African Connections - 1992 -1997

Submitted by root on Sat, 12/02/2017 - 14:41

African dance  European dance -headbangingAfrican Connections documents and celebrates the African roots of contemporary social dancing.  Initiated by  Bill Harpe, it was devised and led by the Blackie.

The result was an exhibition of 24 batiks (12 pairs) illustrating the links between the African and European dances.

Left are photographs of two batiks showing the African dance Yaduyadu from Senegal - dress included a hat with feathers tied under the chin - prop was a drum. And the European dance  Headbanging from the 70s where the dress was jeans or leather trousers, t-shirt and/or bomber jacket; prop was a loud speaker; danced primarily by young people. Both dances focused on head movements.

African Connections was a complex project involving collaborations between African and European dancers, between dancers and textile artists and between dancers and animators.  In addition it involved research into both African and Social dancing.

The resulting Exhibition not only showed the Batiks but these were accompanied by  24 Flick books which showed the movements of the  24 dances. 

How It Worked

Bill supplied a starting point by looking at the differences between African and European cultures as expressed in dance.

       African                                            European

Constant repetition                       Constant change

Celebrating the centre                  Celebrating the periphery   

Participation                                 Separation

All ages                                        Youth

Possession                                  Self possession

Anytime                                       Leisure

Holistic togetherness                   Separate development

Any/every body                            The Perfect body

Open air                                        Indoors

Purpose                                        Aesthetic

Positive                                         Negative

Returning to roots                         Staring a new fashion                            (Back to the future)                       (Palace revolution)                       

Part of life                                      "A profession and a job"  

 (a way of life/living)                       (vocation/vacation/career)                   

A social role                                  A profession

For the Community                       For the tourists                                     (paid/unpaid)                                 (Money)     

Social expression                          Individual expression     

The next stage was to look at the possible dances and the ways they inter-related.  The research on this was led by Peter Badejo with Louisa Eyo.  They were joined by the dancers,  'H' Patten, Lorna Anders,  and Marie Agatha and the visual artists Jan Green and Tina Sauter..  They spent 3 days at the Blackie working through the dances.

Below are photographs of this work.

Maria Agatha and H Patten working on Disco/Utando UpalaMaria Agatha and H Patten working on Disco/Utando Upala

Above Maria Agatha and 'H' Patten working on Disco/ Utando Upala

Maria Agatha and Lorna Anders working on the Hand Jive/Kete

Above Maria and Lorna Anders working on the Hand Jive/Kete.  Below Peter Badejo and a local dancer working on Idccobate and Street Dance.

Peter Badejo demonstrating the Idcobate which was matched to Street DancePeter  Badejo working on the IdcobateStreet Dance which was linked to IdcobateWorking on Idcobate and Street dance

Maria and 'H' working on the Pogo and BeranoMaria Agatha and 'H' working on The Pogo and Berano Peter Badejo working with Maria and 'H'

Above working on the Pogo and Berano 

Left and below working under the guidance of Peter Badejo on Head Banging and the Yaduyadu - the Batiks for which open this page.Maria and 'H' working on Head Banging /YaduadoWorking on Head Banging ?

Lorna Anders And Peter Badejo doing the Bump/BamayaMaria and Lorna doing the Bump/Bamaya

Above Peter Badejo, Lorna Anders and Maria Agatha working on the Bump/Bamaya

Between the dances the group discussed the performances, made notes on how the dances related to each other,  what part of the body was used, what props or objects should be added, and what was the appropriate costumes, where the dance came from, who normally danced it. Finally they looked at how they would translate into Batiks, and made the selection of which dances should be used for the batiks. (Note - not all the dances they worked on were used in the exhibition.)

Peter, Lorna and jan Green making notes on the dances Jan making notes with Bill, Peter and 'H' Bill Harpe, Maria Agatha, 'H' Patten and Peter Badejo in discussion Bill Harpe and Maria in discussion with Jan in the background  








Above and right the dancers plus Peter Badejo,  Bill Harpe and Jan Green discuss and write up the dances.

The Batiks  

These were originally designed to be exhibited in two long facing rows - and indeed this is how they were first displayed.  Sadly we do not have any photographs of this though we do have some of a later exhibition.

Each pair of batiks comes with information about the dances which was recorded at the time of selection.  there is in some cases a mismatch between the information provided and the batik itself. 

African dance the Borana from KenyaEuropean dance PogoLeft  the African dance Borana from Kenya & the European dance the Pogo from the late 70s.

The Borana was a harvest dance and the performer held a long stick, the prop was a drum. The Pogo  was danced mainly young men with spiky hair  who wore torn jeans and t-shirts decorated with safety pins.

