I can easily say that West African drumming and dancing have significantly improved the quality of my life. Although doing anything for the first time can be intimidating, I would say it's worth a try.
Here are 5 tips to remember before you take your first West African dance class:
1. Take off your shoes.
Just like yoga, in West African dance class we like to be barefoot in order to connect to the Mother Earth and use the intelligence of our feet.
2. Wrap yourself in an African skirt, only if you want.
While it’s nice to accentuate your feminine curves with a bright fabric wrapped around your waist, it’s not required, so do what feels comfortable.
3. Bring water and sip it, don’t chug.
West African dance classes can be an intense cardiovascular workout so you need to stay hydrated, but don’t drink too much or too fast in order to avoid cramping.
4. Listen to the drum beat.
If you really listen carefully to the beat of the drums you will have an easier time with the finding the rhythm of the dance and the movements will begin to make sense.
5. Focus on the teacher’s feet.
There are a lot different actions happening at the same time in West African dance, but if you start with the movements of the feet, you have a solid foundation from which you can start to incorporate the hips, hands and head.
*BONUS TIP* Most importantly, remember to have fun. When I started, I made a promise with myself that every time I messed up, I’d laugh. In the end, I was the person having the best time.
Join Gigi Yogini every Tuesday and Friday night for West African dance with Willy Souly at Your Neighborhood Studio in Culver City, CA.