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Traditional dance culture has historically been centred around rural communities, and their collective rituals. Movement styles and music have varied widely from area to area and today many regions support professional dance companies to research and maintain local dance forms. Comparable companies have additionally been set up outside Africa, a seminal example being the now defunct Adzido.

Over the centuries, the effects of the slave trade and enforced migrations have resulted in elements of African dance fusing with many other dance cultures around the world, creating hybrids such North-American tap and jazz.

In the 20th century, as Africa's population began to shift towards urban centres, dance practices changed. The earliest and most concentrated pockets of activity were in South Africa. Pre-apartheid, these were dominated by ballet schools and companies that had been imported, initially, by white Europeans. Post-apartheid, the emergence of black modern-dance companies fundamentally shifted that balance.

Across the rest of the continent, modern dance developed fastest in the western regions, primarily through the influence of artists returning from Europe and North America. In 1968 Germaine Acogny opened a dance studio in Senegal, teaching a mix of African and contemporary techniques. Her second school, L'École des Sables, was founded in 1995 and has since become base to her company Jant-Bi. Acogny has also been involved in the Adugna Community Dance Initiatives, launched in Ethiopia for the training of both traditional and contemporary dance. In Angola in 1995, the teacher and writer Alphonse Tierou launched a competition for African choreographers. Other important figures have included Koffi Koko from Bénin, who while developing his career abroad has frequently returned to Africa to teach, choreograph, and organize festivals; also the Kenyan choreographer and dancer Opiyo Okach. Partly based in France, his mixed-media productions, created with his Nairobi-based collective of dancers, musicians, and artists, have become a significant force in African dance theatre. Since the late 1980s hip-hop has developed a thriving scene, especially popular in Senegal and Nigeria. Generally there is no single aesthetic that typifies current dance practice in Africa, although much recent work can be seen as a direct response to the growing cultural mix of the cities, and to the changing political climate – for example the feminist collaborations of the Mali-based dancer and choreographer Kettly Noël, and South African-based Nelisiwe Xaba.

Subjects: Dance.

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