiga|
|Entog||Gaze||Uganda / Lugbara|
|Entogoro||Gaze||Uganda / Banyoro, Batooro|
|Kakilambe||Fertility ritual||Guinea or Mali/Baga people|
|Kwassa kwassa||Celebration||Congo (DRC)|
|Lamban||Celebration||Guinea, Senegal, Mali|
|Larakaraka||Courtship||Uganda / Acholi|
|Mwaga||Courtship||Uganda / Bagisu|
|Ndombolo (Soukous)||Courtship||Congo (DRC)|
|Owaro||Uganda / Samia-Bugwe|
|Runyege||Celebration / Courtship||Uganda / Banyoro, Batooro|
|Sabar||Celebration||Senegal/ Wolof people|
|Sunu||Wedding||Guinea, Mali / Mandinka|
|Tamenaibuga||Friendship||Uganda / Basoga|
The dances highlighted above are not exhaustive but its best you check with your tour operator before visiting a specific African country if there will be any special festival during your stay and maybe youll be lucky to see some of the dances highlighted above.
Please note that the list of dances is not exhaustive.