Mothers-to-be dance constantly in African
culture to help develop a sense of rhythm in the baby.



"Genon dance at Vogan, Togo, April 1966. The female dancers are quite old. The others, in the circle, make the pou pou slapping their mouths with their hands at regular intervals. These sounds aim to invoke and evoke the gods of dance and festivals but they also help the women to render homage to them."(Tierou)

Dance as a tool of expression has existed since the beginning of time. Dance expresses life and all emotions. These emotions become the central idea behind African Dance. Alphonse Tiérou cites the Robert dictionary's definition of dance to show that "dance is 'an expressive series of movements of the body executed according to a rhythm, and most often to the sound of music, and following art, a technique or a social code which is more or less explicit'"(Tierou,pg.11).

This definition loosely defines dance, however, leaves out two key elements of African dance. African dance is an inexpressible emotion, which connects the body to nature. Freedom and awareness are key elements that connect body and nature. Movement is not considered dance to Africans if it is forced upon the individual. This freedom and commitment to dance allow for the dancer to be aware of the expression of the dance that they are performing. This freedom of expression leads to spirituality in dance.

"African spirituality starts from the principle that the only objective approach in trying to encircle reality is through the body and that in rediscovering the body, one rediscovers ones' own identity in the midst of humanity and returns to its rightful place in the macrocosm"(Tierou,pg. 12). In African dance, the idea that man is inseparable from the universe is reinforced. Participating in dance shows a respect to the cosmos, which precedes all forms of community participation. The use of dance in the community however, is a way to show respect to the cosmos.


Dance is also used in African culture to punctuate important events in daily culture. This privileged form of expression allows man to communicate emotion amongst his/her peers and amongst higher powers. The use of dance serves multiple purposes with in African culture, notably to improve natural environment issues, to improve health of individuals or the welfare of the community, to promote success in war and hunting, to retell historic events or stories, and many other purposes that don't fall under these religious categories.