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Story of African Dance

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During my 4/12/14 induction ceremony into the African Focus Goodwill (receiving "My Brothers Keeper Award"), my African family host, Phillip Osula, said African Dancing is the source of all African Arts. This caused me to research the underlying factors enabling Dancing to have such a profound effect on the lives of African peoples everywhere and throughout the ages. Its Spiritual Seed embraces the flowing existence of opposites so essential for creating, enhancing, and maintaining patterns of Cosmic Peace as well as helping Africans move easier in daily living, as with relationships. By Africans having always been intimately connected with the infinite energy of the Spiritual Realm and by Spirituality being integrated into their daily lives, meant its rhythms naturally flowed out of even Primitive Africans. In fact, African Dance interweaves both the physical and metaphysical (away from the physical) in its expressions. As Asante (Afrocentricity) says: “It allows fantasy, relief, drama, irony, humor, conflict, history, and imagination. A committed and foundational art advances the people and enhances the culture.” Dancing for Primitive Africans symbolized the rhythmic, patterned movements designed to roll out the embroidered tapestries of life itself--poetic patterns painted with Dance Images about the Unseen realms. Shaman (medicine-men), realizing humans and Nature are intimately related--with one being a part of the other--were the earliest to take advantage of the various benefits brought about by Dance. They would ingest special herbs to produce a trance--i.e. an altered state of consciousness. Then he and the community engaged in dance as the means to facilitate the Shaman’s entering into the metaphysical realm. The idea was that a dance and/or whatever leads to a trance indicated a spirit's presence—drawn by the attraction of the pleasant and healthy community atmosphere. To deal with these spirits, the Shaman and villagers believed their greatest effectiveness as a unit came from engaging in various forms of harmoniously rhythmic bodily movements, music, words, and dance expressions.

Perhaps the way dramas started was in the form of tribal dances performed to soothe angry gods or to enlist the aid of friendly gods. To penetrate behind the facade of ordinary appearance into things with Cosmic significance, Africans resorted to all sorts of songs, dances, delusions, and dramatic tricks to either appease or control the spirits. Historically, Africans have known that Nature appreciation is greatly enhanced by one being in direct contact with ones Real Self and its associated Spiritual Elements. Its self-expressions radiate naturally and spontaneously out of the individual in a series of Dance creations. Such was displayed by Very Ancient African’s Performance Poetry, inclusive with sacred dance, worship rituals, ceremonial possessions, religious drama, theater, and storytelling. No aspects of Dance were haphazard. Throughout the ages and all over Africa, tribal dancing has consisted of movement of the entire body to syncopated rhythms checkered with asymmetrical fluidity; angular bending of the arms, legs, and torso; shoulder, pelvic, and hip movement; scuffing, stamping, and hopping; a free spirit of improvisation; bent knees, crouched torsos, and an orientation into the earth [as opposed to just being on top of a dance floor]. A Congolese proverb puts it this way: “Dance with your knees bent, lest you be taken for a corpse.”

While perfecting both sides of their brains, Africans allowed their Right Brains to orchestrate their Dance. The beat, the rhythm, the timing, the orchestration, the flow, the balance between action and rest must all be within well-defined, organic limits for humans to be vital. Thus, the combination of the Music and Dance amplify and make manifest to the human senses the unheard tones and unseen waves that weave together the reality of existence. So sensitive to these were they that even when sitting still or resting in the deepest of sleep they had a sense of all that was in their bodies (e.g. the atoms, molecules, cells, tissues, organs, and its systems) would dance--dance as an astounding team and exchange ambient energies from air, water, food, and invisible electromagnetic radiation. This experience of the unity of action between all things within ones body as a complete and ordered structure of activities and without ones awareness was viewed as an integration of the Spirit with Matter--representing a way to live life in peace and harmony.

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