Tuesday, October 2, 2012

African Roots Of African American Arm Flapping Dances

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post is part of an ongoing series on African American bird dances. This post showcases two videos of Ghanaian (West Africa) dances that may have been sources of African American arm flapping dances.

The content of this post is presented for historical, folkloric, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Since at least the 19th century, one of the continuing sub-set of African American dances are those dances that imitate the movement of animals or birds.

Here's a list of African American dances that include arm flapping motions in imitation of birds' wings. Additions & corrections are welcome:

19th century
The Buzzard Lope
The Pigeon Wing
The Buck & Wing
The Eagle Rock

early 20th century
The Turkey Trot

Mid 20th century
an updated version of the Turkey Trot (1965)
The Funky Chicken (early 1970s)

Late 20 century
The Butterfly (originated as a Caribbean dancehall Reggae dance) (early 1990s)
Chicken Noodle Soup (2006)


Video #1: Dzigbordi Dance Drumming

Uploaded by zotorglo on Jul 31, 2009

Sample clip from an upcoming DVD featuring the dance-drumming of the Dzigbordi Group of Apeyeme, Dzodze. For more details see our website:
There are a lot of elements in this performance of the Adowa dance that remind me of Afro-Caribbean and African American dances. Could this Ghanaian dance be a source for the African American flapping wings bird dances such as the Pigeon Wing and the Funky Chicken?

Also, notice how the dancers' upper body movements look like the pop & lock movements of R&B and Hip-Hop dances. And, the woman's movement at around 9:07 looks like the Charleston's crossing legs movement. In addition, these dances remind me of Caribbean, R&B, and Hip-Hop dances that emphasize protruding butt shaking like the "Doin The Butt" dance that Spike Lee featured in his 1988 movie "School Daze".

Video #2: Lttlest Atorkor dancer - Volta Region, Ghana

Uploaded by smlas on Jan 15, 2009

"This little guy stole the show at the ceremony to commission the new latrines at Atorkor L.A. Basic School."

I don't mean to imply that the showcased Ghanaian dances are the only African dances in which the arms are flapped (in imitation of birds or for some other reasons).

Here are several pancocojams post about African American bird dances:


** "Rufus Thomas & Crowd Control At Wattstax (The Funky Chicken Dance)"

Thanks to all those whose music and dances are featured on these videos. Thanks also to the video uploaders. All rights remain with their owners.

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