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Igbo Traditional Dances

Updated on December 19, 2016

Igbo culture

Igbo culture
Igbo culture | Source

Young igbo girls dancing

Young Igbo girls dancing
Young Igbo girls dancing | Source

Igbo Dance Culture

The igbo people are renown for their different traditional dances, colorful attires and melodious music. The traditional dancers are usually accompanied by musicians playing locally fabricated instruments.

The popular instruments found in such performances are drums such as the Egede, Ekwe slit drum and udu pot drum. Other instruments are ogene gong, olu gong, okpola woodblock, ichaka and oja flutes.

The dancers usually gyrate to heavy percussion beats that are either rendered in fast pulsation sound or deliberately slow presentations. Every sub region or clan in igbo land have their own unique dance steps and renditions.

However there are common similarities and some performances that are notable. Some of the popular and highly entertaining Igbo traditional dances are Atilogwu and Omuru-Onwa.

Others are Agbacha-ekuru-nwa, Mmanwu, Egedege and Ikpirikpi-ogu. Most dance forms are associated to different occasions such as war, puberty, age grade, matrimony and entertainment.

Igbo people have different types of masquerades that are accompanied by their own special music and dance style. Dance is an integral part of igbo culture especially during celebratory periods.

The art form is expressive, fun, has deep significant meaning or ritual undertones. The dances unite the people in social interaction, spiritual, entertainment or communal purposes.

Sometimes the performances tell a story or historical interpretation of their way of life. Here are a few notable igbo traditional dances.

Queen Theresa

Egedege Dance

Egedege Dance
Egedege Dance

Egedege Dance

The Egedege dance is an ancient dance form performed by youths of Unubi. The traditional dance was performed in front of rich aristocratic families and royalty.

The dancers wore colorful traditional outfits led by a lead singer regarded as the queen. The queen usually wore a huge crown decorated with different embellishments such as beads, cowries, raffia and feathers.

The queen’s outfits are usually outlandish, beautiful and highly elaborate in design. The expensive outfit features a bronze crown decorated with ostrich feathers, decorative robe and waist beads.

She carries a horsetail and a symbolic staff usually made from bronze. The dancers are also nicely attired in beaded necklaces, raffia waist shrouds, ankle bracelets and arm bands.

The dancers outfits are made to have uniformity for better interpretation of their performance. Before a performance the dancers are heralded by elaborate flute playing to introduce the group.

The songs and dance led by the queen are accompanied by local instruments. The group dances to different tempos from the ogene drum, flute, udu and ekwe instruments.

The queen was sometimes introduced carried in a regal way under a canopy cover or umbrella. The Egedege dance was also performed during major festivals, aristocratic marriages and events.

Modern interpretation of the dance form was established and popularized by Queen Theresa Onuorah. The performer leads her group aptly named the Egedege dance troupe of Africa.

Atilogwu dance

Atilogwu dance
Atilogwu dance
Atilogwu dance
Atilogwu dance

Ezeagu Atilogwu

Ezeagu Atilogwu
Ezeagu Atilogwu


Ezeagu Atilogwu

Among the different dance forms in Ezeaguland one of the most celebrated and famous is Atilogwu dance. The dance is popular in Ezeagu, Ebenebe, Ugbanu, and Igbo-Ukwu autonomous areas. Atilogwu is an amalgamation of five traditional dances such as Mpokiti and Nkwa.

Other dance forms in Atilogwu are Anaku, Ogwulogwu, Mgbaga and Ochufulu. The entertaining dance features elaborate dance steps and high energy acrobatic displays.

The history of Ezeagu Atilogwu dates back to 1947 in Lagos. The Ezeagu Improvement Union popularized the dance form.

The igbo youths in Lagos at the time were taught the dance style by many payoneer instructors such as Cyprian Oke, Sylvester Ejiofor, Godwin Ofor, Goddy Okeke and a host of others.

The new dance form premiered during a condolence visit and on National Igbo day in 1948. The amazing acrobatic displays, elaborate dance steps and melodious music attracted nation and international recognition.

After a brief hiatus due to the Nigeria civil war a resurgence of the dance form was establish by Sylvanus Anidu at Enugu in 1962. Atilogwu dance is usually performed by energetic youths in ethnic costumes.

They perform feats of acrobatic displays, intricate footwork and choreographed stunts. The costume of the dancers includes colorful sleeveless vests and beaded crown cap on head.

