With the desire to commutate comes the necessity for language. That language; written, danced, signed, sung or painted needs understanding and appreciation so with that in mind ADAD is pleased to introduce Part 1 of the ADAD glossary of Dance of the African Diaspora.
The piece -written and researched by Thea Barnes, is not meant to be a finite, complete or definitive work. It is however (as is this magazine) a piece to stimulate debate and support the enjoyment of dance.
ADAD Glossary 2005-2006
By Thea Nerissa Barnes
This glossary contains words that allude to specific cultural practices and/or political stances that precipitate dance making or characterise aesthetic preferences for performing and enjoying Dance of the African Diaspora.
Part 1: A - I
Aficionado \ A fervent admirer; derives from Spanish aficionar, "to induce a liking for," from afición"a liking for."; an amateur; lovers of the dance, the arts, etc. who are themselves not necessarily professionally trained.
AfroCubanismo \ In Cuba African and African-based aesthetic preferences in music and dance in Cuban culture.
Arará \ Having West African ethnic group genealogy this major dance/music tradition complete with religious system is practiced in Cuba and has distinctive shoulder movements and cylindrical drums that characterise its various dances.
Àshe \ Yoruba spiritual command; power to create and destroy; metaphysical force that encourages, summons or enforces attainment of creative perfection in art and life; spirit invoking, creative benevolence literally means "So be it", "May it happen".
Bata \ Nigeria-Yoruba; spread to Cuba, Bahia in South America, Caribbean and America with Atlantic slave trade; is a distinct technique of movement and sound that in its sacred form is specifically for the appeasement of Yoruba king and deity, Shàngó.
Batty \ Jamaican patois for buttocks; elicits a gendered, sexually charged discourse about the female buttocks and the "black bottom" in particular in dance making, performance and also daily life.
Call and response \ antiphony; interaction between two voices expressed through music, verbally, non verbally or movement with the interaction between the voices reacting to each other in a conversation like exchange of statements one being a "call" and the other a "response".
Chutney \ popular dance and music of Trinidadians and Guyanese with ancestry of the Indian subcontinent; movement is mostly wining (hip gyrating dance) but may containing Indian hand gestures or other Indian or Middle Eastern influences.
Conga \ a Cuban processional dance form performed during provincial and national carnivals particularly Day of the Kings celebration on 6th January; also known as comparsa; barrel-shaped drums of Congo-Angolan heritage.
Creole, Creolization \ meanings found in historical intertexts within discourses of racist-purist, racist-hybridist beliefs and négritude but currently used in post colonial discourses as a synonym of 'hybridity' and 'syncretism' to indicate mixtures amongst societies in an age of migration and telecommunications; artistically indicates hybrid Creole (Euro/African) aesthetic.
Dunham Technique \ Katherine Dunham's anthropological research between1935- 1936 provided her with knowledge of Haitian and Jamaican sacred and secular dance practices. To choreograph dance works inspired by this knowledge, Dunham developed a technique that utilises an amalgamation of skills gleaned from her Caribbean research and her European classical ballet and modern dance experiences. Technical practice includes a range of experiences examples being isolations (the ability to move parts of the body in isolation from the rest, i.e. hip or shoulder rolls), pliés, prances, and leg extensions to refining movement rhythm and dynamics most associated with Vodun sacred practices like Damballah and Yanvalou.
Dougla, Douglarization \ in Trinidad/Tobago originally meaning bastard or illegitimate this word functions in Caribbean discourses as a code-word for assimilation and racial "dilution"; is currently a post colonial political stance and identity to unmask power and symbolically re-establish legitimacy of Africanist/Indian aesthetically hybrid expressions in music and dance.
Dinkimini \ indigenous Jamaican dance form derived from African practices; a celebration of death with sacred and secular elements intended to "cheer up" the bereaved with songs and movement especially performed to protect against evil forces.
Ephebism \ An Africanist aesthetic characteristic in dance; from the Greek word for youth, ephebe, kinesthetic intensity that privileges feeling as sensation rather than emotion, moving with suppleness and flexibility rather than restraining movement for alignment; also rhythmic speed, sharpness or abrupt changes in dynamics, force and attack.
