Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dancing Carrying An Object On Head (Videos)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases selected videos of people dancing while carrying a basket or some other object on their head. This post also provides general information about this custom.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

"Carrying on the head is a common practice in many parts of the world, as an alternative to carrying a burden on the back, shoulders, and so on. People have carried burdens balanced on top of the head since ancient times, usually to do daily work, but sometimes in religious ceremonies or as a feat of skill, such as in certain dances...

There are several traditional dances of West African cultures that include balancing an object on the head as a skillful feat. Ritual dancing among worshippers of the thunder deity, Shango, sometimes balance a container of fire on their heads while dancing. The Egbado Yoruba have dances that include balancing "delicate terracotta figures" on the head while the arms and torso are moving.[11] This tradition continued among Africans taken to America during the Atlantic slave trade. African-Americans in the 19th century had a popular type of dance competition called "set the floor" ("set de flo'"), during which individual dancers would take turns dancing. Competing dancers would try to perform complicated steps given to them by a caller (usually a fiddler), without stepping outside the bounds of a circle drawn on the ground. To add to the challenge, some dancers would compete while balancing a glass full of water on top of their heads, trying not to spill the water while they danced.

[11. Source: Welsh-Asante, Kariamu (1996). African Dance: An Artistic, Historical, and Philosophical Inquiry. Africa World Press. pp. 107.]"
From Tap Roots: The Early History Of Tap Dancing by Mark Knowles (McFarland & Company Jefferson, North Carolina, 2002, Page 33)
"The Shango cult, brought to the Caribbean from Nigeria, was similar to Voodoo in that its main function was to induce possession. In Shango, the skill and aptitude in dancing was especially valued. During the ritual, dancers circled single file as they bent and straightened their knees rapidly with bouncing steps, becoming more and more animated until they were possessed by the deity. Anthropologist Melville and Frances Herskovits observed one female Shango dancer who danced while balancing water on her head...

Balancing water on the head while dancing was a common practice during jig and buck and wing contests in the United States and was often used in minstrel and vaudeville specialty acts to demonstrate a dancer’s skill."
"In the Yorùbá religion, Ṣàngó (also spelled, Sango or Shango, often known as Xangô or Changó in Latin America and the Caribbean, and also known as Jakuta) (from '=shan, 'to strike') is perhaps one of the most popular Orisha; also known as the god of fire, lightning and thunder. Shango is historically a royal ancestor of the Yoruba as he was the third king of the Oyo Kingdom prior to his posthumous deification. In the Lukumí (Olokun mi = "my dear one") religion of the Caribbean, Shango is considered the center point of the religion as he represents the Oyo people of West Africa, the symbolic ancestors of the adherents of the faith"...

(These videos are presented in no particular order.)

Video #1: This is the best tribal dancing group of Botswana Africa

Uploaded by el T Morales on Jan 20, 2011

It really is! They won countless awards! I miss you guys ...

Video #2: Zambezi Express - The Amazing New African Dance Musical... [Zimbabwe, South Africa]

Uploaded by gypsiiboy on Oct 6, 2009

Highlights from this amazing new show. The story follows a boy named Zilli, born in the slums of a township in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe who dreams of becoming a top-flight footballer. His adventures on the Zambezi Express - the train that leaves Bulawayo for South Africa once a week - and his struggles in the big city have created this extraordinary, pulsating new show straight from the heart of Africa. Pounding, multi-layered African beats and powerful acapella vocals alongside jumping, jiving, and acrobatic dance numbers by a 30 strong company. A soccer-based musical for the approaching World Cup in South Africa 2010
[Women dancing with objects is shown at .034-1.18]

Video #3: Rwandan women dancing with baskets on their heads [Rwanda]

5cense | November 12, 2007

Women dancing with baskets balanced on their heads, at the gorilla's nest, near Ruhengeri, Rwanda

Video #4: Yeni Molinet - Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba 2005 - Ochun [Cuba]

Uploaded by danzaestelar on Oct 28, 2009
Oshun is the Yoruba (Santeria, Lucumi) orisha (goddess) of love, beauty, rivers & waterfalls. Click for information about Ochun. Here's an excerpt from that blog post:
"....orishas are revered deities who rule over different earthly elements. They are called through dance and drum rituals to interact with humans.

Oshun, for example, is an orisha associated with fresh water. She represents female sensuality and beauty. Oshun’s movement is fluid and coquettish, which is what you’d expect from a goddess of beauty. Her signature color is yellow and she typically carries a fan with her, which she sometimes wields as a weapon. When Oshun laughs, she’s preparing to punish someone. It’s only when she cries that she’s truly happy".
Click for more information about Ochun.

Also, read the reference in the "Overview" section above about another orisha "Shango".

Video #5: Mexican Mayan Dancers, dancing with things on their head, Chichen Itza area of Mexico, Aug 09

Uploaded by devildogpackrat on Aug 12, 2009
Here's a comment from this video's viewer comment thread:
-cobra87west, 2011
This custom may have its source in the African people who were enslaved in Mexico. For information about slavery in Mexico, click


Uploaded by borosjutub on Mar 5, 2008

Amazing drum show from Burundi
Some may consider these drummers to be strutting "on stage" and not dancing. Be that as it may, I decided to add this video because their movements while carrying an object is custom is very similar to the subject of this post. Besides, these men walking while carrying drums on their head is so impressive that I wanted to share a video of it in case people here hadn't seen it before.

Click for another video of the Burundi drummers and for commentary about this custom.

UPDATE: 3/15/2013
ሽንግርዋ - ናይ ሳአስዒት ውድድር (9 year old eritrean girl)

goblel, Uploaded on Nov 14, 2007
Here's a comments from that video's viewer comment thread

"This is a typical ERITREAN syle. What a talent! Wonderful Guayla."
-Amche10, 2008

UPDATE: July 9, 2014

Afro Ecuadorian La Bomba Dance

dreaflan, Uploaded on Dec 16, 2010
Click to find more examples of Bomba dancers balancing a bottle on their head.

Thanks to all those dancers & musicians who are featured in these videos. Thanks also to those whose comments are quoted in this post, and those who uploaded the videos which are featured in this post.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Viewer comments are welcome.

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