Dance For Stress Relief: 5 Popular African Dance Forms

Written by GHBY Team on Tue, 01 August 2023

Key Highlights

  • Dance is a beautiful language for communicating your thoughts.
  • You can use dance as an effective exercise for improving your physical, and mental health.
  • African people have numerous dance forms with different stories behind them.
  • Agbadza, Zakhu, and Shaku Shaku are some of the best and most popular dances that you can do to reduce stress.
  • Music can double the effect of dance on your mental health.

Like to dance? Well, who doesn't like dancing, right? Dancing is a unique way to express your feelings. Dancing is a skillful way to showcase your talent. You can dance in your happiness and your sorrow.

You can even use your dancing for stress relief to the benefit of your health. Dancing can help to improve your mood and act as a stress relief exercise. Read on to know which dance you can do and how it will help you.

Dance: An effective exercise

Dance is the language of the body. Dance is a beautiful form of art that allows people to express themselves without saying anything. Dance, like other languages, has many dialects, including classical, folk, hip hop, ballet, contemporary, and freestyle.

Dancing is a full-body exercise your body and mind to stay healthy. It includes facial expressions, body movement, and step coordination. It can be great for all people, despite their gender, age, shape, and size. It has many benefits for your body. The effect of exercise on mental health is very significant, but now you can dance for fun as an exercise.

The Health Benefits of Dancing

The foot-tapping movements are similar to acupressure in that they help press all of the points of the body that are connected to the feet. Dance is a fantastic stress reliever that works like no other. Dance allows you to let everything out in a non-destructive way and feel lighter.

You should include dancing as a habit in your daily exercise routine for you and your family. Encourage your family members to dance with you. Group dance may add more benefits to your overall mental health.

How will dancing help to reduce stress

Dance is a stress buster. If you are feeling low, anxious, stressed, or even depressed, try to dance it out. Your body and mood will calm down. You don't even have to know how to dance, you just have to shake your body as you like to the beat of the music and feel the music.

Dance makes your whole body flexible. While dancing, you are moving your body while your brain releases all the happy hormones that will help you fight stress and improve your mood. After dancing, you feel relaxed and calm.

In African countries, there are so many different types of dance and music available. You may learn some dance styles that will help you reduce stress. In ancient times, people would dance after any fight so they could reduce the stress and sadness that happened due to the loss of a loved one in a war.

African traditional dance styles are famous throughout the world. Every dance style has its unique steps and stories behind them.

Dancing to music may have many benefits

Music in itself is healing. When music hits you, you feel no pain. Music is a therapy with evidence-based treatment that helps you with various disorders, including cardiac, and depression, lower blood pressure, improve self-esteem, and reduce stress.

Dancing without music feels like a sandwich without cheese. Music puts the best essence into the dance. You may feel more alive when you dance to good music. Dancing alone can improve your health, but the music will double the benefits.

Dancing can improve

Matching the musical beats when you are dancing is the best way to improve your psychological, emotional, physical, spiritual, cognitive, and social health. Dancing to your favorite music is a different experience altogether.

Benefits of dance with music therapy

1. Emotional

  • It can bottle up emotions that may be released
  • Improve your mood
  • Lessen feeling loneliness
  • Stress and depression management

2. Physical

  • By changing your heart rate and lowering your blood pressure, it can improve your cardiac health
  • Manage or distract you from pain
  • Relax your body and improve sleep

3. Spiritual

  • It can open the door spiritually and allow you to explore your own spiritual beliefs

4. Cognitive

  • Increase the control of the senses
  • Improve coping skills
  • Improve coordination

5. Social

  • It can bring people together
  • Help stressed and isolated people improve their connections

5 African dance styles to reduce stress

When the body feels good, the mind does too. There are several dance forms to reduce stress, including:

1. Agbadza dance

Agbadza dance is popular Ghanaian music and dance that originated with the Ewe tribe. This dance step evolved from an ancient war dance known as Atrikpui, but it has since been transformed into a ceremonial or festive dance. Notably, it is mostly choreographed during the Anlo Ewe people's Hogbetsotso festival. Gana people have significant expertise in this dance form.

This ancient dancing style is a stress buster for Ghanaians. Interestingly, it involves five important movements and is frequently accompanied by musical instruments such as Gankogui, Sogo, Kagan, and Atoke, which makes the dancing harmonious and entertaining. You can do any of these steps whenever you feel anxious.

