MANY TYPE OF SPIRITUALISM AND ESOTERIC WORSHIP WERE BORN IN AFRICA AND THEN THEY SPREAD AND EMIGRATED TO THE SOUTH OF AMERICA. THEY USE THE MAGICAL POWER OF THE DANCE TO CONNECT THEMSELVES TO THE ELEMENTS OF EARTH AND THE SKY.
One of the most ancient religion in Africa is the Vodoun, passed down as part of the African identity against the invaders’ religion (Spanish Colnialism). The word vodoun (vudù or voodoo) means “spirit”, “god” or “messanger of the deep”, ’cause sacred things are not in the sky, but in the earth where forebears are burried. Spirits of the Cosmos are called “Loa” and they’re associated to catolic saints. They don’t have a propely form, so they are portrayed as “vevè”, sacred geometrical symbols. Loas can be evocated by a cerimony where people go into a trance while of dancing and singing. So, spirits manifest themselves in the body of a chosen one to listen humans’ wishes only if they ‘re previously satisfied by food and prayers.
The Candomblè was called “negros’ dance” in the past. It’s a Afro-Brazilian religion. Nature is the heart of this religion, that it’s deeply connected to Africa, its mother. Candomblè comes from the Macumba (rituals mean to make people suffer through the “macumbeiro” power, a paid medium, and through sacrifies) with the Umbanda (they evoce the spirit of African and Indians slaves, who give people help and advice) and the Quimbanda (that’s black magic, the dark half of the Umbanda).
During Candomblè’s ritual dance and drums are very important, to let the spirit possess the dancer. It’s a very joyful moment, because human can re-establish a closer relationship with the gods. This possession is a revelation: people can talk to their gods about their problems looking for their help.
The worship called Santo Daime also imply dance in its rituals, which begins with catolic prayers and ends drinking the Daime. It may induce vomiting and purging, accepted as a emotional and phisical purification.
The Santerìa (during the Colonialism the Spanish used the word “santerìa” to denigrate an excessive devotion of the slaves to the saints, while they were actually praying their gods), the Palo (also called “Congo’s Rules”) and the Obeach (that it mean “witchcraft”), spiritualist worships, use dance in the same way Santo Daime does. We can think of the Palo as a large group of African religions which believes in natural energies that we can find in objects like wooden stakes used in rituals with animal and human sacrifies. Instead the Obeach magical practices use magic to get love, money and happiness even with bloody pratices.
So, in Africa dance is not just bodily expression, but a means of communication and devotion: a spiritual union between man, earth and sky. Dance is strictly connected to a mistery dimension which belongs to the African worships and it’s often seen as a collective moment.
African style is characterised by very energic and complex rhythm and repetitive movements where shoulder, plevis, head, arms and legs are involved. There are also gentle movements which releases muscular tensions and estabilish a new energies’ balance in the body. In Afro dance you have to go barefoot in order to connect youself to the Earth in a better way. When you’re dancing is like you’re giving a speech, every step is like a word.
Sabar dance is the most known dance in the world. It’s a tipical female dancing and it’s very erotic. It’s very joyful and you need technical skills to perform it. It got its name from the “sabar”, a percussion instrument of Wolof people from Senegal. This instrument was born first as form of communication and then it’s became a dance: in the beginning it was a war dance, now is a recreative one, important in everyday life in Senegal.
Text by Giulia Lopopolo