Cultural dances are an integral part of African societies. Across the continent, traditional dance occurs collectively, expressing the life of the community more than that of individuals or couples. More often the dances can be participatory and every ritual dance often has a time when spectators must participate.

The dances are often used for teaching social patterns and values and help people work and mature, praise or criticize members of the community while celebrating festivals and funerals, competing, reciting history, proverbs and poetry; and to encounter gods.

Dancers in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria. Photo: Mplanetech

The Intore dance. Is the most famous and longest established in Rwanda. It is sometimes referred to as the dance of heroes.

Photo: Jim Richardson/ Getty

The Bamaaya dance Is popular among the Dagbamba of Northern Ghana. Bamaaya means, “The river (valley) is wet”. It began as a religious musical performance, but now functions during funerals, festivals, national day celebrations, and other social occasions.


The Adumu dance Is a traditional Maasai dance. This dance is primarily performed during Eonoto, the coming of age ceremony of warriors. It is also know as the ‘”jumping dance”  with each of the young warriors trying to jump higher then the previous one.  Members of the group may raise the pitch of their voices based on how high one jumps.

Photo: John Willis

Atilogwu is a traditional youth dance from the Igbo ethnic group of Nigeria that focuses on vigorous body movement and often includes acrobatics. In the Igbo language, the word itself “Atilogwu” translates into “has magic—as in sorcery/ witchcraft—been put into it?”

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