I teach a regular dance class in Nairobi, after doing the same in Brazil and Mexico. My classes draw heavily on African and Afro-diasporic traditions (ie traditions from the African diaspora). I think of my dance classes as sharing and getting to know cultures, so I try and give some background to each dance choreography we do. This is also because I have been entrusted with this information by my many teachers over the years, so I too have the responsibility to pass it on. I send out a newsletter every week with this info, so if you’d like to learn about these dances (or join the class) drop me a line on afrodancekenya[at]gmail.com.
This week we do an Afro-brazilian dance in the style of a Xire or a salutation to different orixas like would be done at the beginning of a feast. Wondering who Orixas are? Read on:
Orixas are gods and goddesses revered in several Brazilian traditions. Their origin is in West Africa, in the Yoruba nation. Enslaved African peoples transported to the Caribbean and Latin America held on to the myths, music, drumming and dance that they had known in their home countries, and in some places (like Brazil), these developed into full-grown traditions in their own rite.
Each Orixa is known to have a particular set of characteristics, which then make up their dance. For example, Oxum is known to represent love, beauty and sensuality whereas Ogum is the orixa of iron, metal-working and war. In our class so far we’ve danced to Nanã, Oxum, Ogum and Iansã. This week we’re going to do a combination of several Orixas: Ogum, Oxum, Oxossi, Olu, Nanã, Xango, Yemanja and Iansã.
Fun fact #1: Orixa may also be spelled as Orisha or Oricha depending on the country. Orixas are also a big part of Afro-Cuban traditions
Fun fact #2: Beyonce in one of the songs/videos in her recently released ‘LEMONADE’ dresses as and represents the Orixa Oxum 😉