Like so many things, The swing dance is African influenced.
Our black African people entertained themselves as well as others
with musical forms and dance crazes like the Cakewalk, Black Bottom
and Charleston. When the Lindy Hop came into Harlem in the
1920s it contained many of these African characteristics. Around
the mid 1930s, Frank Manning showed the angular posture,
after it was danced in a rigid upright manner. Going to the angular
posture gave it African roots.
African dance moves every part of the body.
Sounds like the workout of a lifetime. European moves
arms and legs. Angular bending of arms, legs and torso, shoulder,
and hip movement, scuffing, stamping, and hopping steps,
asummetrical use of the body, and fluid movement are
all involved in the African dance.
The African dancer bends himself and herself toward
the earth and flattens the feet against it in a wide, solid
stance. Yet, the European ballet is upright posture
with arms lifted up and feet raised on the toes.
Along the patterns and traditions of age old
dance forms, Africans felt free to be creative. African
dancers could make a specific individualized expression
or give new meaning to a familiar gesture.
Circle and line formations- Basically
African dances are performed by lines or circles of
dancers. European dances are accompanied
in lines and circles and this common way may have
been important in dance exchange.
Importance of the community- Africans danced
with and for the community. Solo performers were
supported and affirmed by the group through
singing, hand clapping, and shouted encouragement.
Polyrhythms: African music consists of many
rhythms going simulataneously (at the same time).
Africans often danced to multiple beats at once. Dances
could move their shoulders to one beat, hips to another beat,
and knees to another beat. The rhythm complexity,
along with basic ground beat and counterbeats played
against it, formed the foundation for later music such
as ragtime, jazz, and rock n Roll.
Percussion: In a lot of Africa, percussion controls
music and in a lot of cases the drum is the leading
instrument. IN the USA, Black Africans came up with
a broad range of percussive instruments. Hand clapping,
foot tapping, and body patting were indeed important
Pantomine: Many African dances reflect the motions
of life. Dance movement even imitates animal behavior
like the flight of the egret, enact human tasks like
pounding rice, or express the power of
spirits in whirling and strong forward steps.
Something in the Hand: AFrican ritual dance
involves using special objects like masks and costumes.
IN America, African Americans keep using sticks or
staffs, cloth, and other objects in dance.
Handkerchiefs, canes, and top hats became a part
of the dance like other objects in stage routines.
Competitive Dance: Competing in dance is
a widespread custom in West and Central Africa.
IN America, the tradition goes on in “cutting”
contests, challenge dances, Cakewalk contests,
Break dance rivalries, Jitterbug competitions,
Step Dance shows, and other events.
So as you see, there are a lot of Types of dances and
styles tied to African roots. So it is truly powerful knowing
your roots. We all know many people want to imitate the
African way. The more we know about our heritage,
the more we learn about ourselves. That movie,
Coming to America with Eddie Murphy goes back
to our African dance roots. You can find the movie
on Amazon.com I’m sure. All this information on African
dance roots is here: