Theatre arts is a broad platform, and all art forms have something to communicate. Art as a form of communication is dynamic because it is derived from culture and a particular cultural background. Dance is a form of art, hence, it is an index of culture. Zulu Sofola in Tragic Themes in Nigeria Ritual Drama notes that:
Culture is the totality of the individual in relation to all the forces acting upon him and his reaction to them. The forces would include the physical environment, supernatural forces and the social context. (16)
Therefore, culture is the way of life of a people within a geographical setting. Darah (2003), in Dance as an Agent of Social Mobilisation in Urhobo, posits that:
“Dance comments reflectively on systems of thoughts, sustaining them or undermining them through criticism of institutions, policies or personages, and that dance reflects and influences patterns of social organisation”(10).
In accordance with this, dance is said to be one of the vehicles through which culture expresses itself.
Dancing is at least as old as man. Early man discovered that dancing channelled his exuberance, gave him pleasure and expressed his feelings about the most important events of his life. Adah (1991), in Science and Values in Culture and Civilisation posits that:
“He believed that through dancing, he could communicate with the unseen spirit world in which he lived, primitive man danced to celebrate birth, healing of the sick, mourn death and pray for good, hunting or victory in battle.” (5)
Bakare (2004) in The Rudiments of Choreography asserts that “the fundamental reason why dance takes place is to make a statement, to communicate, put across a message, express a thought” (4). From this expression, we can deduce that dance communicates the cultural and environmental situation of a people or society. Bakare (2004) further says that “all arts no matter the nature have something to say” (3). This means that both traditional and contemporary dances have their distinctive features and social statement which is derived from their cultural situation. Again Bakare (2004) opines that “human beings from different cultures of the world dance to externalise their inner feelings through body language” (2).
The dancer being a tool of communication uses his body as a means of expression. He uses his body in expressing physical symbols. Every dance form has a specific body concept and these might be intertwined with the everyday physical culture or quite remote from it. Though the traditional and contemporary dances have the same elements and goals, it is still obvious that they have distinct forms which makes it easy for identification. This project therefore attempts a comparative study between traditional Nigerian dances and contemporary dances, expressing the distinctive and similar features of both forms as well as the motivations of both art forms.
1.2 Statement of the problem
Dance like other art forms is a functional part of human life. Dance is as important as other art forms. However, the subject matter is one that has not been given considerable attention compared to other artistic forms. Traditional dance style is one that is gradually fading away with the passage of time, and contemporary dance has not fully been analysed. This study intends to discuss the relationship between the two dance forms in order to enable the society know the uniqueness of traditional and contemporary Nigerian dances, in African Society and the world at large.
Since the coming of the missionaries, most African societies have abandoned their cultural practises, this study therefore will help to bring the lost culture of most African Societies, that traditional African dances can be used for more than just entertainment.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
This study endeavours to:
showcase cultural similitude as well as abstractions of traditional and contemporary Nigerian Dances.
review and analyse the various features of contemporary and traditional Nigerian dances through practical and artistic forms.
arrive at important hypothesis that will contribute to the field in general
1.4 Rationale of the Study
Though researches have been carried out on this subject, some loopholes still need to be filled. Lack of knowledge of traditional dance forms and their various significance have not fully been understood. This necessitated the choice for this study, exploring the Ikpiripki, Ogu and Atilogwu dance of the Igbos and the Yoruba Bata, which are both traditional dances. Also, the understanding of what contemporary dance entails and the influence of traditional dance forms on the contemporary dances.
1.5 Significance of the Study
The significance of the project is not far-fetched, it is hoped that apart from stimulating and exciting further researches on comparative study of traditional and contemporary Nigerian dances, it will also contribute to the growth of the general knowledge of Nigerian dance as an art, as well as enlightening various personnel that require knowledge from this field.
This research would also be significant to choreographers, dancers, theatre practitioners, cultural historians and the general public in the sense that it will contribute to their knowledge.
The literary, historical and artistic methods are employed in the collection of data and reporting of findings. In using the literary method, investigations into different literature such as printed materials, Journals, Newspapers, books relating to the research topics are consulted. In using the historical method, facts would be collected from archival materials and printed sources that are related to the development, beginning and history of dance. In relation to the artistic method, Data would be obtained from the researcher’s observation on the practical performance and personal knowledge on the artistic presentation.
1.7 Scope of the Study
This project work is strictly aimed at examining the evolution of traditional and contemporary dances, and the similarities, differences and factors that affect both trends. This will be achieved through a practical illustration of the two dance forms.
1.8 Limitation of the Study
It will be out of place to state that one will not encounter problems during the course of this research work. Some of the major problems that limited this research work are:
Lack of current books on dance
Time frame to organise my practical was limited
Finance was also another issue.
Both the available materials was constructively utilized to further the actualisation of this work.