Dance & Tanzania

Dance is a universal form of human expression that is deeply ingrained in cultures all over the world. It is a physical art form that encompasses a wide range of movement styles and techniques, each with its unique cultural and historical background. In this article, we will explore the different definitions and expressions of dance, with a focus on African and Tanzanian references. We will also delve into the history of dance and compare the dance scene in the world and Africa.

Defining Dance

The definition of dance varies depending on culture, context, and personal interpretation. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, dance is defined as “a series of rhythmic and patterned bodily movements usually performed to music.” However, this definition does not capture the full essence of dance, which is more than just a series of movements set to music. Tanzanian writer Euphrase Kezilahabi provides a more nuanced definition in his book “Nagona,” stating that dance is “an art of expressing joy, sorrow, fear, and other emotions, through rhythmical bodily movements, in order to create an aesthetic effect.”

Expressions of Dance

Dance can be expressed in various forms and styles, ranging from traditional and cultural dances to contemporary and modern dance styles. African dances are deeply rooted in cultural traditions and are often accompanied by live music and colorful costumes. Tanzanian dances like Ngoma, Bwola, and Chakacha are examples of cultural dances that are performed on special occasions like weddings and religious festivals.

Contemporary dance styles like hip hop, breakdance, and jazz have also gained popularity in Africa and Tanzania. These dance styles often incorporate elements of traditional dances with modern music and movements.

History of Dance

Dance has been an integral part of human culture since ancient times. Evidence of dance can be traced back to prehistoric times, where people used dance as a form of communication and expression. In Africa, dance has played a significant role in cultural and spiritual practices. It was used in ceremonies like weddings, initiation rites, and funerals, where dance was a way to connect with the spiritual world.

Comparing the Dance Scene in the World and Africa

The dance scene in the world is diverse and constantly evolving, with new styles and techniques emerging regularly. Western dance styles like ballet, contemporary dance, and ballroom dancing dominate the dance scene in the world. However, African dance styles like Kizomba, Semba, and Gwara Gwara have gained global recognition, especially in the Latin dance community.

In Tanzania, traditional dances are still widely performed on special occasions. However, contemporary dance styles like hip hop, krumping, and popping have gained popularity among the youth. The emergence of Urban Kizomba, a fusion of traditional kizomba with modern urban music and dance styles, has also gained popularity in Tanzania, with events and festivals dedicated to the dance style.

In conclusion, dance is an essential part of human expression and culture. It takes on different forms and styles, each with its unique history and cultural significance. African and Tanzanian dances have made significant contributions to the dance scene globally and continue to evolve and influence contemporary dance styles. Whether traditional or modern, dance has the power to connect people, express emotions, and bring joy and happiness to people’s lives.


  1. Kezilahabi, Euphrase. (1980). Nagona. Dar es Salaam: TPH.
  2. Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Dance. Retrieved from

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