The Igbo people are one of the three largest ethnic groups in Nigeria. They inhabit the eastern region of the country and are over 32 million in population. The Igbos (Ndi’ Igbo) are bound together by their history, cultures and traditions which include dressing, beliefs, religion, dance, et cetera. Dancing takes higher percentage of the entertainment and spiritual (religion) aspects of the Igbo culture. The Igbos believe that dancing performs more functions other than entertainment in the society, such as spiritual cleansing of the land, training of teenagers to keep fit, preserving history and so on. Of all the traditional dances in Igbo land, Atilogwu is the most popular, widely performed and one of the oldest.
Atilogwu is an amazing youth dance which involves vigorous body movements and a lot of acrobatics. Only agile youths can perform the Atilogwu dance because of its energy sapping moves, stunts and several rigorous training. Other dances in Igbo land (ala Igbo) include: Egwu Ogene, Ode, Odebara, Nkwa, Mkpokiti, Akwunechenyi, Nkwa Umuagbogho, Nkwa Nwite and so on.
The origin of the name ‘Atilogwu’ is traced back to the time when the dance was initiated. Spectators were amazed at the skills showcased by the vibrant Atilogwu dancers which prompted them to ask themselves “is this magic?” and thus the dance got its name, Atilogwu which literally means “is this magic?”. It is worthy of note that Atilogwu dance was derived from the conglomeration of five traditional Igbo dances named: Anam, Ogwulogwu, Anaku, Ochanja and Adunjanja. The exact period when Atilogwu dance came into existence remains unknown but the dance has evolved over the years. New steps and stunts have been added to make it more lively and enticing. Atilogwu has earned both local and international recognition and has been performed all over the world.
The Atilogwu dance is accompanied with fast and rich music produced by different traditional musical instruments such as: drums, a flute-like instrument known as opi, a metal gong called ogene and Ichaka, a beaded gourd. The steps of the dancers tally with the rhythm of the drums and the opi which also dictate the dance steps or moves to the dancers.
The Atilogwu dance is performed on important occasions like coronation, festival, and marriage. It remains one of the oldest and most popular traditional dances in Nigeria.
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- Face 2 Face Africa