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A cultural exploration of Africa Through Dance

In an ever-growing search for the “next big thing” in the fitness world, many are looking for that perfect workout that will bring both fulfillment and long-term fitness results. Beyond running, biking and weight training, the industry has been completely revolutionized with the surge of fitness programs surrounding yoga, pilates, spin (stationary bikes) and dance workouts.

You cannot discuss dance workouts without recognizing the phenomenal success ZUMBA® fitness has seen throughout much of the past decade, as it introduced a fun dance class for everyone. While there are still many diehard fans of ZUMBA®, it’s obvious the lifecycle of this trendy dance movement is winding down. Though African dance has been around essentially since the beginning of time, it has been the past few years that this ultimate dance workout has been quickly becoming a favorite for fitness enthusiasts of all ages, ethnicities, genders and sizes. This phenomenon allows everyone to truly feel the beats, and discover the elements borrowed from the different regions of Africa; and instead of simply a workout routine based around the latest hip-hop songs, this traditional music combines with the authentic movements to provide an eye-opening cultural experience without having to board a plane.

The Person Behind The African Dance Revolution

Clearly years ahead of the trend, Kukuwa Kyereboah-Nuamah is internationally recognized as the “Queen of African Dance,” and has been developing her fitness routines and overall brand (KUKUWA®) for more than two decades. One of the busiest women in the industry, Kukuwa balances her time between educating others about the history of African dance and the importance of nutrition, training instructors worldwide, teaching classes, writing books, being a motivational speaker and further developing the KUKUWA® brand.

Being featured in “O,” Essence, People and other publications, Kukuwa is a Certified Health Fitness Presenter and Examiner, and an authorized CEC provider for AFAA & ACE. Though nearly impossible to summarize the passion, wisdom and motivation Kukuwa has for her work, she said, “My dream is to educate both the dance and fitness worlds about the true meaning of African dance, and the many health benefits that come with this enjoyable expression of fitness.”

Going far beyond simply a fun workout, each element has been carefully developed using the true essence of the culturally enriched African dance combined with the studies by Kukuwa and her team of consulting doctors and physical therapists to ensure a healthy workout option for all ages. With an extensive training program, KUKUWA® instructors are highly knowledgeable of the body and very proud to be part of this growing fitness trend. Today, certified instructors can be found teaching throughout North America, as well as Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and the Middle East. Kukuwa said, “With the growing demand throughout Asia and Oceania, the coming year looks to be a very exciting time for everyone involved with KUKUWA®.”

Why African Dance

In the case of KUKUWA®, the movements within each workout emulate life’s obstacles and triumphs; making the dance itself very meaningful. The gestures, motions, gyrations – all while barefoot – allow one to connect to Mother Earth and to really feel the movement in one’s soul. Additionally, Kukuwa uses original African music from all over the continent – including Cameroon, Zambia, Namibia, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Malawi, to mention a few, taking you on a tour of Africa without a passport! As an overall fitness program, African dance is unique in that it targets both small and large muscle groups, unlike other dance workouts, such as ZUMBA® fitness.

As you will hear Kukuwa say numerous times during each workout, “Move your Boombseys” serves as a reminder to keep moving while having fun. The energy and joy experienced while burning so many calories is inevitable, and in most cases, students don’t even notice the positive effects of these low impact, high-energy cardio movements. There are years of looking at the positive effects that come with dance, including overall endurance, flexibility, core strengthening’s – making an energetic workout such as African dance a perfect solution for many looking for a judgment-free release.

African Dance Workouts Today

Let the unmistakable music and routines move your body, while burning upwards of 1,000 calories in a single workout. Regardless of you doing this fitness routine in the gym, on the beach, or in your own living room, there are no additional machines or props needed, making the workout simply about you and the addicting music. This is one of the truly full body workouts available today, working every part of your body from your toes to your head while strengthening your core. Kukuwa and her trainers have tailored the Kukuwa® routines to fit specific classes ranging from beginners to advanced and from kids and teens to seniors.

As this movement continues to strengthen in the coming months and years, these classes will be available in even more locations. Currently, it’s offered in many fitness clubs internationally, cruises, resorts and a growing number of schools. In the case of ClubX in Coral Gables, Florida, Cary Sochin, Owner of ClubX said, “As a private fitness club in south Florida, it is important to be relevant to your members, and to be at the forefront of fitness trends. KUKUWA® allows us to offer our members a differentiated and engaging program, and one that is here to stay; we couldn’t be more thrilled to have Kukuwa herself join the ClubX family this year!”

Traditional dance in Africa has always occurred collectively, expressing the life of the community more than that of individuals or couples. It’s this feeling of unity within the class that makes this a very attractive option for today. Africa, a continent three times the size of the US, is seen as one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse on the planet. Each dance has its own history, language, song, background, and purpose and cannot be translated to another dance of the same culture much less another dance from somewhere else on the continent. It’s programs like KUKUWA® that has taken this cultural phenomenon and developed programs that can be enjoyed by a diverse demographic internationally. In closing, Kukuwa said, “African dance is a wonderful change from the mundane treadmill, stair climber or elliptical gym-going experience. There is something so exotic and liberating about bare feet moving to the rhythm of the djembe drums in a full body head to toe workout. It is tremendous fun, awakening every muscle in your body, and it’s an honor being able to be at the forefront of this exciting fitness movement.”