Cultural Dance and its socio-traditional importance

Yoruba Cultural Dance and its socio-traditional importance

Dance is an artistic expression that evokes art. Dance today, can be seen in all aspects of culture which includes our everyday gestures, in religious activities, in ritual processes, in entertainment, in fitness, and in fine art. Dance styles are closely related to the cultures in which they develop, and they tend to evolve over time in correspondence to the developing society. Every gesture and move has its own history and cultural derivation. A simple wave, a handshake, a nod, and a thumbs-up; all these gestures can be seen as forms of dance used in everyday life. The way, we move with our hands and bodies as they are both ways of expression of our culture and identity. Dance reflects culture. In traditional societies, dance is closely related to religious practices. It also functions as a means of storytelling and an expression of a happy mood or celebration.

Traditional Dance

Apart from the contemporary Nigerian dances that are in vogue, there are traditional dances too. Each ethnic group has its own traditional dance that makes them unique and marks them different from others. The Yorubas for instance, are one of the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria and the people are rich in culture, dressing, food, music, dances, etc. The Yorubas are majorly found in Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo, Lagos, parts of Kwara and Kogi states. Each state has its own cultural style which includes dance styles.

Yoruba cultural dance is called ‘ijo-ibile’ (local/traditional dance). The Yorubas dance to their traditional musical instruments such as Batá drum, Gangan (Talking drum), Sekere, Agogo (gong), and so on. The dancers are mostly dressed in Aso oke or Adire fabric with which the male adorns in Buba and Sokoto. A “abeti aja” cap is also a major part of their attire. Females are dressed in wrappers and coral beads on the neck, waist, wrist, and ankle. Horsetails known as “Irukere” are also held by the dancers which flow with the rhythmic movements.

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Yoruba people dance to the sounds of their musical instruments and vocals. Their dance steps are always in union with the beats, especially from the talking drum (gangan). The limbs are the most used organ for the dance. The limbs, (arms and legs) are moved in an emphatic fashion while they dance. The best dancers are tagged ‘arapa-re-gangan’ or ‘arese-ja-bata’. There are also dances that have magical stunts such as the Obitun dance of the Ondo people. While doing the Obitun dance, a female dancer will hold a breakable plate with her two palms and turn it 360 degrees, several times, without the plate dropping. There are other stunt movements by the Yoruba dancers. Aside from other Yoruba contemporary dances, such as takasufe, and shakabubu, the cultural dances are rhythmic steps featured in their special occasions.

Benefits of Dance

1. Inspirational

Dance is an art, and just like all forms of art, it conveys a message. Many of these messages that are expressed are inspiring. A choreographer can create a dance about overcoming an illness which can resonate with and be encouraging for an observer who is going through similar issues. Dance can also be inspirational because it can showcase people of various abilities and circumstances. Dance is also a great way for children to use their time and develop skills when they are not in school.  It is one of the best after-school activities for children to get into and can keep them from destructive behaviours and peer group influence.

2. Dance Brings People Together

Dance varies across cultures, but dance as a whole is universal because human movement is universal. Even with people that don’t speak the same language, it is likely that they will be able to understand each other through non-verbal communication such as choreography dance. It can unite people who normally would not communicate verbally.

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Another way that dance unites is through the interactions that happen in partner dances. In these types of dances, the lead dancer has to use non-verbal signals in order to tell their partner what moves to do. Getting people to move in a union without talking to each other is difficult, but once they get it they hang on to it. All in all, the dancing process gives people the opportunity to move in a union and have moments that unite them.

3. Dance is Entertainment

Dance is a form of entertainment. Just as movies and television shows entertain audiences, dancers can also serve the same purpose. Choreographed pieces can have themes that are based on comical, dramatic, romantic, or even action-packed. It can be a nice treat to have a night out and see a ballet or other type of dance show at a theatre.

4. Dance is Educational

As a student of choreography dance, you will learn various techniques, styles, and maybe even some dance history. Dance can also teach us about ourselves. If a dance requires us to move in a way that we never have before or imagined, we could discover something new about how our bodies function. By doing partner dances, people can also learn how well they work with others.

Dance can also show us certain things about civilisation. Different cultures around the world have various styles of dance and each of those dances can tell us a little about these cultures.  There are some traditional dances that are used to tell stories or celebrate certain events. For instance, The Paso Doble is a France originated dance, which represents bullfighting. It was also used in the Spanish infantry to set the pace of marching. Additionally, the Jarabe Tapatío (commonly known as the “Mexican Hat Dance”) is a Mexican dance that represents courtship, but since the dance was banned, it is often seen as a symbol of Mexican independence. When you look into the history of dances, you can find interesting facts about the values and traditions of some cultures.

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5. Dance as a means of exercising

There are health benefits of dance that are widely known. It is a great form of exercise which keeps your body moving a lot and makes you sweat out but is also fun. There are even exercise programs or classes, such as Zumba, that has dance movements in it. In order to encourage more people to add dance into their lives and stay healthy, National Dance Day was created in the USA. The day is celebrated on July 29th and its purpose is to inspire the community to use dance as a fun form of exercise. Dance is not just good for your body, but it’s also great for your mind. There was a study done by neuroscientists that showed how dancing was the most effective exercise that slows down the aging process.

Even if you aren’t physically able to dance, watching other people dance can be a laxative experience. It can also help you to connect emotionally to the dancers who are performing, which is a process that helps to support empathy and also appreciate them. Watching dancers dance, can simply make you feel happier and will make you want to try. If the performers have a cheerful presence then their joy can be contagious to an audience. But the fact remains that dancers smiles always especially when they are performing. The people who watch these dancers usually leave the performances in high spirits, and these positive attitudes are nothing but beneficial to the world.