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A Collection and Re-creation of Bahamian Traditional Dances

A Collection and Re-creation of Bahamian Traditional Dances

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Title: A Collection and Re-creation of Bahamian Traditional Dances
Author: Johnson, Roderick Theophilus
Abstract: This research project provides a collection and re-creation of eleven traditional Bahamian dances. Since the early eighteenth century,Bahamian folk dancing has been an integral part of the native's social life and culture and has been heavily influenced by three cultural groups: African, American and British. People from these three cultures were the first immigrants to the island and their folk dances form the underlying structural base of the Bahamian folk dance tradition. Eventually these cultural elements were synthesised into a distinctive Bahamian folk style.
In comparison to the amount of traditional dance information available from other Caribbean countries, the documentation on Bahamian folk dance tradition is sketchy at best. Adding to the lack of documentation is a continued decline in the spontaneous practice and cultural performances of these dances, plus little or no regular instruction to allow for the dances' survival in the culture. A sad consequence of cultural change is the loss or distortion of folk art. This is the present condition of the majority of traditional Bahamian folk dances. New trends in music as well as increased urbanization are causing many Bahamians to ignore or abandon their culture and heritage and as a result the dances which were once an important part of Bahamian society are now dying out.
The awareness of the present condition of the dances has given me the necessary incentive to study ,examine and document the Bahamian Folk dance tradition. Central to this research project are two documentary video tape recordings of the Bahamian traditional dances. These tapes provide: necessary historical background,a step by step introduction to Bahamian dance, and important clues to the origins of them. The first tape explores the social,historical and cultural framework from which the Bahamian traditional dances have evolved. The second tape continues with a careful examination and documentation of each of the dances that will enable the viewer to actually recreate them and thus gain an even deeper understanding of the Bahamian folk style. I chose to use the medium of video through which to present my research because of its ability to capture the dances in a way that writing could not. Recording the dances on video allowed for the documentation of each dance as a whole entity in that the mannerisms, gestures, behaviour and steps were simultaneously recorded and preserved. As each dance has experienced a continued erosion of tradition at the hands of progress and increased modernization of the Bahamas,the video format has allowed me to record and thus preserve each dance before it is lost entirely.
Subject: Dance
Folk dancing - Bahamas
Type: Other
Rights: The copyright for the paper and video content remains with the author.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10315/33148
Citation: Major Research Project, Master of Fine Arts, Graduate Programme in Dance History and Criticism, York University
Date: 1992-10-01

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