Africanist Characteristics in American Dance

Africanist Characteristics in American Dance

One of these characteristics that are displayed is that of embracing a conflict.  This characteristic appears when African aesthetic takes and faces difference and hold it, rather than dissolving it (pg 332).  An example of this is Marshall and Jean Stearn’s Jazz Dance. It was embodied by the moves of the Tucker’s Snake Hip where conflicts are contrary such as being smooth and also awkward, threatening and at the same time detached, seductive and even innocent. Also, power postures from a black male body that has no power (Dils et al., 2001)

The second one is Polycentrism or Polyrhythm which means that movements may come from any part of the body or two parts may move together at the same time.  Most of the European dance comes from one locus while African dance uses many parts. The third one is High-Affect Juxtaposition which means that breaks in movement, mood, and attitude that do not include the transitions and links that connect them which are much valued in the western aesthetics are major influencing factors (page, 333). In most traditions, arts use contrast, but Africanist uses a more heightened art that is beyond what is considered acceptable in the European context.

The fourth characteristic is Ephebism, which comes from a Greek word meaning youth. It involves attributes like flexibility, vitality, power, and drive and attack.  In this characteristic, we find that it has a kinesthetic intensity which considers feeling to be more of a sensation and less of emotion.  Being supple and flexible is more important than an alignment of the torso.  Also, rhythm and percussive force in different parts of the body is not emphasized in European aesthetic (page, 333). The final characteristic is the Aesthetic of the Cool which is an all-embracing attitude that puts together vitality and composure. The main components include visibility, which means that dance moves are precise, they are self-clear, have clarity and luminous mask of the cool (Gottschild, 2001).  It is seen in the African asymmetrical, loose and indirect approach.

Dixon Gottschild states that a way of perceiving (or observing) necessitate stripping away pre-conceived notions because dance has managed to find its way through the interplay of cultural denial, allowances of culture and homogenization of lifestyle and brought a sense of identity. Dance has a way of infusing different cultures and coming up with movements that define the identity of a particular culture (Gottschild, 2001).



Dils, A., Albright, A. C. (Ed). (2001). Moving history/dancing cultures: A dance history reader.  Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.

Gottschild, B., D. (2001). Stripping the emperor: The Africanist presence in American concert dance. In Dils, A., Albright, A. C. (Ed). Moving history/dancing cultures: A dance history reader (pp. 332-341). Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.