The Village Dance


When I was in high school in my Social Ethics class I learnt that the village dance was a great part of courtship back in our African ancestor’s times. Now that I think of it I also remember reading of the village dance being a precursor to courtship in Ngugi wa Thiong’ o’s “The River Between”. I am pretty sure Nyambura* caught Kinuthia’s* eye during the village dance. In our modern times I beg to ask what happened to the village dance. Some people may argue that it has been replaced by the rave. To that I would say the rave is a watered down version of the village dance of yester year or more like it is a spiked drink version of it. This is because you don’t need an expert to tell you, the rave is hardly good soil for good marriage mates. But for those who were lucky enough to find a good spouse in the midst of all that loud music, high temperature and smoke, good on you mate! You see the village dance had some romance to it though the participants those days would have never used romance in a sentence. The romance I am talking about is in the propriety of the dances at that time.

The men, they were brave. They had just undergone initiation probably slaying a lion and they felt fearless. So at the dance, when the guy identified the object of his admiration, he walked up to her and asked for a dance. I imagine thoughts of rejection may have crossed his mind but he figures he was out in the wilderness and came back alive, so what if a girl doesn’t want to dance with me? The women, they were poised and graceful. They had come from training in womanhood. They were confident that some good guy would ask them for a dance. All she had to do was make eye contact for a fleeting second, look down and smile. And if he didn’t come then he wasn’t it. It was simple. Things were so easy back then right? Now it is all so complicated.

I recently read an article about social dance and it made me think the principles of social dance could very well be applied for dating in modern times. With that in mind I propose that the village dance be brought to life with a few modern twists. For a start the traditional dances could be replaced with ball room dance but the exception is the “mwomboko” because it was ballroom dance. When I say ballroom some people may imagine some stiff sashaying around a ballroom but it doesn’t have to be that way. I prefer Latin ballroom like Salsa and Tango etc. Usually the guy asks a girl to dance. The girl is at liberty to decline or accept. If the girl declines it is not at all a reflection on the guy. He should move on and ask another girl. For the girl if you want to be asked to dance, it has been said stand at the edge of the dance floor. Put a smile on your face and stamp your feet like you are enjoying the music. This sends the message I want to dance and someone just might oblige you.

Now that you are all partnered and on the dance floor, the man takes the lead. Leading is supposed to be oh so subtle it is a gentle tag, a lifting of the hand. There should be no pulling and pushing. A girl should never lead herself or try to lead the man, it maketh the man mad. Men this would be a good time to remind you to watch your hand. Your hand should never go too south, north is always best. Don’t be the guy who finds a dance opportunity and decides to make maximum use of it by taking his hands on a tour. Like in the village dance of yester years self-control was a mark of quality. During the dance it will not kill you to have a good time. Have fun and try to look it. Also away from the dance floor, work on your dance technique.  If you have the ability to dance really well, it increases your popularity on the dance floor. For the fellas there will be no getting turned down. For the ladies, there will be a line waiting to dance with you. The rules of social dance say you shouldn’t dance to many subsequent songs with one partner. In other words even if the person you got paired up with is an absolute delight do not hog them. After one song set them free and find someone else to dance with. When I did salsa class in university, this rule made total sense. It was all about variety and variety is the spice of life isn’t it?

Another rule that cannot be ignored is don’t take dancing too personal. You danced with someone, you had a good time, the chemistry was palpable and you hope they felt the chemistry too. Wrong! Don’t assume that. When I did salsa class in university I always told myself it’s nothing personal it’s just salsa. Trust me it is better that way. If you take the dancing too personally and hope for romantic attachment afterwards, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and maybe heartbreak. Granted there are people who find romance from dancing it should never be the sole intention for dancing. I mean there are better reasons to dance like improving on your technique, getting a bit of a work out, meeting new people etc.

In conclusion what can social dance teach us about dating? The guy should initiate and take the lead. This means the guy should be confident. The girl should be warm and receptive remember look like you want to dance. Guys, be respectful just because you are hunters doesn’t mean you should maul the deer because she agreed to dance with you. Finally, enjoy each other’s company and unless there is information suggesting that there could be more, don’t put all your emotions in that basket. Social dance has been compared to a five minute encounter at a cocktail party. You have five minutes to impress but if you don’t, it’s never that serious same applies to dating. While it is argued people date to find marriage mates, I would also say like dance dating is good exercise to build your personality and character (if you meet inspiring people, it will rub off on you). So go on, dance away.


*names haven’t been changed to protect identity rather they have temporarily slipped my mind.



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