Celebrating African dance

Kyle Roerink

KASA dance party connects modern culture with rich African history, traditions

No type of dance is quite like African dance, said Tristian Holmes, president of Kent African Students Association.

Last night, KASA hosted an African dance party at Oscar Ritchie Hall. Students danced to traditional and modern African artists as a way to connect with their culture and understand their history.

“Dance has been something that has been in our history for generations,” Holmes said. “So we thought that holding the event was right and necessary.”

Dance in Africa depends on the circumstance, said Salomon Porgo, a sophomore and native of Burkina Faso. He said that traditional dances are most common at funerals for kings, and the most common is the Dance of the Mask.

“The mask represents the spirit of our traditions and the spirit of the mask is in our blood,” Porgo said. “The mask has a specific dance according to the costume that (the king) is wearing.”

He said the Dance of the Mask is an expression conveying the country’s attachment to ancestral values.

“During the dance, each person wearing a mask tries to express his ability and power,” Porgo said. “Some of the dancers can burn themselves walking over coals, and nothing will happen.”

Porgo mentioned another traditional dance called “Liwaga.”

“This dance means an expression of happiness,” he said. “Most of this dance is performed by young ladies. The goal is to show their beauty and their ability to attract young men. Mostly this dance is performed during a wedding.”

He said all dances in Burkina Faso, though, are expressions of unity and happiness.

In Africa, dance is a primary way of expressing emotion, said Pagomdzanga Cabore, a junior and native of Burkina Faso. He said his people don’t think about how they dance; they just dance the way they feel. Cabore said westernization is making African dance more modernized, and the traditions of dancing at events like funerals, baptisms and other ceremonies are “more for the grandmothers.”

“We’re losing something, but we are also evolving,” he said. “It is change. People evolve and change.”

Dance is used as a way to compete and solve problems in Kenya, said Hosea Laktabai, a junior accounting major.

“Sometimes when we have conflict in between tribes, to solve the disputes the elders will talk about ways to resolve,” Laktabai said. “When reconciling, sometimes they will have an event to solve their problems, and they might dance to set everyone free.”

Contact minority affairs reporter Kyle Roerink at [email protected].