By Kariamu Welsh-Asante
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Extra resources for African dance
Traditional dances are used for these occasions in ways that require changes in presentation. The dancers must adhere to a strict time limit and the performance is frontal without any interaction between the dancers and the audience. These changes make the dances remarkably different from their original incarnation. MUSIC AND DANCE—ONE AND THE SAME “We are almost a nation of dancers, musicians, and poets,” remarked Olaudah Equiano, an African intellectual and explorer who lived in the eighteenth century.
The chief enters surrounded by his umbrella and attendants, and as soon as he sits on his throne, a dozen young women enter in a line. First they move in unison, shaking their hips and beating intricate patterns into the floor. Then each woman makes a personal and often sensuous dance statement as if to prove that she is ready to face the world. With the entrance of the young women and the matriarchs, Abang becomes a visual spectacle. This processional ends with a communal burst of celebration that manifests itself in bold rhythms and complicated footwork.
Cowrie shells, feathers, raffia, animal skins, and wood are some of the materials used for mask dances. Masquerade dances represent dances and songs that are known to the community and have a historical and ancestral lineage. The beauty and virtuosity in these dances reside in their distinct characteristics. In Nigeria you will find the mask dance Ekine, which is also the name of the mask of the Igbo people of Nigeria that relates a story about Ekineba, a beautiful woman who was abducted by water spirits.