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Dance in the African Diaspora: History and Effects Report (Assessment)

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Updated: Oct 22nd, 2021


Dance in the African Diaspora is also known as African Vernacular Dance and they are considered to be dances that have been developed by Africans living in Diaspora such as the Africans living in America and Europe. The unique thing about these dances is that they are performed day to day activities rather than being performed in studios and theaters. These dances are usually focused on social aspects and can be performed in any place to show the need for social change especially to racism and general issues. They are mainly focused on social dancing. Since they are based on improvisation, these dances are identified by the concentration of the change that is going on in the world and also development on various issues in the world (Hazzard-Gordon, 1985).

It is important to note that these dances are performed not of other courses but for self expression primarily. This means that these dances are not performed for such issues like economical gain but to express the community’s feeling towards various issues that concern them. They have been developing over the years and now they range from reggae to hip-hop and all this dances are concerned with social issues that have been plaguing their communities from time to time in history (Friedland, 1995).

History of African Diaspora dance

Most of the Africans living in Diaspora were brought to their current living places due to slavery. Most of these Africans landed in the American continent and this explains the huge presence of people with African origin in North America, South America and Central America. These people were drawn from various ethnic groups and their cultural backgrounds and cultural practices were diverse but very similar. However, the era of slavery led them to be united and they came up together to form various artistic things together. One of these things was to compose songs and dance to their songs. Most of these songs were focused on the hardships of being a slave in a foreign land where they did not belong at all. It is important to note that the slaves’ cultural lives were controlled by the slave owners and they could not practice the cultural practices they were used to in their own lands (DeFrantz, 2002).

The slave owners forbid several slave cultures and hence the African were restricted on various social and cultural practices and this saw them feeling inferior and dominated by the slave owners. The slave owners did this because of various issues including religion, social and simply cruelty reasons. This led them to compose songs that were intended to express their slavery conditions and also give them hope for a better future. These songs also gave them a platform for expressing their feeling and how they hoped they would be treated by their slave owners. They also expressed their wishes for equality, especially since they were treated as inferiors by the society in which they slaved for (Hazzard-Gordon, 1985).

The cultures of the slaves being restricted were influenced by the cultures of the slave owners. This means that the slaves either adopted a new culture or their culture blended with the slave owners’ cultures. This led to the slaves being capable of producing hybrid forms of music and dance. New cultures developed in various cities where there were slaves across American and Europe as these were the places with the most slaves. The dances the slaves performed were distinct in that they were against the culture of the slave owners and yet they were blended in with the culture of the slave owners. The songs were mostly composed to express the antagonism that existed between the two cultures and to express the discontent that the slaves felt by being treated as unequal people who were supposed to work for the slave owners (Friedland, 1995).

Most of these songs also expressed the feeling of weariness after the slaves were forced out of their homelands and brought to other lands where they were supposed to work for slave owners and treated like animals. The songs also expressed emotional feelings and they had messages of hope and revolution in them. The songs were composed of mixed African ethnic cultures and sometimes mixed with the cultures of the slave owners. This was as a result of the response the music was given by the immediate audience that had the chance to hear the music.

The music has developed over the years and it has its transformation into many forms that include soul, jazz, and the current hip-hop trend. The music is intended to address various issues in society including social life and politics. They are also used to fight social vices like racism and criminal activities and also used for religious reasons like worshiping and teaching the people the proper way of leading a life (Hazzard-Gordon, 1985).


The songs have various effects on the people both blacks and whites. One of the most noticeable effects is increased awareness in black people. They have raised awareness and have also educated the people on issues like racism and other issues that concern the black community. They have raised the awareness of the black people to such levels that they can now identify the difference between themselves and the other races and still come up with the positive sides that they possess that other races do not have. Other races as well have become aware that the blacks are people too and they should stop being treated like they have been treated in the past a case similar to that of an animal. The whites have for a long time exploited the blacks in many frontiers like colonization and slavery but with the increased awareness that the blacks have enforced on the world, they realized that they too were human beings and have rights of their own to be protected by all (Friedland, 1995).

The songs also created a sense of unity in the black people and this was one of the factors that led to their liberalization. The unity of the black people living in Diaspora was witnessed by the fact that they composed songs that urged the blacks to be united to fight for one goal in a united way. This included human rights and liberalization issues that the whites had denied them for a very long time. The blacks in Diaspora were also united in their quest to gains equal status in the countries that they were located and hence they ended up enforcing that to the society using demonstrations and violent bouts with the other races (DeFrantz, 2002).

The songs also acted as a basis for the motivation of the African Diaspora people. In their quest to be recognized as human beings who had their rights and demanded to be treated equally as the other races, they had to be motivated because sometimes it resulted in violent bouts with the authorities as well as with other races. Other racist races vetted violence on black people. The songs came as a resourceful thing for the blacks since they motivated the blacks to be involved in their fights against racism and other issues that they were subjected to. The blacks needed to be recognized as human beings as well. There were particularly against the feeling that the blacks were inferior because of their skin color.

The dance was also used for religious issues and the teaching of people on how to live a righteous life. This had the effect that if the community thrived on living a righteous life, then the people could enjoy the benefits of the community lacking such vices as crime and anti-social behavior. This was particularly important because the people had to be kept in a manner that demanded respect for each other to be strong together. They also had to be anti-evil because they had to unite in fighting the injustices that they were subjected to by the authorities as well as other races (Friedland, 1995).

The songs also acted as announcers of the plight of the African Diaspora people. This acted as the voice that would oversee the prevailing of equality and justice. These songs were particularly important because they led the world in being aware that there was a community that was being subjected to unfair treatment by other races. They were also responsible for the emerging of such remarkable civil rights activists like Martin Luther King Jnr. and Malcolm X who was recognized all over the world for the efforts of bringing the world to respect the rights of the descents of African and those Africans living in Diaspora (Hazzard-Gordon, 1985).


  1. DeFrantz, Thomas. Dancing Many Drums: Excavations in African-American Dance. Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 2002.
  2. Friedland, Lee Ellen. “Social Commentary in African-American Movement Performance.” Human Action Signs in Cultural Context: The Visible and the Invisible in Movement and Dance. Ed. Brenda Farnell. London: Scarecrow Press, 1995. 136 – 57.
  3. Hazzard-Gordon, Katrina. “African-American Vernacular Dance: Core Culture and Meaning Operatives.” Journal of Black Studies 15.4 (1985): 427-45.
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