African dances consists of arm and feet movements that tell a story. Africans perform these dances during wars, harvest season, special occasions, work and as a form of praise. Tribal Africans teach their children to dance to the beat of a drum at a very young age. The children perform these dances in order to keep their culture alive and to commemorate their ancestors.
Stomping of the Feet
A basic step in African dances is the stomping of the feet. At a very young age, African children dance to the beat of the drum and other African instruments. Stomping of the feet can come in different forms. For aggressive types of dances, children lift the limbs high up to have a great impact on the ground when they land. The timing of the feet stomping to the beat of the drums is crucial, as some dances require the children to have props like bells, chimes and trinkets. Stomping of the feet goes together with hand and body movements.
Use of Hands
Hand movements are a big factor in African dances. Most of the movements done by hand are symbolic for the tribe. Elders teach the children the symbolism of these hand gestures while they are still very young to instill in them the tribe's traditions. Some hand movements for lively dances consist of raising the arms shoulder-level or above the head while maintaining the beat of the drum. For slower dances, the hand movements are slower and more graceful.
There are three main dance postures in African dances. The first one is the upright stance. This symbolizes strength and authority. It is common among war dances or dances involving elders of a tribe. For this stance, the important thing is to have a straight back. The second posture is to have the body facing forward leaning a bit towards the ground. For this posture, the arms gesture toward the ground. The third posture is having the torso of the body almost parallel to the floor. In this stance, the children's body weight concentrates at the center of the feet to maintain the stance. Dancers use these postures together with hand and feet movements.