Both the voice and body are essential in African conjure; the voice is used to call-forth, or to bring into existence, whereas the body reinforces the power of the voice through movement. Usually, the voice and body are used in tandem (when one sings another dances) which magnifies the power of conjure. However, dance stands alone as a powerful pharmacopeia that is used to maintain solidarity in continental and diasporic African communities. That is to say, within dance, rhythm reigns supreme and serves as the adhesive that connects the African world.
There are an innumerable amount of dances on the African continent. Each ethnic group (of which there are hundreds) has their own collection of kinetic conjuration (dance(s)), as well, even within certain ethnicities dance may be broken down into gender and/or age groups. Spiritually, while immersed in dance, the body is taken over by unseen forces and the subject (dancer) believes they are no longer in control of their actions, instead they are being ridden (or have been mounted) by divine forces that are communicating with the material world. For the subject, it can bring a sense of freedom that cannot be experienced in what we know as normal time/space, yet this phenomenon is a normative element of the African community; in fact, it is essential to the natural ebb and flow of a community’s well-being. Meaning, dance as ritual is essential to the normal functioning of African people, as it is vital for communing with the divine.
On the continent of Africa and in the Americas, dance is a means of celebration, conjuration and combat. Styles of dance involve masked dances, stilt walking, foot-stomping, shuffling, Rumba, ring shouts and various other manifestations. Further, African dance is polyrhythmic and holistic, centering on complex rhythms and freedom of movement/expression rather than postural formations. Also, improvisation is critical to African dance. Dancers are not expected to mimic specific steps but instead are encouraged to submit to the tempo and rhythm provided by the drums in an effort to engage the energies present and to fully express themselves. By submitting, dancers are seized by the Gods, Albert Raboteau remarks: “Among the Yoruba and the Fon, the orisha and the vodun are called to take possession of their devotees by the songs and the drumming of the cult group each of the gods having his or her own songs and rhythms.” Further, dancers add their individual essence to any dance; an extra wind of the hips here or flick of the wrist there, and the dance becomes their personal gift to the gods.
African dance is also not wholly a spiritual endeavor because in many African traditions what is spiritual and profane are many times recognized and celebrated together. Estrelda Alexander author of Black Fire argues that “African spirituality infuses all life within a ritual component” and at the same time “all religious practice contain a profanely secular element.” Furthermore, dance is an extremely communal affair; when hands pound drums and rattles begin to shake, bodies are forced into retreat or rhythmic motion. One does not simply observe dance or dance alone, the phenomenon is meant to be felt and experienced throughout the community. It is the heartbeat that allows free flow of all energies. Additionally, dance is used both for celebration and conflict resolution. Within a dance circle, mates will be courted and grievances will be aired out to be dealt with on a communal level. Without dance, a community may become static and worn down under the weight of its own torpor.
In the early Americas, it is clear that Africans brought their culture with them evidenced largely by the preservation and continuation of dance. Raboteau supports: “Perhaps the most obvious continuity between African and Afro-American religions is the style of performance in ritual action.” However, European Americans attempted to control and subvert dance in a number of ways. First, those of African descent were not allowed to meet in large groups without the supervision of the land owner or the overseer. Second, the drum, as a musical instrument was suppressed and sometimes forbidden for those yoked to the plantation. Third, when enslaved Africans were allowed to dance, certain movements, such as the crossing of feet, were not allowed. These restrictions made it increasingly difficult to dance freely and communally.
Despite efforts to suppress African culture by demonizing dance, many found ways to preserve dance in different forms. Particularly, in the evangelical Christian tradition enslaved Africans found space where they could dance the dances of their foremothers and fathers due to the highly ecstatic nature of the religious practice. Meaning, for many African Americans, Pentecostalism displayed many similarities in religious practice from what was experienced in the hush harbors. Raboteau states: “In the ring shout and allied patterns of ecstatic behavior, the African heritage of dance found expression in the evangelical religion of American slaves.” Though, during the early years of Pentecostalism, this similarity was labeled as something nefarious that only demonstrated the primitive nature of African Americans. Still, through the evangelical tradition African Americans found a place where they could dance without fear of reprisal. This could not be done in non-charismatic traditions because dancing was discouraged and sometimes strictly forbidden. Furthermore, African American Pentecostal religious traditions in many ways resemble the dance circles of the continent. That is to say, “catching the spirit” in church is no different from being mounted or ridden by the orisha. Both states of being require the subject to surrender their body to the spirit and community. Also, within both contexts, as the spirit moves, the tempo of the music gets faster, hands clap harder, feet move quicker and the community acts as one organism focused on harnessing divine energy.
Disguising African dance in darkness or within the design of an accepted charismatic religious tradition is a deliberate effort of cultural retention. What is being retained, despite differences in steps and/or movements, is the ontological import of dance for African people in the Americas. Meaning, through dance enslaved (and later systematically oppressed) Africans were able to retain memory of their culture. Welsh-Asante in the article, “Commonalities in African Dance: An Aesthetic Foundation” remarks: “The ontological aspect of African aesthetics is memory. The blues, the presence of memory recreated in the southern United States environment of Africans, and the samba, a 6/8 rhythm in dance is continued and expanded from memory.” In essence, Africans, by maintaining the same rhythms of indigenous African music and dance, retain memory of the cultural nuances of their forbearers.
 Molefi Kete and Kariamu Welsh Asante. African Culture: The Rhythms of Unity. (New Jersey: Africa World Press, 1996), 72.
 T. J. Desch-Obi. Fighting for Honor: The History of African Martial Art in the Atlantic World. (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2008), See: Capoiera.
 Molefi Kete and Kariamu Welsh Asante. African Culture: The Rhythms of Unity. (New Jersey: Africa World Press, 1996), 71.
 Ibid., 71.
 Albert J. Raboteau. Slave Religion: The “Invisible Institution” and the Antebellum South. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 15.
 Molefi Kete and Kariamu Welsh Asante. African Culture: The Rhythms of Unity. (New Jersey: Africa World Press, 1996), 73. Welsh-Asante remarks, “…it is the dancer to breathes new life into the dance…”
 Estrelda Y. Alexander. Black Fire: One Hundred Years of African American Pentecostalism. (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2011), 33.
 Kariamu Welsh Asante. African Dance: An Artistic, Historical and Philosophical Inquiry. (Trenton: Africa World Press, 1997), 3.
 Estrelda Y. Alexander. Black Fire: One Hundred Years of African American Pentecostalism. (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2011), 32.
 Albert J. Raboteau. Slave Religion: The “Invisible Institution” and the Antebellum South. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 35.
 Ibid., 78.
 Estrelda Y. Alexander. Black Fire: One Hundred Years of African American Pentecostalism. (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2011), 22.
 Ibid., 16.
 T. J. Desch-Obi. Fighting for Honor: The History of African Martial Art in the Atlantic World. (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2008). Within dance fight styles, or Martial Arts was also cloaked.
 Molefi Kete and Kariamu Welsh Asante. African Culture: The Rhythms of Unity. (New Jersey: Africa World Press, 1996), 79.