Etu \ indigenous Jamaican though Yoruba-based rite with specific movement technique for sacred and secular practices.
Fanga \ West African welcome dance with distinct rhythm in feet and drum; Fanga means Welcome in Yoruba and this dance was performed to greet new neighbours and visitors.
Fusion \ an action; a compositional device; a dance maker's strategy to transliterate or amalgamate the technical or performance skills of diverse movement vocabularies. The combination of dance styles, merger, or resulting blend of dance styles or elements from more than one tradition, e.g. Afro Caribbean and contemporary.
Griot \ Mali and Senegal, traditional keeper of cultural traditions and history of the Mandeng people of West Africa passed through generations kept in form of music and dance, recitations and metaphorical statements. Usually the music form begins slow with singing and becomes fast with dance.
Hip Hop culture \ As a counterculture that nurtures itself with the reclamation and revitalisation of Afro-Caribbean/Afro-American musical, oral, visual, dance forms and practices, Hip Hop culture and its associated art practices are creativity bourn out of consequence. Its main art practices, break dancing (breakin), rap (rhythmic accented poetry) music and graffiti evolved in relation to one another. The dance practices of Hip Hop culture are just over thirty years old and commenced on both coasts of the States around 1969. Jamaican dub of the late 1960's was as influential as DJ's of the 1970's disco who sustained the beat for dancers to do the Hustle. The vogue of the Hustle became the freeze of break dance; an improvised move that
"broke the beat". B-boy or B-girl is dancers who performed when the DJ broke the beat. The earliest pioneers danced upright called top rockin. Possibly martial art films in the 70's incited the addition of freezes, poses on the ground requiring extraordinary acrobatic skill and footwork that incorporated a skittering motion transferring the weight to hands to "make a space" for more aggressive movements or a kind of mock fighting where the intention was not to touch your opponent; a philosophy and form reminiscent of Brazilian Capoeira. James Brown with his cut "Get on the Good Foot", Afrika Bambaataa and the Zulu Kings pioneered the mock combat Uprock, Rock Steady Crew and members of Zulu Nation evolved power moves, spinning on head, hands, back, influenced acrobatics of the form. Boogalo Sam and his group the Electric Boogaloos originated popping, locking, and boogaloo moves that came out of the funk movement in the 1970's in California which are distinct from breakin. Hip Hop culture came to Britain in early 80's inspiring crews like Kaliphz from Manchester. The form known currently as street dance taught in dance studios catering to dancers for the current crop of films and music videos also gets its creative juice from Hip Hop culture.
Itutu \ Yoruba, itutu or coolness is certainty of truth and an assuredness that permeates a person's spirit demonstrating gentleness and eloquence. Coolness is an attitude in movement, in disposition combining composure with vitality; in dance or music; the detached, mask-like coolness in the face of the performer whose body or energy may be working fast, hard, and hot.
Ingoma \ In Zulu literally means 'song' and is a grouping of male group dances ex: isikhuze, isicathulo, ukukomika, isiZulu, isiBhaca, umzansi, and isishameni representative of the complex interaction of traditional dance forms, intermingling of rural and urban song/dance experiences, labour migration and missionization; began as militant, suppressed form of popular culture appearing as early as the 1880's that by 1939 transformed into urbanised competition activities, urban gang activities and ritualized conflicts to channel group rivalry. Its multiple forms afforded song and dance activities that strengthened Zulu cultural identity for the expelled, dehumanized and dispossessed African masses. Commonly known as a step dance or gumboot dance, the kinesthetic patterns of ingoma are linked to choral songs in call and response structure and illustrate complexity of dance and song in Zulu performance culture.
Thea Nerissa Barnes is Resident Dance Supervisor for The Lion King in London's West End. She has had a distinguished performing career with the Alvin Ailey Dance Company and Martha Graham Dance Company.
Thea holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Dance from the Juilliard School, New York; a Masters Degree in Dance Education from Columbia Teachers College, New York; and a Master of Philosophy degree from City University, London.