This dance style includes full-body movements. You will feel light after performing the full dance style.

2. Ikperikp ogu dance

Ikperikp ogu dance originated from the eastern part of Nigeria. In ancient times, this dance had to be done by muscular men of the tribes, dressed in war attire. This dance is performed to celebrate heroes and fighters.

Till now, this dance is still in practice. Make some groups to practice this dance form when you feel sad and lonely.

Females can include this dance as an exercise for mental health in their daily routine with the family to reduce overall stress in the family and improve body functioning.

3. Lamban griotic dance

This is an interesting ceremonial dance, but this one is a griotic or storytelling dance. Storytelling is an ancient African tradition in which the elderly impart wisdom to young people in entertaining and enticing ways. However, storytelling can be a lot more enjoyable!

The Lamba dance is a traditional Mali dance that can be performed by a single person or a small group. Lumba dance is thought to invoke spirits to enhance the storyteller's ability to deliver the story perfectly, in addition to setting the mood for storytelling.

Storytelling by dancing is a smart concept. Sometimes people can not express themselves through words. This dance form allows them to express their feelings and reduce anxiety and stress.

4. Zanku

Zanku is a popular Nigerian dance nowadays. This dance is quite difficult to learn because it involves bouncing the legs one after one and tapping the sides of the feet on the ground.

This dance involves the movement of the arms, body, and legs. This dance makes you tired, but you will find it very energetic and happening.

Zanku is a modern dance style with significant exercise benefits.

5. Shaku Shaku

Shaku Shaku is a top Nigerian dance used as an exercise. This dance involves full body movements and a mixture of some other dance movements. Exercising with this dance will get your body to sweat out toxic waste. Also, boost your mental well-being by making you light and happy.

This is a happy dance for all Nigerian people. When they feel happy, they do the Shaku Shaku dance to improve their body and mental strength.

When should you practice dancing?

There is no time restriction for dancing; you can dance at any time of the day. Regular exercise may get you bored, and you may start skipping some days of exercise. But dancing! There is no chance to miss dancing.

Other traditional cultural dance theaters in Africa

Music, dancing, and dramatic theater are forms of entertainment to express the happiness and issues of society, spread awareness, etc. People in Africa can participate in this kind of theater and raise the issue of society. You can enjoy this kind of theater in Ghana and Nigeria.

You can also be a part of dancing groups that perform on the streets and spread awareness about social issues. Participating in such activity may help you improve your mental state, reduce stress, and engage your body and mind in the right way.

Dancing may increase the release of good hormones that make you excited and happy.

Things to take care of while doing dance exercise

  • Do not dance with a full stomach
  • Do not drink more water before dancing
  • Wear comfortable clothes while dancing
  • Make sure your music does not disturb others
  • Start with the simple steps of a dance
  • Do not dance for any more time, your body gets existed
  • If you have any chronic disease, try to dance for 15 minutes and not more than 30 minutes

Other health benefits of dancing

  • Boost your heart and lung functioning
  • Enhance your muscle tone
  • Increase your strength and motor fitness
  • Reduces the risk of osteoporosis
  • Improve your body's flexibility
  • Burn calories and help lose weight


Dance for stress relief is often considered to be one of the best exercises for depression and stress. If you feel loaded with bad feelings, sadness, stress, or loneliness, you should try dancing to good music.

Dancing is a full-body movement that not only improves your physical health but also improves your mental and spiritual health. Dancing bring about hope, happiness, and calmness.

Agbadza, Lamban, Zanku, Shaku Shaku, and Ikperikp Ogu dances are some famous African dances that you can do at home by yourself or with your family to improve your stress conditions.



GHBY Team comprises content writers and content editors who specialise in health and lifestyle writing. Always on the lookout for new trends in the health and lifestyle space, Team GHBY follows an audience-first approach. This ensures they bring the latest in the health space to your fingertips, so you can stay ahead in your wellness game. 

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  2. Hanna JL, et al. American Journal of Dance Therapy. 1978 Mar;2(1):3-15.
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  5. Music therapy, available at Cleveland Clinic

Our team of experts frequently monitors developments in the health and wellness field, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

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Aug, 01 2023

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