9 Nigerian Dance Styles

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Nigeria, the giant of Africa, boasts a rich cultural heritage that pulsates through its energetic and diverse dance styles.  These dances are not merely forms of entertainment; they are expressions of history, tradition, and the infectious Nigerian spirit.  From the energetic rhythms of Afrobeats to the ritualistic movements of indigenous ceremonies, Nigerian dance styles captivate audiences and inspire movement.

Moreover, the traditional dances of specific ethnic groups, such as the Igbo, Fulani, and Esan, play a crucial role in preserving and passing on cultural narratives. The annual Calabar Carnival, with its diverse dance troupes and styles, stands as a testament to the country’s commitment to celebrating its rich heritage. Let’s delve into some popular dances that keep Nigeria grooving in this article from Naijassador:

1. Afrobeats Dance

This ubiquitous style is synonymous with modern Nigerian music. Afrobeats dance is energetic and fluid, characterized by intricate footwork, energetic hip thrusts, and creative arm movements. The dance is all about feeling the rhythm and expressing yourself freely. Popular Afrobeats dancers like Poco Lee and Korra Obidi have taken these moves global through social media challenges, making Afrobeats dance a worldwide phenomenon.

2. Shoki

This energetic dance craze took Nigeria by storm in the mid-2010s.  Popularized by the song “Shoki” by Orezi, the dance involves a series of quick leg kicks and steps, often accompanied by playful arm movements.  Shoki’s infectious energy and simple steps made it a dance craze that transcended age and location.

3. Skelewu

Another dance craze born from a hit song, Skelewu took off in 2013 with the release of Davido’s song of the same name.  The name itself translates loosely to “shake it off,” and the dance reflects that sentiment.  Skelewu involves shaking your body loosely and rhythmically, mimicking the act of shaking off water.  The dance’s popularity transcended borders, with people worldwide attempting the signature Skelewu moves.

4. Atlanta

This energetic dance originated in the southwestern part of Nigeria and is known for its fast legwork and intricate foot patterns.  Alanta dancers often incorporate props like sticks or handkerchiefs to add another layer of visual interest.  The dance is often performed at social gatherings and celebrations, creating a vibrant and electrifying atmosphere.

5. Azonto

While not strictly Nigerian, Azonto has become a popular dance style throughout West Africa, including Nigeria.  Azonto originated in Ghana and is characterized by energetic hip movements, sharp arm gestures, and playful use of facial expressions.  The dance is all about improvisation and creativity, allowing dancers to express themselves freely and have fun.

6. Atilogwu Traditional Dances

Nigeria’s diverse ethnic groups have their unique traditional dances, each with its cultural significance.  Among the Igbo people, popular dances include Atilogwu, a celebratory dance performed by women, and Ikpirikpi, a vigorous dance performed by men during festivals.  These dances are often accompanied by traditional drumming and singing, creating a powerful and immersive experience.

7. Calabar Carnival Dance

The annual Calabar Carnival in southeastern Nigeria is a vibrant celebration of culture and heritage.  The carnival features energetic dance troupes showcasing various Calabar dance styles. One such style is the Atikede dance, performed by women and known for its graceful arm movements and colourful costumes.  Another popular dance is the Ekombi, a vigorous masked dance performed by men, often depicting characters from Calabar folklore.

8. Bata Dance

This energetic dance style originates from the northern part of Nigeria and is associated with the Fulani people.  Bata dance is performed by men and involves vigorous legwork, acrobatic movements, and synchronized chanting.  The dance is traditionally performed at social gatherings and celebrations, showcasing the strength and agility of the dancers.

9. Etighi

This energetic dance originates from the South-South region of Nigeria and is associated with the Esan people.  Etighi is a celebratory dance performed by both men and women and involves vigorous hip movements, synchronized steps, and enthusiastic call-and-response chanting.  The dance is a vibrant display of joy and community spirit.

Conclusion

The rich tapestry of Nigerian dance styles reflects the country’s cultural diversity, vibrant spirit, and dynamic musical landscape. From the global phenomenon of Afrobeats dance to the local fervour of traditional dances like Atilogwu and Ikpirikpi, Nigeria’s dances are not merely movements but vibrant expressions of heritage, celebration, and unity.

These dances transcend borders, captivating audiences worldwide and becoming integral parts of social gatherings, celebrations, and even global dance challenges. The infectious energy of dances like Shoki, Skelewu, and Azonto has made them not just cultural phenomena but global trends, showcasing Nigeria’s influence on the international dance scene. In essence, these dance styles are more than just movements—they are living traditions that connect people across generations, fostering a sense of pride and unity.

As Nigeria continues to evolve and make its mark on the global stage, its diverse dance culture remains a testament to the nation’s resilience, creativity, and unwavering spirit. The rhythmic beats and electrifying movements are not just performances; they are a celebration of Nigeria’s vibrant soul, leaving an indelible mark on the world of dance.

Written by Abojeh Sarah

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