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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African dance and drumming ensemble Dema prepares for year-end performances – Emerald Media

“Dema is a class at the University of Oregon focusing on dance, music and storytelling traditions of Ghana and West Africa.

“We have Ph.Ds in physics, political science and undergraduates in various studies,” she said. “People probably stay for two terms at least because everyone falls in love with what Dema is.”A large portion of the class is devoted to building relationships with other members and forming a community.

Dema participants divide into three committees focusing on outreach, fundraising and social events. The social events portion is highly valued by the group.“We like to do stuff outside of class that helps us come together as a dance troupe, but also just as a community,” King said. “We want everyone to feel comfortable.”

“Our performance is not about competition. It is more about people expressing their individuality, and if I make it a group with only people who can dance well then I miss the basic principle,” Iddrisu said.

Fifth year student Nelson Trujillo joined Dema this term, and is enjoying the experience so far. “It’s a totally new thing on many levels,” Trujillo said. “I had no experience drumming and they brought me in for sure.”

Continue reading at Source: Preview: African dance and drumming ensemble Dema prepares for year-end performances – Emerald Media

‘Powwow Sweat’ Promotes Fitness Through Traditional Dance : Shots – Health News : NPR

“In Indian Country, a gym membership is not a cultural norm and the incidence of heart disease and obesity are high.

Native Americans are 60 percent more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic whites. The Coeur D’Alene tribe, whose headquarters is in northern Idaho, is trying to combat the problem by incorporating culture into fitness programs.

The tribe has created an exercise routine — called “Powwow Sweat” — based on traditional dancing. The program features a series of workout videos that break down six traditional dances into step-by-step exercise routines.”


Continue reading at Source: ‘Powwow Sweat’ Promotes Fitness Through Traditional Dance : Shots – Health News : NPR


Walk, Stretch or Dance? Dancing May Be Best for the Brain – The New York Times

Could learning to dance the minuet or fandango help to protect our brains from aging?

A new study that compared the neurological effects of country dancing with those of walking and other activities suggests that there may be something unique about learning a social dance. The demands it places on the mind and body could make it unusually potent at slowing some of the changes inside our skulls that seem otherwise inevitable with aging.Neuroscientists and those in middle age or beyond know that brains alter and slow as we grow older.

Processing speed, which is a measure of how rapidly our brains can absorb, assess and respond to new information, seems to be particularly hard hit. Most people who are older than about 40 perform worse on tests of processing speed than those who are younger, with the effects accelerating as the decades pass.Scientists suspect that this decline is due in large part to a concomitant fraying of our brain’s white matter, which is its wiring.

White matter consists of specialized cells and their offshoots that pass messages between neurons and from one part of the brain to another. In young brains, these messages whip from neuron to neuron with boggling speed. But in older people, brain scans show, the white matter can be skimpier and less efficient. Messages stutter and slow.

Continue reading at:


What is Therapeutic Drumming?

Click here > An Overview of Music Therapy and Therapeutic Music from the Music Therapy Association.

“We all know that active music making offers many benefits to people of all ages and abilities. From the physical activity of holding and playing the instruments, to the cognitive challenges of learning and playing specific rhythms, to the social connections we make with others, drumming is a satisfying experience we can all enjoy.Drumming is considered ‘therapeutic’ when it is engaged intentionally as a means of creating a positive physical, cognitive, emotional, and/or psycho-social outcome. It’s not as much about the specifics of the drumming, as it is about the intention and outcomes.


There are many types of music making that may or may not produce positive physical, cognitive, or emotional results. Therapeutic Drumming represents those drumming experiences that ARE aimed at creating positive outcomes.

Benefits of Therapeutic Drumming

Outcomes range, depending on the modality, participants, and their goals, but some common outcomes include: increasing physical activity, deepening a sense of accomplishment, facilitating self-expression, increasing self-esteem, strengthening interpersonal relationships, expressing what words alone cannot, improving mental clarity, reducing anxiety and increasing a state of peacefulness. These are a few of the targeted outcomes of many Therapeutic Drumming experience.”

Read more at Source: Therapeutic Drumming Network – What is Therapeutic Drumming?

The Garden of Eden of Music and Dance

Rhythmic Music and Dance may be traced back to as much as 10000 years to sprawling village cultures in a Garden of Eden like environment that existed across most of what is now the Sahara Desert. (Africa’s Great Civilizations Origins PBS Hour One.)

At that time the cyclic tilting of the earth returned and glacial retreats caused massive monsoons to move to the area creating massive lakes and rivers and explosion of plants and massive animal herds available for livestock communities. (Read more at Green Sahara’s ancient rainfall regime revealed)

For nearly 5000 years communities probably developed village music and dance integrated with daily life. Finally the energy of the monsoons moved the storms back south and the Sahara desert returned forcing the village cultures with all their music and dance to migrate in and out of the Sahara with the rains to finally create the great urban civilizations around the desert and then around the world.

“Rainfall regimes of the Green Sahara,” Science Advances,  Science Advances  18 Jan 2017:Vol. 3, no. 1, e1601503 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1601503


Honors College Students Learn through West African Dance

In Professor Frances Glycenfer’s seminar, “Move It”, students learn through active experimentation. Glycenfer recently brought in the group, Fale, an African drum and dance collective based in Fort Collins.

“I think it is essential for learning,” Glycenfer said. “You can only discuss so much regarding movement in dance until you eventually have to get up and do it yourself.”

Fale played the drums and taught the class a dance originating from the coastal region of Guinea. The dance is now commonly performed during celebrations in different countries in West Africa.

The honors students were apprehensive, but excited to try the new moves. Malia Desmarais is one of the students who participated in the class.

“Dance labs provide an exuberant and exciting start to Friday mornings,” Desmarais said. “They give us a sense of the history behind the motions of different types of dance.”

“We have found West African music to be a tremendous outlet to express ourselves.”

“The most impactful part of West African dance is learning the customs and exploring the culture,”



Fale started the class by teaching students how to follow the music by listening to the drumming call. West African dance does not use counting, but uses a distinct drumming cue to signal switching moves.

As the class progressed, even the hesitant students seemed to loosen up and fully engage in the expressive dance.“For college students to expose themselves to different forms of cultural experiences … it provides a wider perspective of the world,”

Continue reading at Source: Honors College Students Learn through West African Dance