Skip to main content Accessibility help

The Status of African Dance Studies

  • Judith Lynne Hanna


With the exception of such pioneering efforts as Evans-Pritchard's structural functional analysis of the Azande beer dance, which appeared in this journal in 1928, African dance has rarely been the focus of research. Thirty-eight years after that article appeared I can write, as Evans-Pritchard did then, that African dance is usually given a place quite unworthy of its social importance. The typical report on African dance is either a limited, vague description without reference to context, or a discussion of the context of a dance without explicit reference to its function, style, and structure.



Hide All

page 303 note 1 Evans-Pritchard, E., ‘The Dance’, Africa, i, October 1928, pp. 446–62.

page 303 note 2 During the 1965 Spring Quarter, I taught a lecture-practicum course on African dance at Michigan State University. The course focused on the functions, structures, and styles of African dances, and included a laboratory component which gave students an opportunity to see demonstrated, and to participate in, African dance movements or complete dances of various African groups. Motion-picture films and tape-recordings from my 1963 field-work were used as illustrative material. Hazel Chung, of the University of California at Los Angeles, includes some dances from Ghana in her ethnic dance practicum course.

page 303 note 3 These were held at Oberlin College, 1964; Michigan State University, 1965; and Western Michigan University, 1965; they included lectures, films, and demonstration-participation sessions.

page 303 note 4 Gorer, Geoffrey, Africa Dames (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1962), pp. 175–6.

page 303 note 5 Malinowski, B., ‘Native Education and Culture Contact’, International Review of Missions, xxv, 1936, pp. 480515, at p. 500.

page 304 note 1 Gertrude P. Kurath, remarks at the 1954 and 1964 Annual Meetings of the Society of Ethno-musicology.

page 304 note 2 Munro, Thomas, The Arts and their Interrelations (New York: Liberal Arts Press, 1951), p. 498.

page 304 note 3 Merriam, Alan P., The Anthropology of Music (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1964), p. 18.

page 304 note 4 Safier, Benno, ‘A Psychological Orientation to Dance and Pantomime’, Samīksā, vii, 1953, pp. 236–59, at p. 236.

page 304 note 5 Merriam, Alan P., ‘The Music of Africa’, Africa Report, vii (6), 1962, pp. 1517, and 23, at p. 15.

page 305 note 1 Kurath, Gertrude P. has indicated some of the links between the two approaches in her ‘Panorama of Dance Ethnology’, Current Anthropology, i (3), 1960, pp. 235–54.

page 305 note 2 Mitchell, J. Clyde, The Kalela Dance (Manchester: Manchester University Press, for the Rhodes–Livingstone Institute, Papers, no. 27, 1956).

page 305 note 3 Hanna, Judith Lynne, ‘African Dance as Education’, Impulse: Dance and Education Now, 1965, pp. 4856.

page 305 note 4 Kealiinohomoku, Joann, ‘A Comparative Study of Dance as a Constellation of Motor Behaviors among African and United States Negroes’, Unpublished Master's Thesis, Northwestern University, 1965, p. i.

page 306 note 1 Harper, Peggy, ‘Experimental Drama’, Cultural Events in Africa, no. 7, June 1965, p. 7.

page 306 note 2 Tracey, Hugh, African Dances of the Witwatersrand Gold Mines (Johannesburg: African Music Society, 1952). But see the quotation from Gorer, below.

page 306 note 3 Hanna, Judith Lynne, ‘Africa's New Traditional Dance’, Ethnomusicology, ix, 1965, pp. 1321.

page 306 note 4 Gorer, op. cit., p. vi. See also Hanna, ibid., and Merriam, Alan P., ‘Music’, Africa Report, ix (8), 1964, p. 31, for a discussion on the change from traditional African dance to entertainment dance.

page 306 note 5 See, for example, the comments of Keita Fodeba, who worked with Guinea's Ballet Africain, African Dance and the Stage’, World Theatre, vii (3), 1958, pp. 164–78, and Skelton, Thomas R., ‘Staging Ethnic Dance—The Dance and the Dancers’, Impulse: International Exchange in Dance, 1963–4, pp. 64–70—the author staged dances in the Ivory Coast.

page 307 note 1 For researchers interested in the dance I have, available upon request, copies of a selected bibliography on African dance and the dance research guide used in my ethnochoreological field-work. They call attention to the functional possibilities and structural elements of dance.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0001-9720
  • EISSN: 1750-0184
  • URL: /core/journals/africa
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed