As many of you know, I’m headed back to South Africa to judge and teach for American Dance Awards at the University of Pretoria.
This is my fifth South African adventure and I wanted to see if I could find and share a bit about the South African “tap dance” culture. What I ran into was this terrific information about Gumboot Dancing. I remember seeing this dance form as an entry in one of our South African events and was excited to find out more about it.
I’m posting some videos and information about the art of Gumboot and hoping that I get to experience it again while I’m there.
Here’s some of the information I discovered on line about Gumboot Dance:
The gumboot dance (or Isicathulo) is a dance performed while wearing wellington boots more commonly called gumboots in South Africa.
Gumboot dancing is a century old tradition which originated during the mining era of Johannesburg, South Africa. Dancers wearing gumboots, create rhythms by slapping boots and bodies, using voices and stamping their feet.
The boots may be embellished with bells, so that they ring as the dancers stamp on the ground. This sound would be a code or a different calling to say something to another person a short distance away. It was basically used to communicate in the mines as there was strictly no talking otherwise they would get punished by their boss. The boots were a solution to a problem of often flooded gold mines in which men otherwise stood in knee-deep water toiling at their work stations.
Like other forms of African dance, Gumboot utilizes the concepts of polyrhythm and total body articulation, drawing from the cultural dances of the African workers that manned the mines. It is a percussive dance made by idiophones or auto-phones (objects of the everyday life vibrating by themselves), and is similar in execution and style to forms of “Stepping” done by college fraternities and sororities.
The album Graceland by Paul Simon has a song titled “Gumboots”, which is performed in the style of South African township jive (mbaqanga) and contains performances by members of the Boyoyo Boys.
Here are some amazing videos of Gumboot Dancers: