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A focus on the South African Gumboot Dance

Updated on March 25, 2015

Origins of the moves in Gumboot Dance


Gumboot dance is a kind of dance that was conceived by the South African miners as a replacement to drumming which had been restricted by the authorities. The dance was also employed by the South African miners to motivate them in their mining works. Moreover, mining workers also utilized the dance in conveying hidden messages, which they did not want other people to hear. Gumboot Dance is not from one single South African ethnic group, but a product of men from various Southern African ethnic groups coming together and dancing together.”

Botswana Dance

Botswana dance resembles that of Gumboot dance in many ways. For instance, while dancing, Botswana dancers do not laugh, talk or have any form of fun. In addition to these is that they are wearing their gumboots while dancing. Similar to the practice in Gumboot dance, Botswana dance is typified by hitting, clapping and stomping the gumboots against each in creating the frequencies of beats and which relay specific meaning and messages.

The Swazi

Contrary to Botswana dancing where dancers are quiet and do not express any form of talk or fun, the Swazi dancers express frustration, anger, joy and happiness. While on stage, the Swazi dancers bring out a variety of dynamics in uniform movements. These presents a different form of Gumboot dance which at times employs expressions of happiness, joy or frustration as a form of conveying specific messages. There is also a township jive, which has a strong relationship with the Gumboot dance with rocking and whistles.

Other features of the Swazi dance which are also incorporated in the Gamboot dance is the rhythmic slapping of palms who constantly beat the gumboot clad legs which are enhanced by fast, African foot movements. Moreover, Swazi dancers are in takkies instead of tap shoes.


Zulu dance has also some features that exemplify those of the Gamboot dance in South Africa. The dancers carry sticks normally used in clan fighting. The team of Zulu dancers comprises of eight members with the leader calling out dance sequences. Further, the leader also acts as a soloist since he is the one who introduces the next sequence through a specific solo pattern demonstration. Furthermore, the sequences and words of the Zulu dance includes specific words such as abelungu and ‘skhula numtwana'. These words are used in relaying hidden messages that are intended to be known only by the members only.


The Pedi dance is a satirical and humorous engagement that depicts various life aspects. Similar to the Zulu dance, the Pedi dance also contains words that relates to fighting, wars and militaristic aspects. While dancing, Pedi dancers loosen their bodies and free themselves. However, the rhythms and sounds are tight and precise.


The Xhosa dance consists of a group of men who stomps their feet, slaps their feet, bodies and hats and move around to the rhythm. The dancing is typified by gyrating, kicking and coiling which is followed by joyfulness. There are frequent claps that are complimented by repetitive steps. While the spectators feet are tapping, there are some who are chanting with their beats. Seeing the men performing in unison is an experience that cannot be easily forgotten.


In essence, Gumboot dancing is an integration of different forms of cultural distinction that are super imposed on the old cultural aspects of different communities.


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