Monday, 23 July 2012

African Healing Dance

with Wyoma and the Dancers and Drummers of Damballa

Of my small collection of dance fitness videos, this one is perhaps the most enjoyable. Wyoma must be a brilliant teacher. The programme was recorded in 1997 but it does not look dated in any way. The picture quality, however, is not that great. The whole DVD appears to be little more than a direct transfer of the original VHS tape. But don’t let this spoil your experience.

Also, don’t be confused or annoyed by the word “healing”. No matter what your relationships with African deities are, the dances are guaranteed to make you feel better.

The body teaches. The more you learn about your own natural body rhythms, the healthier you can be.

The workout is fun. It starts with Wyoma teaching some body isolations. Then she proceeds to show — and explain the origin of — the traditional African dance moves: imitation of animals such as snake, elephant, birds; the elements (air, fire, water and earth); and daily routines (picking berries, grinding grains and so on). The warm-up is just the right length and effort level. In the DVD booklet (a nice touch, by the way) it is explained that the warm-up is not traditionally done in Africa as the “dancers there have already spent much of the day walking miles to gather food or water or to attend school, so their muscles are typically loose and ready for the joys of more rigorous movement”. Then we are taught the real African dances.

The African-Caribbean Dances section includes only two dances, both of them are loa dances of Haiti, of Benin origin. I was especially impressed by Yonwalu. On the video, it is danced first at slower pace, with Wyoma breaking down the moves, then at the faster tempo.

The Healing Journey is some sort of free-style dance/meditation:

Bring your curiosity, freedom from judgement, and sense of play to the dance floor... Dance a dream or fantasy, or dance with no thought at all.

Oh, did I mention the open-air setting and live drumming? It’s all there too!

Finally, in the very end of a short cool-down, Wyoma encourages you to take whatever you’ve learned and share it with someone. Isn’t it wonderful?

African Healing Dance

  • Dance as a means of healing body, mind, and spirit
  • Body Isolations
  • Animal-based movement
  • Dance based on everyday movements
  • Dance based on the four elements
  • The warm-up
  • Traditional African Dances
    • Sowu — “The Dance of Life” (Ghana)
    • Gbêgbé — Journey to find a new home (The Ivory Coast)
    • Focodoba — Post-initiation basket dance (Guinea)
    • Umoya — Bringing energy from heaven and earth (South Africa)
  • African-Caribbean Dances
    • Nago — The warrior dance (Haiti)
    • Yonwalu — Dance for Damballa, the Serpent Deity (Haiti)
  • Improvisation: The Healing Journey
  • The cool down

The Dancers

  • Nii Armah Sowah
  • k. osiris wade
  • Lisa Wittner

The Drummers

  • Clifton Robinson
  • Heidi Alina
  • Eric Robnett
  • Saphyre

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