Both dance focused on jumping.

Street Dance from the late 80s

Right the  Idcobale from the Yoruba people of Nigeria danced by men only and is a sign of respect for elders. 

Street Dance from the late 80s danced mainly by young men in the street as well as dance halls


The Kitchen from Soutrh AfricaBreak Dance from the mid 80s Left the Kitchen from South Africa. A dance to show off fighting skills. Costume is full skirt,  with sheepskin at back, skins round lower leg., arm band and head band. Props oval shield and long stick with knob on top.  Danced by both sexes but this move is men only.

Break  Dance from the mid 80s,  danced  by young people - mainly males wearing track suits. Prop is a ghetto blaster and dance is performed mainly in the street.

Both dances focus on the power of the legs.

Disco from the late 70sUtando Upalele from South AfricaRight the Utando Upalele from South Africa. A women's  dance for those 18+ to middle age. A dance of solidarity  when men go off to work. Clothes include skin leggings, arm and headband. Setting houses.

Disco late 70s - the dance done mainly by females around handbags. Costume short black skirt, polka dots & white stilletos.

Both dances are focused on moving arms and knees.

The Vimbuza from central AfricaThe Locomotion late 60s early 70sLeft the Vimbuza a healing dance from Central Africa where you dance the sickness out of yourself.  Skin headband and horse tail in right hand and/or calabash (basket used for sieving maize).  Danced by both sexes and all ages.

The Locomotion from the late 60s. Skinny rib jumper with A-line mini skirt or bell bottoms. Drinks on table. Danced by young people of both sexes.

Movement  for both dances focused on arms and legs

House  early 90sThe Simdimba from Tanzania Right the Simdimba from Tanzania originally performed at initiations. Dress wrap round skirt with pleated front . Performed by teenagers of both sexes. Pop is an oil drum  with skins at both ends and string strung around it.

House from the early 90s. performed by young peole of oth sexes. Dress purple cycling shorts with brightly coloured t-shirt and trainers. Prop is battery operated dancing flower.  

Both dances focus on the arms and legs 

The Koroso from Northern NigeriaThe Jive from the 50s Left the Koroso from Northern Nigeria a Housa/ Fulami social dance praising the beauty and agility of the young. Danced by the young of both sexes.  Dress shirt and trousers.  Danced on earth.

The Jive from the 50s danced by young people of both sexes.  Dress brogues, teddy boy jacket, Briclreemed hair.  Coloured spot lights.

The dances use the whole body turning around. 

The Hand Jive  early to mid 50s

The Kete from South GhanaRight the Kete from the Akan people of South Ghana performed by both sexes.  A royal dance where symbolic hand gestures tel the position in society. A matching long tube skirt with a short  sleeved shirt.   Props are supposed to be a sword or Ghanian stool? 

The Hand Jive  from the early to mid 50s  performed mainly by females.  dress flared skirt with lots of petticoats.  Props - juke box.

The movement of both dances is based in the hands and arms

The Gahu from GhanaSkank from  late 50s & 60sLeft the Gahu from Ghana - this is a money dance done by men and women of all ages. Dress is due to be long sleeved top and skirt.

Skank from late 50s and 60s danced by young people from both sexes. Dress is drainpipe trousers and very tight T-shirt .  Prop is UB 40 Album cover.

The dances focus on the arms. 

The ButterflyThe Butterfly from the CaribbeanThe Butterfly dance from the Caribbean where it is a social dance performed by both sexes and people of all ages.

 Prop is a flag from the Caribbean. 

It is matched by the Butterfly from Europe where it is performed by young people of both sexes. The prop is the German flag.

Movement for both versions  focuses on the arms legs and the pelvis

African dance currently unnamedEuropean dance currently unnamed.


Currently we do not know which dances these are.  One possibility is the Bayama from Africa and the Bump from Europe.  But a possibility is all it is.




If you would like to see the batiks being exhibited please click here.

The Exhibition consisting of  the Batiks and the Flick Books is available for touring.

The Team  

The Artists

The Idea Bill Harpe. Research: Peter Badejo and Louisa Eyo.  The dancers:  Maria Agatha;  Lorna Anders; Peter Badejo; 'H' Patten.  The Batiks: Jan Green. Flick Books: Tina Sauter.  Photography: Ken Grant. in conjunction with the artists of the Blackie.  If you took part and your name is not here please let us know.

Thanks To   The Arts Council New Collaborations Fund; The Paul Hamlyn Foundation; and National Lottery Charities Board.