Have you ever wondered how many cultural dances that are ingenious in Nigeria? With its many different ethnic groups and rich history, Nigeria is home to a wide variety of truly fascinating dances. Nigeria is a country filled with diverse cultures, and this is reflected in the countless traditional dances that have been passed down through generations.
From the lively rhythms heard in bustling cities to the beautiful dance moves that have been cherished for centuries, Nigerian cultural dances bring to life the spirit of the nation’s rich traditions.
Read on as Skabash! takes you on a journey to discover the captivating types and styles of Nigeria’s dances, in which each step tells a story, and every sway carries the weight of history.
Top 10 cultural dances in Nigeria
With a rich background of dance traditions, listing every single one would be an ambitious mission. However, we have curated a collection of some of the most popular and captivating dances in the country.
Below are the top 10 cultural dances in Nigeria.
1 . Atilogwu dance
The Atilogwu dance is a vibrant and energetic traditional dance from southeastern Nigeria. It features fast-paced movements, acrobatics and synchronised choreography.
Historically performed by male warriors, it now includes both male and female dancers. The dance is accompanied by rhythmic beats from drums and gongs. Atilogwu has gained international recognition for its cultural significance and captivating athleticism. Variations exist across Igbo communities, incorporating unique elements and costumes.
2. Efik Ekombi dance
The Ekombi dance is a traditional cultural dance performed by the Efik people, who are indigenous to Cross River State in southern Nigeria. The Efik people have a rich cultural heritage, and the Ekombi dance is one of their most significant and recognisable dances.
The Ekombi dance is primarily performed by young women during special occasions, festivals and cultural ceremonies. It is known for its graceful movements, synchronised steps and captivating music.
The dance is often accompanied by live music played on traditional instruments such as drums, flutes and the Ekombi Ekpo, a unique gong-like instrument. During the Ekombi dance, the female dancers wear colourful and intricately designed traditional attire. They often adorn themselves with beaded necklaces, waist beads and other accessories that enhance the visual appeal of their performance.
3. Nkwa umuagbogho
This is a maiden dance performed mainly by young maidens from the eastern part of Nigeria. Although this maiden dance has many names depending on the community, Nkwa umuagbogho is more popular in Ebonyi State, where the maiden dance got its name from.
4. Sharo dance
The Sharo Dance, also known as the Shadi dance or the Fulani wrestling festival, is a traditional cultural event celebrated by the Fulani people in Nigeria and some other West African countries. The Fulani, also known as the Fula or Fulbe, are a nomadic and pastoralist ethnic group spread across several countries in the region. The Sharo is a significant dance in Fulani culture, and it serves multiple purposes.
It is primarily a display of strength, courage and endurance by young Fulani men who participate in wrestling matches. The dance also provides an opportunity for socialising, cultural exchange and the negotiation of marriage alliances between different Fulani communities.
5. Bata dance
The Bata dance is a lively and rhythmic traditional dance originating from the Yoruba people of southwestern Nigeria. It involves energetic movements, expressive gestures and intricate footwork, accompanied by the beats of the bata drums. The dancers, adorned in colourful attire, showcase their agility and skill while conveying cultural and spiritual significance.
With variations reflecting diverse Yoruba sub-cultures, the Bata dance holds a cherished place in Yoruba and Nigerian cultural heritage, and its popularity extends worldwide.
6. Swange dance
The Swange dance is a traditional cultural dance performed by the Tiv people, an ethnic group predominantly found in Benue State. The Swange dance is a social dance that is commonly performed during social gatherings, ceremonies and festive occasions. The Swange dance is characterised by its lively and rhythmic movements, which are accompanied by traditional music. The dance incorporates a combination of swaying hips, graceful footwork and synchronised group formations.
Dancers often wear colourful traditional attire adorned with beads, shells and other decorative elements that reflect Tiv cultural aesthetics. The Swange dance is accompanied by traditional musical instruments such as the akyaakya (gourd rattle), shakers, drums, and flutes.
7. Igbabonelimhin dance
The Igbabonelimhin is an acrobatic masquerade dance theatre that is commonly performed by the Esan people in Edo State. The name translates to “clapping for the spirit” and refers to the action and purpose of the dance. The performers, wearing costumes made from hand-woven, multi-coloured fabrics called Igbuluododo, go through special training stages and initiation rites to be eligible to perform.
The dance is seen as a social cult with its regulations and taboos, and the performers are revered as coming from the spirit world. The hierarchy of the spirits is respected during the performance, with the smaller spirits dancing first and the senior spirit controlling the dance and ensuring adherence to the organisation’s regulations.
8. The Ikpirikpi
Ikpirikpi Ogu, also known as the Ohafia war dance, is a traditional dance associated with the Abam people in Abia State. It is recognised as a war dance and was traditionally performed exclusively by men who had returned from battle and celebrated their courage and prowess.
Today, the dance is also showcased in various Nigerian shows and festivals. It serves as a cultural expression of the Abam people’s warrior heritage and is appreciated for its energetic and captivating nature.
9. The Koroso dance
This is a traditional cultural dance performed by the Fulani/Hausa people of northern Nigeria, particularly in Kano State. It is a highly energetic and captivating dance that is often performed during cultural celebrations, festivals and weddings. The Koroso dance is characterised by its fast-paced movements, acrobatics and synchronised choreography.
The dancers, who are predominantly men, form a group and showcase their agility and skill through a series of jumps, spins and rhythmic footwork. The dance often incorporates props such as swords, spears or sticks, adding to the visual spectacle. The dancers wear vibrant traditional attire, including flowing robes, colourful caps and ornate accessories. The costumes are adorned with embroidery and patterns that represent the rich cultural heritage of the Hausa people.
10. Ohogho dance
The Ohogho dance is a traditional dance performed by the Benin people of Edo State in southern Nigeria. It is a significant cultural dance that holds historical and spiritual importance within the Benin community. The Ohogho dance is usually performed during festivals, weddings and other festive occasions.
It involves a group of dancers, often both men and women, who showcase their skills and creativity through rhythmic movements, footwork and gestures. The dance is accompanied by traditional music played on various instruments such as drums, flutes, rattles and gongs. The rhythmic beats and melodies enhance the overall performance of the Ohogho dance.