Salambo in Addis

Salambo discovering Ethiopia

Ethiopian shoulder dancing

As I mentioned in a previous post, Ethiopia stands out for its unique culture and diverse traditions. Dancing is no different. Ethiopian traditional dancing is like no other, only the shoulders move, but they move with amazing speed and agility. An Ethiopian friend of mine explained that, according to rules historically imposed by the Ethiopian Orthodox church, it wasn’t allowed to move the lower part of the body while dancing, because of its sexual connotations. So Ethiopian concentrated on the upper part of the body, the shoulders in particular, to develop their amazing dancing skills.

[unable to upload the dancing video]

Like in other cultures, dancing is about courting and seducing. In Ethiopian dancing, man and woman face each other moving their shoulders, timidly at first, and then more and more energetically following the music beat. While doing so, they display impressive flexibility in the neck and shoulders.  Unlike other dances, the man is not leading the woman, but man and woman seem to be equal partners in an intense competition where one is constantly trying to outdo the other.

Traditional Ethiopian dancer

So, when people in Addis want to have fun, they go to a so-called cultural restaurant, a venue where traditional Ethiopian food is served, and dance shows are performed. There, customers don’t just sit to passively watch the performance, they stand up and dance. Newcomers are usually intimidated at first, especially when they try to shoulder dance themselves, but they quickly realise that the whole point of the evening is to have fun together, and not compete in a high level dance show. The professional dancers are very good at getting customers to join in, going around the tables, and dragging whoever is trying to hide. By the end of the evening,  everybody in the restaurant, adults and children alike, is having fun dancing. All inhibitions have gone, it’s all about enjoying the evening together.

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This entry was posted on December 13, 2011 by in Living in Addis.

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