ESKISTA, ETHIOPIA: ‘Dancing Shoulders’ imitating a Snake

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Eskista is an African dance renowned for using “intense shoulder movements” is an African dance form known as.  This rather “complex” dance is said to have originated from Ethiopia, a country located in Northeast Africa in a region called the “Horn of Africa”. This dance is essentially known for body movements that include rolling of the shoulder blade and jilting of the chest. Furthermore, this dance is considered to be more “technical” than most of the African dances.  In addition, this dance is generally performed to traditional “Ethiopian music”.

History/origin of Eskista:

A common Ethiopian legend states that this dance was created by observing and then imitating the movements made by a snake. Apparently, it is said that Ethiopians very acutely observed that a snake always shook the neck area in a specific manner while dancing to the tune of music. It was this neck movement observed in a snake that was then used as a template to create this dance which was eventually named “Eskita” which means “dancing shoulders”.

Costumes used in the Eskista:

The costume worn by the performers (both male and female) is a traditional Ethiopian dress made from wool called “Gabbi or netella”. Furthermore, this traditional dress is painted using different colours depending on the gender of the performer.

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Music involved in the Eskista:

The music involved in this dance form is mainly traditionally “Ethiopian” in its essence. So the musical instruments essentially used include chordophones, aerophones, idiophones and membranophones.

Training availability and technique involved in the Eskista:

In terms of technique, this dance requires the performers (both males and females) to move their head, neck, chest, and shoulders in a particular manner in tune with the traditional Ethiopian music that is played. As for training centers and schools, there are none available around the world since this “complicated” dance is mainly performed exclusively in Ethiopia.

Incredible video of kids doing the Eskista dance:

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