Monday, September 21, 2009

An Extract from Sacred Dance by Dzagbe Cudjoe

Dance is clearly one of the earliest forms of worship. Cave art from early prehistoric times onwards bears witness to the power of the dance. Such paintings and engravings occur worldwide. In the western part of Arnhem Land in Australia a cave painting shows two men playing instruments to accompany the dance. A rock shelter at Cogul near Lenda in Catolonia, Spain portrays a group of nine women. They are wearing knee length skirts and are dancing round a small naked male figure. The State of Madhya Pradash in India has abundant rock art depicting dancers and musicians. The caves in Tassili Algeria have paintings of female dancers and the Etruscans in 500 BC depicted dancing in wall frescoes.

Certain dances mimic animals or are aimed to ensure that something happens. For example hunters in ancient times are shown in cave paintings dancing wearing animal skins and masks. We can safely assume that this was to ensure good hunting. Dances miming the gathering of the harvest must also be of ancient origin. As time has passed such dances have become folk dance rather than sacred dance.

Sacred Dance is often preceded by elaborate secret preparations such as bathing, avoidance of certain foods and drinks and from sexual intercourse. There may be periods of intense prayer and the taking of trance inducing substances.

One of the best documented european sacred dances is that connected to the cult of the Greek god Dionysus. The rituals in his honor included orgies, the sacrifice of animals, excessive wine-drinking and trance dancing which continued until the dancers collapsed with exhaustion.

Judaism had no problem with dance being connected to worship. Psalm 150 for example:- "Praise ye the Lord... Praise him with the timbrel and dance". King David is said to have whirled before the Ark of the Covenant. In the Talmud dancing is described as being the principal function of angels.

Dance was part of the service in the early Christian church. It took place in the choir and was led by the bishop. Today there are Christian churches who are reintroducing dance sometimes in a very self-conscious style.

Sacred Dance can in itself be therapeutic.

The Shakers, who were an offshoot of the Quakers were brought to America from England in 1774 by Ann Lee. A vision had told her that sexual intercourse was the source of mankinds's troubles. She established a closed community which practised self-sufficiency and communal ownership of all possessions. The Shakers had a deep understanding of the aesthetic of simplicity which showed itself in all aspects of their lives.

Shaker dances were held in the evening. Men and women entered the hall separately. They marched in on tip-toe and formed two rows facing each other about five feet apart.Men were on the right with the women on the left. The Chief Elder stood in the middle and gave a five minute address. He concluded by saying "Go forth, old men, young men and maidens and worship God with all your might in the dance". Men and women did not intermingle. There were pauses to see if anyone had received "a gift". Then two of the sisters would start whirling like tops with their eyes shut. They continued whirling for about 15 minutes when they stopped suddenly and sat down again.

There are no longer any viable Shaker communities and the dances have therefore died out. A certain number of their hymns, however, continue to be sung in various other churches.

An ancient Sacred Dance tradition continues to this day in Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa.







Monday, August 31, 2009

Girl Cheerleaders Look Out! The Boys have entered the scene

Extracted from Martin Wainwrights' article in The Guardian 17-08-09

Until very recently dancing was not considered to be an occupation or pastime for red blooded English males. How times have changed. Not only are young boys dancing they have entered the previously female world of cheerleading. It's rather been forgotten that the original American cheerleaders were men.

The first all male cheerleaders team in Europe has recently been formed in the UK. They call themselves the Peewee Boys and have just won their first major trophy at the International Cheer Championships.

The boys in the under 10's team have to put up with a certain amount of teasing. A number of members play football and rugby in the under nine's league.

The idea of an all boys cheerleading team is the brainchild of Ian Rodley aged 25. Entry to the Peewees is free. Their Patron is DAZL - Dance Action Zone Leeds. Rodley maintains that there are only four other all boy teams in the world. The others being in the USA, Thailand and Japan.
Six Dance Movement Lessons
Dance to Health

DVD Dance in Our Footsteps
A fun DVD introduction to African dance
African dance is the perfect antidote to stress and that down-in-the-dumps feeling. Give yourself a tonic which leaves your mind, body and spirit feeling refreshed and invigorated. Dance to the exhilarating rhythms of Africa.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Sardana - a very special Catalonian Dance

