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What is Fanga

It’s Women’s History month and I felt that makes it a great time to share some dance history about West African dance that was informed by women, take a read..

What is African Dance?

Simply put it's in an appropriate term, think about it what do people say North American dance? Africa is a continent made up of more than 50 countries, with more than 1000s spoken languages, and is populated by at least 3,000 ethnic groups. Each ethnic group has its own culture and dance is a part of that culture. Dance techniques are based on culture and since Africa has many different cultures it also has many dance techniques. To pull from Deidre Skalar, we better understand the art form the more we know about the culture. When teaching, I offer all my students the 5 W's of the dance form.

the 5 W's

I like to think of dance as a physical manifestation of a group/ community/ or society. There is something that sparked the dance...some narrative some contextual information that helps ground the dance and prevent exoticizing the dance and the people. I like to use the 5W's I learned in elementary school to facilitate this process. The 5W's are the: Who, What, Where, When, and Why. I offer this regardless of how old or young the students are.


Fanga is the name of the dance technique


This technique was inspired by the Vai ( ethnic group)


The Vai are predominately in Liberia but also in southeastern Sierre Leone


Was used for welcoming visitors into your space


Demonstrate the host has physically and emotionally prepared to receive guest


Many West African Societies still use oral tradition to pass along history. I offer this to say it is common to find/her several origins stories surrounding a dance form. Culture and dance as an extension are dynamic. The dances will grow and change as they travel, each place that dance lands add to the story/ history of the dance. So I offer this story from my research.

Fanga was popularized in America during the 1950s by anthropologist and dancer Pearl Primus. It's believed that she drew inspiration from her research studies during her time in West Africa. The dance is gestural with movement expressing that the dancer is ready has an open heart and is ready to receive you in their space.

The above information is a great start for creating a lesson for your students. I'm including a useful video by a trusted West African dance practitioner

Want to learn even more...

I love sharing my knowledge, use the link to find ways to see some options about learning more

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