If my heart was made up of a few different pieces, art would have the biggest piece. I have ben drawing ever since I could hold a pencil. Painting, drawing, sculpture – they all inspire me. Art is not only fine art, but also culinary art, music, poetry, dance. Unfortunately, God only gave me the artistic ability to draw. That did not stop me from taking an African dance class yesterday on campus.
I am the Vice President of Administration for the Black Student Union on my campus. October 12-15 is our pride week where we have 4 days of fun and educational events (check out #BSUPrideWeek2015 on social media). Yesterday’s event was the cultural event. Instructors and drummers from the Egun Omode Shule dance school of Trenton, NJ came out to teach our members a traditional African dance. You know I had to join in. The dance we learned was called Sorsornet. It is a right of passage dance for both boys and girls of the Baga people from Guinea, West Africa. When I tell you this dance class was a workout I’m not kidding! Even through the sweat and burning quads, I had a blast.
As we did some of the West African dance movements, I was reminded of today’s popular dance crazes. Everyone was hitting the “whip” last Friday at a school event and celebrities joined right in when iHeart Memphis began to “hit the Quan” at the BET Hip Hop Awards on Tuesday. I always wonder who came up with these dances, but never think about it long before I’m doing them too. These dances as well as tap, jazz, and even ballet, all sprouted from the roots of African dance. When our instructor moved her hips and back yesterday it was very reminiscent of “twerking”. It is amazing to me that movements that symbolize a right of passage in one country get manipulated to symbolize sex in another.
African dance is not done for play. Every movement has a meaning. Every combination is done for a celebration whether it be a right of passage, wedding, or funeral. Even the drums that the drummers played had a purpose. One set of drums played the rhythm while the other played the “break” which told us when to stop, start, and transition. The biggest and loudest drum was the mother. The medium drum was the father. The small drum was the child. This tells us the family structure in West Africa and how important the mother is.
While African dance is fun, there is value to it. It is a form of communication, as all art is. By learning the Sorsornet I now know an important part of the Baga people’s culture. What do our modern dances communicate? What do they say about our culture? Does “hitting the Quan” have a purpose? Let me know what you think!