The sardana (plural sardanas) is a circle dance associated with the Catalan region of Spain. The people of Catalonia occupy the northeastern corner of Spain spilling over the Pyrenees into French Roussillon. There are two main versions of this dance. The original version was the sardana curta (the short sardana). The modern and more popular version is the sardana llarga (the long sardana). The origin of this dance is unknown though it has been popular since the 16th century. Similar Iberian and Meditarranean circle dances exist but the music for this dance has its own unique patterns. It is a non-performance dance which does not require high levels of fitness. On the occasion I witnessed it I watched in amazement as an elderly genteman, who had been sitting on a newspaper placed on a step, laid his crutch aside and struggled to his feet. He then joined the circle closest to him Other circles had dancers who looked as if they were in their eighties.These older participants were enjoying a relaxing activity which helped their general health. The circles moved at the speed and with the energy levels of the majority of their participants. Some circles had predominately younger dancers and their circles moved with a lively energy. The circles can be entirely of people of the same sex, mixed or with couples only. It is considered bad manners to join a circle made up entirely of couples. When a circle becomes too large, more circles are formed. No special costume is needed, normal day wear is usual. Quite a few dancers were wearing the traditional rope espadrilles. When I first arrived to watch the dance there were just three dancers present. They put their bags and outer clothing in a pile and then formed a circle around the pile. As time went on the number and size of the circles increased. At its' height there were perhaps between 150 and 200 people taking part. People participating join hands together and with them held at shoulder height they dance with very small, precise steps, slowly round and round moving in a clockwise direction. The music for the sardana (also called sardana) is played by a cobla - a wind band. Four of the instruments the tenora, tible, flabiol and tambori are typically Catalan. Some sardanas have sung versions but these are not usually played for dancing. Many Catalans consider the regime to be distinct from Spain and there has been an independence movement for more than 150 years.The spanish dictator General Franco ruled Spain from the late 1940's to 1975. He considered the Catalan desire for independence and their national pride to be arrogant and insolent. Franco enforced crippling laws in a vain attemt to crush the traditions and language of the Catalans. Speaking Catalan was forbidden as was the sardana. Under the Franco dictatorship Catalan was excluded from state education and all other official use. To reverse this decline since 1983 there are laws which attempt to enforce, to protect and encourage the use of Catalan. This is the reason why the sardana is considered by the people of Catalonia to be a powerful symbol of national unity and identity which unites people from different walks of life and different circumstances. To read FREE EXTRACTS of "Dance to Health - Help Your Special Needs Child Through Inspirational Dance"CLICK HERE

Dance to Health is devoted to all aspects of Dance and especially Dance and Movement Therapy for Children with Learning and/or Physical Problems.The emphasis is on the health, creative and spiritual aspects of dance as a therapy.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Politics and its' Influence on Popular Dance in Africa

I thought that this article might be of interest to those of you who are interested in how politics can be represented through dance.

The Standard on Line Nairobi, Kenya

Dance groups with crime-oriented names

Published on 27/03/2009
Related Stories
Musical chairs in production houses

By Matilda Nzioki

Most of the dance groups have names ranging from FBI to Al-Kaeda. Others are called CIA and many other names of agencies. Almost every other youngster dance group that is formed gives the impression that the names are borrowed from criminals and crime busters. Nearly all the groups are formed in the club, where the youngsters get together for the Sunday afternoon Jam Session. This has somehow brewed beef, with every group calling on the other to be original when picking a stage name. Some of the groups include:


Its translation is ‘The Base’, and it is an International Sunni Islamist extremist movement whose characteristic techniques include suicide attacks and simultaneous bombings of different targets. Activities ascribed to it may involve members of the movement, who have taken a pledge of loyalty to Osama bin Laden. It has been labelled as a terrorist organisation by the UN Security Council among other organisations.

Number of members: Five boys, all campus students. Currently Redsan’s dancers, and have danced for musicians Collo, Risasi, DNG and Megatone in the past.

Genre: Can dance to all types of music.

Formed in: 2005

Pulse: Why that name?

A: It was given to us back in high school, after an electrifying performance and the MC said that we had brought terror in the house, then our mates started calling us Al-Kaeda. At the time, we were known as ‘Pioneer’.

P: Do you think that stage name can affect your business?

A: It actually has, in a lot of instances. Although our name has a ‘K’ instead of a ‘Q’ we decided to keep the name Pioneer that we use for corporate shows and Al-Kaeda for young people and high school students as it appeals more to them.

P: What’s with every group coming up calling themselves such kind of names?

