Let me dance - Part 1

Dance Art Definition Essay

Dance is, first of all, a language. It is both different and similar to other languages. It has its own origins and codes. Its evolution stems from cultural, historical, political and social context.

The dance will stay vibrant as long as it continues to be a vehicle for personal expression and communication on all levels. It can never be contained, nor restrained and, is always in the moment, while having the strength of continuity.

The rhythms of movements

Dance differs from all other languages because it is exclusively rhythmic. The dance takes form in rhythm differentiating from other means of communication like talking and writing. Dance flow from the body in movement.

The origin of African dance, like all dance, is movement, an automatism in living beings, life itself. Movement starts before conception, continues to the embryonic stage, is activated until death and even after death, the soul is still in motion.

However, dance is not just movement. Just being in movement doesn't mean you are dancing. Walking is not dancing. To run, eat and drink doesn't mean you dance. All sports are movements and practicing a sport is not dancing.

Pearl Primus, pionnère, danse contemporaine inspirée des traditions africaines
Pearl Primus is a pioneer 
in dance ethnology 
and research on African Dance
To dance, at a primary stage, is to express through movement what's happening inside as the body shows the emotions of the moment. This natural impulse to dance has different levels up to ultimate art form.

Jean-Claude Serre in his article, La danse parmi les autres formes de motricité, describe dance as a universal activity with infinite forms mediating infinite senses.

In trying to explain the differences between dance and other arts or physical activities, he developed a taxonomy of motricity.

He argues that we can distinguish three forms of organizational motricity taking into account all human and animal motricity situations. These three forms stem from a common inner motricity which is a pure exercise of the neuro-motricity function such as newborn reflexes.

The first of the three forms is a biological activity which consists of reaching a precise and concrete goal, in space or related to objects or people in the environment, whether it is to explore, to manipulate, to use, to protect, to escape and/or to follow, etc.

The second is organizational motricity to signify with symbols or signs. It is often referred to as nonverbal communication or language with gestures. Examples are facial expressions, sign languages, societal mimesis, circulation agents' manual signals and much more.

The third and the last is the motricity aim to produce forms that are appreciated as so. They are the basis of the individual relationship with his or her social environment for artistic purpose. Jean-Claude Serre precise, in this case, that they are forms in space but also forms in time or in space and time. Can we dissociate space and time is a question that arises here?


J.C. Serre also defines art as purely aesthetic and agrees with Julia Kristeva in quoting her exploration of the language of music in terms of referent-signified-signifying blurred in one combination in a language that has no meaning.

From that point of view, we may conclude that African dance is not purely an art because its aim is to produce forms with significance to say something and does say a lot.

It will be accurate to say that it is quite simplistic to constrain art as uniquely a form being only a form. Art in African societies is included in everyday life holistically as an integral and indistinctive part of all there is. So, art cannot be without significance.

The finest art form is mastery of expressions and symbolism with maximal significance achieve with a minimum of mean. To talk is an art. The one who masters his language gain superiority over others, because he or she increases her vital influx. Movement for say, dance for one, is more spiritual materialization than spoken words, being a direct extension of life's pulse.

Part of a story tale in Kreyol:

"- Krik !  - Krak !
  - Zorèy-lanmè kole atè e ka koute dezòd ka fèt ?
- Lanbi !"

~ Sonny Rupaire (note 1)

The drum is a language instrument. Sounds are gathering forces and their echoes reach very far to call, unify, claim, tell, or invoke.

The drum phrases stem from created specific rules different from other languages grammatical phrases, putting the drum at the level of the language of languages. For the most important rites of life, only the instrument can possibly express their fundamental nature.

The artistic forms in African dances have different hierarchy based on movements' complexities and the body's level of practice to master precise sequences of movement or to adapt rapidly and easily in order to execute all the variances in expressions.

So, at different stages, thoughts, emotions, feelings, the conception of being, things, the universe, relations, life, death, and afterlife, are expressed.

The rhythms of communication

Titinga Frederic Pacere in Le langage des Tam-Tam et des masques en Afrique, describe the language of Tam-Tam as superior to all other languages because its codifications can reach a level of complexity showing the highest level of intellectual capacity accessible only to erudite. The greatest drum masters are masters of communication and through their art, they have the highest and most valued standing in society.

Doris Green, in the book African Dance and the article Traditional Dance in Africa, express that African traditional dances, as an integral art of movement, stem from music which is governed by the rhythm of emotions.

In fact, we must retain that music and dance, have rhythm as common grounds and offer unlimited possibilities in space and time.

This wealth of possibilities does not emanate from a pure rational logic of forms being forms, but from open possibilities which go beyond the five material senses. They integrate possibilities beyond art, with rhythm as the sole guide.

Expression of life and force, the source and reflection of emotion at the same time, rhythm is our Being architecture, our inner dynamism, our wavelength communication system, a pure expression of vital energy.

From there stems the incantation power of claimed words, dance, songs, and drums to realign a compromised harmony. They are aligned in their sequences, their messages are timeless and essential to individuals and communities' wholeness.

African dance is a language tightly related to all social, cultural and political aspects of society. It is as important as spoken and written words, if not more in another realm. African dance is a language infused with metaphysics elements of our relation with, what is above us that we cannot see but can feel as real as what we can see, touch or experiment or prove scientifically.

Share a tale, experiences, knowledge about African dance...

Tell us about a particular comment you may have. You can use the Comment Section below...

 (1) THE DAY WE WILL PUT OUR KNEES DOWN HAS YET TO COME (opening and closing of the tale)
       Riddle: - The ears of the sea on the earth hear everything?  - Lanbi!

       (The lanbi is a conch shell; an emblematic communication symbolism in the Caribbean and African diaspora)

Learn more:

1.  African Dance: An Artistic, Historical and Philosophical Inquiry by Kariamu Welsh Asante

2.  History of African Dance

3.  African Dance Types

I hope you dance | We Are One
I'm Turenne / Tilarenn. I welcome you warmly in this journey through dance, path of the universal wellness that is movement, with inspirations to fully stir our vital energy and dance our soul.

Dance, stir your vital energy and Be in every moment!

    Author: Me

     VIEW: In each text, capture the vital and creative energy that best convey the essentials for your delight.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...