Traditional Zulu dancing is an important part of the Zulu culture. Dancing is usually performed during a traditional Zulu ceremony, and is accompanied by vibrant singing and sometimes the beating of drums. Zulu dance is something quite spectacular, especially when the men and women are fully dressed in their traditional attire.It is customary that unmarried and young men dance, alternating in separate groups, occasionally the married women and men break in and join the festivities. Married women utter a quavering shrill. When the young women dance, the young men clap and play the drum and vice versa.
Zulu culture and traditions is most noticeable in the rural regions of Kwazulu Natal by their dress code and their homesteads, their religious beliefs and the traditional healers (Sangoma) that dominate their lives. In the cities, the Zulus are more politically driven. Their Inkhata Freedom Party (IFP) is led by Mangusutu Buthelezi in an authoritarian manner.
History of Zulu Dance
Native to South Africa, the Zulu tribe has many rituals that have been passed from generation to generation over time. Dancing is one of the most common types of community rituals, and it is incorporated into most Zulu ceremonies. Zulu dances are signs of happiness and they occur when any significant event takes place.
There are many types of Zulu dances besides the reed dance. The Ingoma dance is considered one of the most purist forms of Zulu dance, according to Zululand Ecoadventures. This dance is performed to a chant and during transition ceremonies, such as coming of age, weddings and pre-hunt or pre-battle time periods. The Ingoma is frantically danced and incorporates high kicking motions. The Indlamu dance is the traditional male warrior dance, and it shows off muscular strength and mock fighting. The Imvunulo dance only has one dancer and is done to show off traditional Zulu attire and place in society. Isicathamiya is a dance performed by a group of men or boys standing in a straight line to symbolize community life and issues. At weddings, both the Ingoma and Indalmu dances are done, along with Umbholoho dances. These types of dances feature both families of the newly married couple.
This is a dance performed by boys and girls without drums and accompanied by a chant. The girls wear woolen skirts and are usually bare-chested. They also wear rattles made of seedpods around the ankles to accent the high kicks.
The Ingoma is one of the purest remnants of Zulu tradition. Boys and girls perform the dance for transition ceremonies such as coming of age, weddings. In the past it was performed before a hunt as well as before battle. For the youth it instils the tradition of sharing experiences and building solidarity through communal dance.
A harmonising performance with boys and girls together but dancing separately. The boys clap while the girls dance and vice-versa.
This traditional dance is most often associated with Zulu culture. It is performed with drums and full traditional attire and is derived from the war dances of the warriors.
This war dance is untouched by Western influence probably because it is regarded as a touchstone of Zulu identity. Full regimental attire, precise timing and uncompromised posture are required. It is danced by men of any age wearing skin (amabeshu), headrings, ceremonial belts, ankle rattles, sheilds and weapons like knobkeries and spears. While indlamu uses similar steps as girls do for ingoma, it has a much more calculated, less frantic feel, showing off muscular strength and control of the weapons with mock stabs at imaginary enemies. Dancers are more likely to make eye contact with the audience. Various drums and whistles accompany the dance.
This dance is only performed by one participant and is a parade to show off the traditional attire of the Zulu men and women. Imvunulo is the traditional attire in this dance, representing one’s role and position in society.
Dress is determined by age, rank and gender. Young ones do not cover their thighs, but adults should. Men wear amabeshu and women wear leather skirts and beaded aprons. A leather skirt worn by a women is connected with being pregnant or desiring to be pregnant. Over that she wears beaded aprons, presented on her wedding day by her father. Colours in the aprons can signify where the dancer comes from. Girls’ beadwork girdles are called ‘isigege’ and should not contain red beads as these are reserved for married women.
This is performed by men or boys standing in a straight line or arc. The music is balladic and the lyrics pertain to modern issues but use ancient melodies. Issues like aids, crime and migrant labour. The lead singer provides the counterpoint or rhythm. The music form symbolises life in rural Zululand and the townships. This dance has become internationally known.