A: We were the first dance group out of high school to make it in the industry and actually we won a CHAT Award. We are also the only ones who are on the "wrong side of the law", so they must have figured by being "law enforcers" they will get inspiration to conquer us, just like all the US intelligence groups are targeting Al-Qaeda. But they can’t find us; the same way Osama hasn’t been caught!
Secret Service

Other groups whose majority of members are in boarding high schools include GSU, CIA, SWAT, CSI and CID. The latter is made up of three girls, and the three letters apparently stand for the initials of their names.

Definitions from Wikipedia

Secret Service: In reality it is called the United States Secret Service and it is a United States federal government law enforcement agency responsible for investigation of major fraud and ensuring the safety of national VIPs such as the president.

Locally: Number of members: Six. Four boys and two girls, all of them students at the university and aged between 20-22

Genre: Ragga and Hip-hop.

Formed in: 2008

Pulse: Why that name?

SS: All the dance groups in secondary schools seemed to be coming up with these sorts of names, so we called ourselves that to mock them, and the name stuck.

P: Are your moves related to crime and law enforcement?

SS: Yes, mostly. We have some dance moves that seem like one is shooting, or even cocking a gun.

P: How come all these names are from the west, especially the US?

SS: Probably because there are no such intelligence agencies locally. The only local one must be Kwekwe, which we had actually considered, but thought it might bring trouble with the government and also leave us stigmatised. These agencies attract people because they appear deadly on TV programmes.


In reality it stands for Los Angeles Police Department.

Number of Members: Five college boys aged between 20-23

Genre: All, hata Bhangra.

Formed in: 2008

Pulse: Why the name LAPD?

LAPD: Our name stands for Legal Army of Prime Dancers. We are soldiers who battle on the dance floor. LAPD is a known initial, but we have modified ours to mean a different thing, because we know we can get sued.

P: Do you think the choice of your name can affect your business seeing that these names are somehow associated with immaturity?

LAPD: We believe that many people have learnt not to judge a performer by the name.

P: FBI is claiming that everyone with such kind of names has followed in their footsteps. What’s your take on that?

LAPD: They may have started before us as a group, but we were dancing solo, way before they cleared high school. We later formed a group to harness our talent. They had a larger fan base too because when people are in high school, there’s some sort of solidarity.


In reality it is the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) which is the primary unit in the United States Department of Justice, serving as both a federal criminal investigative body and a domestic intelligence agency.

Number of members: Ten, all college boys aged between 17-21.

Genre: They dance to any and every genre of music.

Formed in: 2006

Pulse: Why the name FBI.

FBI: Our name simply stands for Fans Based Insiders, and we do not compare ourselves to the one in the US, as we have nothing to do with each other.

P: Why do you think there are all these dance groups with these names?

FBI: It was Al-Kaeda group and us who pioneered these kind of names, as we were formed in 2006. We believe the rest come up with these kinds of names thinking they will make it like we did.

African Dance DVD Dance in Our Footsteps

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Bruce of Berkeley California writes:-

"At the age of 17, I broke my neck while diving, which resulted in paralysis affecting my body from my chest down. While on a March for Peace in Central America, I learned about contact improvisation and discovered through it that people with and without disabilities could dance together equally. Contact improvisation allows someone disabled to become so engaged in the contact and balance with another dancer, that the sensation supersedes the superficial image. Even though I have limited voluntary movement throughout my body, I can create coordinated movement, using the sensation in my body and skeleton.

The focus of the dance is on the conversation of body movement between two people. Each person listens through that person's own body to the other dancer's movement. As well, each person is responsible for his or her own safety in the dance and trusts that the other will always be in the present moment, listening.

For me, it's important to create motion and dance that naturally emerges from a disabled person's body. I encourage people with disabilities to find their own personal expressions of movement from their own bodies rather than imitating dance styles like ballet or ballroom dancing and movements that come from non-disabled bodies. When persons with disabilities try to perform in contemporary dance styles typically performed by the non-disabled, audiences judge them as making a nice effort. However, when persons with disabilities create dances which present the authentic movement of their own bodies they will find that the audience will appreciate them as true artists."

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Can dance help in the reduction of Childhood Obesity?

Childhood obesity is already a very serious and disturbing problem in the United States of America and many parts of Europe where obesity in general is increasing.The problem looks set to spread to other parts of the world as their standard of living improves.A diet with a high fat, sugar and salt intake and a sedentary lifestyle have all been major contributing factors in childhood obesity. As a result children are getting Type 2 diabetes and other illnesses usually associated with middle age. We have a generation of children who may well die before their parents.

