The Kennedy Center: Learn about African dance and dancing to the drum

Rhythm of the Drum

“Rhythm is the driving force behind African dance and many styles can immediately be identified by their characteristic rhythmic beats.

Dancers respond to percussive patterns created by drummers, who in turn respond to the dancers. It is a dialogue assisted by spectators who participate in the performance by clapping or stamping their feet. Dancers are judged by how well they are able to follow the rhythm.

African dance is polyrhythmic, meaning that different rhythms are expressed using various parts of the body. The chest, pelvis, arms, and legs may all have their own rhythm, but be moving at the same time. The complexity and challenge of African dance stems from this use of the whole body.

African villages have dance masters who train young students in their region’s dance styles. Students are expected to learn the steps exactly as they are taught. Once the dance is mastered, however, it is possible to improvise and add new patterns within a particular dance style. Dancers may even engage in friendly competitions with each other or with a lead drummer, pushing them to even more creative interpretations and quick responses.”

Find more dance and drum instruction videos, and readings at Source: ARTSEDGE: Five(ish) Minute Dance Lesson: African Dance

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