Once the basics are down, and that one person makes eye contact with you and nudges you towards the dance floor, here are four tips to consider when taking your Afrodance performance game to the next level.
These tips can also be something to consider when you are choreographing, learning someone else's choreography, or looking to make a piece your own when it's time for you to scatter the floor on stage.
Please note. I am not a medical professional, so I am not making or implying any medical or physical claims in these tips. These tips are tricks I've picked up or developed while training and learning new styles and moves and from years of watching myself and others dance. This post is a live, imperfect document on a journey. It will constantly be updated and edited as I continue to learn and grow. Thanks!
Tip 1: Check the speedometer
Speed refers to how quickly or slowly you can make a move. Thinking about speed helps you add variety and a level of unpredictability to your freestyle. From what I've seen, many Afrodance choreographies these days lean on the faster side, so what if you decided to slow something down in the middle of a fast choreography? (yes. Mind blown. Or at least an increased entertainment factor. My opinion. Beat me if you like.)
Tip 2: Texture
Texture refers more to characteristics like how smooth or jagged a move is. Taking a standard move and adjusting its texture could create a variation or an entirely different move.
For example, when I consider the concept of loketo (think a whine) and blockage (think a pelvic hit) in Congolese movements, I can think of how blockage tends to be sharp, and loketo tends to be smooth. But you could also make blockage smooth and loketo sharp (think on that for a second, visualize it... don't those look like different moves? You're welcome.)
Tip 3: Emotion/Character
When you are dancing, who do you emulate? Who do you dance like? In my classes, when we explore the background of some of the Afro-dances, some of them came from mimicking something else. Ndombolo the dance style mimics martial arts, "Laba Laba" from Naija street style mimics a butterfly, and "Deux Oeufs Spaghetti" from Cameroonian steps mimics the art of cooking the popular Cameroonian snack in the kitchen.
So what about you?
Are you happy doing one move and then sad the next? Do you dance guda like your bones are cracking, or do legwork like you're dancing on lava or ice? How does that change the move? How does it affect the speed or texture of a move? How does it affect your level or your posture? (to read more about levels and posture, read "6 Tips to Master Afrodance for Beginner and Intermediate-Level Dancers" here) We've got endless possibilities here people! Be creative!
Tip 4: Shege
How many times did I say this?
It is important.
Because it is the sauce that only you can bring to a dance move or a choreography. The best dancers find a way to make their performances stand out and look unique. It may be the way their body moves through the steps, the emotion they bring, or how they can decide to completely change the way something is "typically" done, just so you can sit back with your eyes wide, arms crossed, in a "wow-like" stupor.
In a way, shege is a combination of speed, texture, and emotion/character, how low or high you do a move (levels), how your back moves within a move or style, how you isolate.. and even extra on top. An extra wink or flick of the wrist just because you can, and want to. It is the result of tweaking one or multiple aspects of a move or a choreography to your liking to make it.. you.
And that is what the people come to see.
I've given you the cheat sheet.
Go forth and give it to them.
Kemi OG is an Afrofusion dance artist, choreographer, creative director, and Afrodance nerd. As an artist, Kemi is known for creating abstract, culturally infused pieces that experiment with Afrodance and incorporate other artistic mediums to reflect people's interactions, emotions, and perspectives. She is passionate about sharing African culture and history through dance, and exploring social issues while encouraging mental wellness and self-worth through movement.