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The African Root

This collection of video excerpts explores African dance and its influences. The videos can be used as resources for lesson plans and ideas in the Dance Toolkit.

West African Dance: Description and Warm-Up

Following a performance of West African dance, Harlina Churn-Diallo introduces concepts of African dance while dancers demonstrate warm-up movements.

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West African Dance: The Connection Between Music and Movement

Harlina Churn-Diallo demonstrates and teaches four basic movements of African dance. A group of dancers practices and demonstrates the moves.

Suggested Uses:

  • Watch to build your own knowledge and understanding of African dance and influence, or for ideas on how to teach the dance movements to your students.
  • Show to students to demonstrate and guide movement activities.
  • Show to demonstrate isolation of body parts.
  • Show to accompany social studies activities relating to African culture.
  • Show with other African dance performances in the toolkit to compare and contrast.
  • Show with Afro-Cuban dance excerpts to compare and contrast.
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West African Dance: Choreography

Harlina Churn-Diallo reviews the four basic movements shown in the excerpt “The Connection Between Music and Movement” and guides dancers in combining the movements into a dance.

Suggested Uses:

  • Watch to build your own knowledge and understanding of African dance and influence, or for ideas on how to teach the dance movements to your students.
  • Show to demonstrate and guide movement activities with students.
  • Show to guide students in choreographing their own dances using the four movements.
  • Show to accompany social studies activities relating to African culture.
  • Show with other African dance performances in the toolkit to compare and contrast.
  • Show with Afro-Cuban dance excerpts to compare and contrast.
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Afro-Cuban Dance: Understanding the Clave Rhythm Pattern

This clip focuses on understanding the son clave rhythm and moving to it. The video excerpt begins with a short demonstration of call and response. Then dancers walk in a box, moving to the rhythm pattern. Katherine Kramer teaches the three-measure pattern measure by measure. Concepts include quarter notes, half notes, 4/4 time, pulse, beat, and the measure.

Suggested Uses:

  • Watch to build your own knowledge and understanding of Afro-Cuban dance and influence, or for ideas on how to teach the dance movements to your students.
  • Show to demonstrate and guide movement activities with students.
  • Show in combination with African dance excerpts to compare and contrast.
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Afro-Cuban Dance: Warming Up to the Clave Rhythm Pattern

Katherine Kramer explains why dancers warm up their bodies, then leads a warm-up done to the 3-2 rhythm of the son clave. Concepts discussed include isolation of body parts, quarter notes, half notes, and clave rhythm. Participants use different body parts (head, arms, torso, etc.) to “play” various rhythms. Kramer discusses the Spanish and African influences on dances like the flamenco, in which dancers hold the torso erect while moving the hips and feet.

Suggested Uses:

    Watch to build your own knowledge and understanding of Afro-Cuban dance and influence, or for ideas on how to teach the dance movements to your students.
    Show to demonstrate and guide warm-up or movement activities with students.
    Show in combination with African dance excerpts to compare and contrast.
    Show with the flamenco example “Farruca” on the Dance Performances video/DVD to discuss Spanish and African influences.
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Afro-Cuban Dance: Moving to the Clave Rhythm Pattern

Dancers demonstrate using the clave rhythm movements practiced in “Warming Up to the Clave Rhythm” to put together a brief dance sequence combining locomotor movement and non-locomotor shapes.

Suggested Uses:

    Watch to build your own knowledge and understanding of Afro-Cuban dance and influence, or for ideas on how to teach the dance movements to your students.
    Show to demonstrate and guide warm-up or movement activities with students.
    Show in combination with African dance excerpts to compare and contrast.
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Afro-Cuban Dance: Salsa Dancing

Instructor Katherine Kramer teaches the quick-quick-slow pattern of salsa dance and relates it to the clave rhythm pattern. After the dancers demonstrate the movement individually, they work in pairs to demonstrate the salsa movement.

Suggested Uses:

    Watch to build your own knowledge and understanding of Afro-Cuban dance and influence, or for ideas on how to teach the dance movements to your students.
    Show to demonstrate and guide movement activities with students.
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African Dance Performances

Imani Dance and Drum Company performs two African dances. The first, lambah, originated in ancient Mali. Lambah is also important musically, a jamboree for the musicians. The second dance is a plantation/ring shout performed to the Jerry Silverman song “Raise a Ruckus Tonight.” This dance represents the style of dance and music found in African slave communities on plantations in the Southern United States, the Caribbean islands, and other locations. Many people danced as a way to cope with their situation; to convey feelings about their lives and owners; and, in some cases, to convey hidden messages. Just as in Africa, the dance was for everyone, but each person entered the dance based on age and gender. Both the lambah and the plantation/ring shout performed on this video were choreographed by Harlina Churn-Diallo.

Suggested Uses:

    Show as an example of traditional African dance and African-American dance.
    Use with West African dance excerpts to discuss African dance movements and purposes.
    Compare to the performance of “Iye, Iye” on the Dance Performances video/DVD.
    Show to accompany social studies activities relating to African and African-American culture.
    Use to stimulate discussion of the influence of African dance on American social dance.
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Hand Jives

Kentucky youngsters demonstrate traditional hand-clapping rhymes. LaKetta Caldwell and Veronica Clark of Paducah clap a game learned from their mother. Ogb Ukpai and Inyang Njoku clap a game that came from Nigeria.

Suggested Uses:

    Have students do the rhymes shown or research and demonstrate other rhymes.
    Show with African dance examples to compare and discuss rhythms.
    Show to introduce the idea of documenting folklore; have students research another traditional children’s game.
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