It seems that the present generation is no longer keen on traditional competitive team games. Modern technology has led to children wanting to entertain themselves and to be personally in charge of the activity. Television and computer games loom large in their lives.

Overweight and obese children need to follow a strict weight loss regime and take increased exercise to help burn up the calories. The difficulty is that children who have a problem with their weight don't enjoy the changes in their eating habits and are unenthusiastic about exercise. Cajoling, bribery, and threats do not work. The trick is to find an activity which burns calories but is not necessarily immediately seen as exercise. It also needs to be interesting and fun. This is where dance comes into its' own as a calorie burning aerobic form of exercise.

Dance, partially due to television shows, is now the "in" way to exercise. Increasing numbers of people are using dance workouts as a way of exercising. You don't need to be a great dancer to enjoy the health benefits of dancing. The main purpose is to enjoy moving to music and music plays a large role in young peoples lives these days

Dancing can be a really good Mind-Body-Spirit workout. Physical activity in general keeps body and brain healthy by increasing the amounts of brain chemicals that encourage nerve cells to grow. Dance helps people of all ages and physical limitations to get and stay in shape. There is chair and wheelchair dancing for people (including children) who have mobility difficulties.

The benefits of dancing are the same as other low-impact weight bearing activities such as walking fast, cycling or aerobics. This form of exercise also strengthens bones and muscles without stressing the joints. It tones the whole body and improves posture and balance. There is an increase in stamina and flexibility and a reduction in stress and tension which are often a problem for overweight children.

There are numerous forms of dance which may appeal to children and which could help in the battle against childhood obesity

Hip Hop and Capoeira are two dance forms which children may find appealing. Capoeira is a Brazilian hybrid dance and martial art. Cardio Capoeira is very challenging indeed. An exercise session involves heavy sparring (i.e dancing ) that can be done either solo or with a partner. It involves a lot of kicking, spinning and cartwheels. In this workout the buttocks, quadriceps and hamstrings are really exercised due to the multiple repetitions of a deep side-to-side lunge which links one capoeira movement to the next.

Cardio Salsa is a low-impact but high intensity workout combining precise, fast-paced Latin choreography - merengue, mambo, cha-cha, samba - with traditional aerobic dance steps (such as the grapevine), repeated lunges, and arm raises. The great advantage of this exercise programme is that what is learned can be practised on the dance floor. Knowing the steps and being able to move to complex rhythms is likely to increase self-confidence and poise.

Masala Bhangra , is a challenging workout, based on the traditional folk dance of India. It involves a choreographed series of hops, foot stomping and hip gyrations accompanied by hip-hop influenced bhangra music and live drumming. Most moves are performed while vigorously shaking the arms at 45 degree angles to the side of the body and doing multiple, rapid-fire shoulder raises. This form of dance workout results in firm arms and sculpted shoulders. The same sort of classes are also known as Bhangra Aerobics.

There is now a dance form which is proving highly popular with people in general and is proving to be a great hit with children. The video game Dance Dance Revolution (D.D.R) is made by Konami of Japan where it was located in arcades in that country.It is now more usually played on Sony's Playstation 2 and Microsoft's box game consoles.
There are a number of other games such as Red Octanes's In the Groove, Pump It Up, Exceed, Dance Along and Para Para Paradise.

The video game Dance Dance Revolution and other such games may be a means of helping children loose weight. As a song plays (and all sorts of music is suitable) arrows pointing forward, back, left and right, appear on the screen in various sequences and combinations. The players must step on the matching arrows on a mat on the floor. Players can dance by themselves, with a partner or in competition

Some states in the U.S are already using it as a regular part of their physical education curriculum. Dance Dance Revolution offers excercise without children having to possess the skills demanded by sport and games. As a result it appeals to children across the board.

A study was carried out last year in Rochester, Minn. an area which has a particularly severe problem with childhood obesity. The research team from the Mayo Clinic found that children playing Dance Dance Revolution used significantly more energy than children watching television and playing traditional video games. D.D.R does meet standards for aerobic fitness by raising the heart rate sufficiently for the required period of time.

In Redmond, Oregon In the Groove was installed in third and fourth grade classrooms for a five-month study. The most "at risk" students were chosen to become "Groove Masters", mentors to other children. Some of the results from the study included:-

1. Absenteeism dropped by more than 50%

2. 85% of the mentors grew in social skills

3. 94% of the students who took part showed increases in leadership skills and confidence, which increased self-esteem and improved academic performance.

4. 4th grade students who took part in the study improved their mile run by 13.8%

5.Students became more enthusiastic about sports, fitness and dance,

The games were shown to give a good aerobic workout and to assist in weight loss, a very important factor in the battle against childhood obesity.

Dr Debra Liebermann of the Dept. of Communications, at UC Santa Barbara calls this video activity "exergaming". She described Dance Dance Revolution as a game, a social activity, a dance and performance platform, a workout and weight loss tool, and a classroom and workplace activity. She lists a number of reasons for its appeal:- the games challenges, the music, the joy of movement, the work out, and social interactions.

There are versions that allow aerobic instructors to work with a group.

Dr Liebermann's conclusions regarding these games was that they "make a very positive contribution to player's stress management, weight management, fitness and health".

This is perhaps a form of dance which will be acceptable to overweight children in that it is a fun happening which they will be happy to take part in.

Parents do take medical advice before putting your overweight child on a diet and exercise programme.

If children are not immediately attracted to a specific kind of dance - experiment. There's a dance out there for everyone. Have fun finding it!

"Dance to Health"

"Dance in Our Footsteps" is a down loadable DVD Dance Video It offers a demonstration of the featured dances. It is not intended as a conventional instructional product. Enjoy yourself while experiencing the de-stressing and exhilarating effects of African dance. Try and copy the dancers if you wish or just use their movements and the music to inspire you to create your own authentic, original dance. But most importantly have fun and if possible have a party at the same time.

Calling All Musicians is a CD which features the musical accompaniment to the DVD "Dance in Our Footsteps." It is to enable Drummers and Flautists to practice without playing the DVD. . Musicians in general will also find it helpful in learning the dance rhythms. Dancers can create their own choreography to the music.

An Approach to African Rhythm by Seth Cudjoe

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Farewell Michael Jackson

It is still very difficult for me to accept that Michael Jackson has left us for ever. We will never know how his music might have developed.I was hoping that future work would reflect his feelings and experiences of the past ten years.

I still cannot reconcile the image of a young brown skinned, snub nosed Michael Jackson sporting an afro with his appearance at the time of his death. He underwent numerous and major transformations in his facial appearance. How much this was due to natural causes and how much due to the surgeon's knife is, in the end, of little or no importance where his performance is concerned. In a curious way his changing appearance and his style of dressing went successfully hand in hand.

Personally I have the impression that although over the years his appearance changed from boy to androgynous looking individual Michael Jackson never made the vital step from child to man in certain aspects of his life.This is a feeling which many other people have too. Perhaps it was the unselfconscious expression of "the child within" which lead in part to what many considered to be inappropriate behavior. Who knows if the expression of the "child within" prevented the star from understanding on an emotional level how adults are expected to behave towards children.

What never changed throughout his career was his wonderful, invigorating, unique energy which radiated love and an understanding of the power of music and dance to transform and influence the individual and ultimately the world.

Michael Jackson single handedly transformed the pop video with his combination of song and highly original dance. I don't know how much of the mind blowing choreography was due to him but he was a brilliant dancer - light on his feet, acrobatic, with good elevation, always aware of his position in space and with elegant "line". His seamless integration of song and dance, always right from the start, projected one unique aspect of himself - the ability to express unconditional love.

He was influenced by earlier Black performers but he added his own uniqueness to all he did. Michael Jackson went from being a "Black" performer to being recognized universally as the "King of Pop". By the time he died his appearance reflected no particular race. His appearance in the end was a symbol of fragile humanity which transcended race. Did he attempt to incorporate all races into himself, thereby becoming a "Universal Human Being".

Michael's musical generosity carried over into other aspects of life. He was keenly aware of the less fortunate and lent his name and resources to causes at a time when they were still intensely unpopular as in the case of support for anything connected with AIDS. There is also his work for children world wide. He was acquitted on all counts at his trail for child abuse.It is totally inconceivable to me that anyone operating on the energies which Michael Jackson operated on could sexually abuse a child. He was clearly disingenuous, childish, and foolish in certain aspects of his relationships with children but a pedophile - I think not..

On many aspects of Michael Jackson's life we can only speculate agree or disagree. What cannot be denied is that with his death we have said farewell to a uniquely generous entertainer lauded and loved world wide.