African dance refers mainly to the dances of subsaharan and West Africa. The music and dances of northern Africa and the Sahara are generally more closely connected to those of the Near East. Also the dances of immigrants of European and Asian descent (e.g. in South Africa) are not covered by this article.
African dance has to be viewed in close connection with African Music.
Africans dance in all sorts of occasions to express their inner feelings, whether of joy or of sorrow. While the dancing is spontaneous and voluntary, the drumbeat provides the rhythm that holds the dancers together. Although the drums in more recent years have become ornaments for decorating the home as well as the popular souvenirs for tourists to Zimbabwe and other African countries, their primary function remains their role in cultural activities and rituals.
In villages throughout the continent, the sound and the rhythm of the drum express the mood of the people. The drum is the sign of life; its beat is the heartbeat of the community. Such is the power of the drum to evoke emotions, to touch the souls of those who hear its rhythms. In an African community, coming together in response to the beating of the drum is an opportunity to give one another a sense of belonging and of solidarity. It is a time to connect with each other, to be part of that collective rhythm of the life in which young and old, rich and poor, men and women are all invited to contribute to the society.