They wear raffia skirts and raffia around the knee and upper arm. The musical accompaniments are usually flute and other traditional Igbo instruments. The Atilogwu dance form is similar to the Mpokiti dance and the origin can be traced to Orumba area of Anambra state.

Ikpirikpi-ogu War Dance

Ikpirikpi-ogu War Dance
Ikpirikpi-ogu War Dance
Ikpirikpi-ogu War Dance
Ikpirikpi-ogu War Dance
Ikpirikpi-ogu War Dance
Ikpirikpi-ogu War Dance
Ikpirikpi-ogu War Dance
Ikpirikpi-ogu War Dance

Ikpirikpi-ogu War Dance

The Ikpirikpi-ogu war dance is synonymous to people of Abam local government area of Abia state. The frightful dance was usually performed to welcome brave warriors from battle.

In the olden days there were many inter ethic tribal wars and disputes. The war dance is performed strictly by men of the tribe and symbolizes valor, strength and bravery.

It portrays a sense of solidarity, community, unity and single purpose. The dance is to honor brave warrior for defending the community against foreign invaders.

Although the dance is still performed today it is simply for entertainment purposes and to reminisce ancient day. Today the dance is performed at important ceremonies, community events and festivals.

The performers are usually bare chest showcasing muscular abs. They wear long red and white striped caps with black skirts or shorts.

On their upper arm they wear raffia, neck chains and wrist bands and brandish cutlasses. A member of the group usually carries a large ornament on his head. The dance form involves vigorous chest movements and jolty steps.

A dramatization of Ikpirikpi Ogu Dance

Igbo Women Cultural Dance

Igbo Women Cultural Dance
Igbo Women Cultural Dance

Omuru-onwa and Agbacha-ekuru-nwa

The Omuru-onwa dance is performed by new mothers, older women and married women. The dance fosters communal fellowship between married women from a particular community.

The dance involve rigorous hip swinging, rhythmic body movement and elaborate dance sequence. Apart from bringing the women together they use the dance to keep in shape, exercise or to lose weight.

The women in the group dance at child naming, celebrations and local gatherings. They also aid each other through communal activities, crowdfunding and other beneficial practices.

The dancers wear uniform attire that consists of white blouse, wrapper and head tie. The wrapper and head tie are usually the same color for uniformity.

Maiden Dance

Which dance is performed by maidens

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Mothers and Married Women Group

Omuru-onwa and Agbacha-ekuru-nwa
Omuru-onwa and Agbacha-ekuru-nwa

Igbo Dances

Masquerade Dances
Dance Performed by Women
Notable Dances
Egedege Dance
Ezeagu Atilogwu
Nkwa umu-Agbogho
Ikpirikpi-ogu War Dance

Maiden Dance

Maiden Dance
Maiden Dance
Maiden Dance
Maiden Dance
Maiden Dance
Maiden Dance

Nkwa umu-Agbogho

The nkwa umu-Agbogho is a maiden dance performed by young ladies. The dance is to attract eligible suitors for marriage.

The dance involves movement of waste and chest region to melodious rhythms. There is a hint of seduction in their performances in a clean healthy way.

The dance is both flirtatious and enchanting, showcasing their youthful prowess. The uniformed outfits are usually monochrome and comprises off shoulder blouses, and flared skirts.

The head is adorned with beads or a simple headband. They carry horsetail on the hand, bangles on wrist and beads around the waist. They dance to local Igbo instruments such as the slit drum and hand rattle.

Different Masquerades

Ijele Masquerade
Ijele Masquerade
The Adamma masquerade
The Adamma masquerade

Masquerade Dances

The performance of different masquerades is an integral part of igbo culture. There are thousands of masquerades with their own dance steps, tunes and purpose.

Masquerades come out only on special occasions such as coronations, burials, marriages and major festivals. Although majority of masquerades in igbo land represents different spirits and deities some are purely for fun and entertainment.

Notable masquerades are the Mmanwu, Ekpe,Ijele and adamma masquerades.

The Adamma masquerade- adorns female attire same as the dancers. The dancers are male sometimes wearing female apparel.

The masquerade is simply for entertainment purposes and has no spiritual undertones. The masquerades outfit features long braided hair, gloved hand and female cloths. The dance step is usually high paced energetic and riveting.

Mmanwu masquerade -The Mmanwu masquerade is associated to a secret society within a community. The initiated adult male whose identity are unknown perform with the masquerade.

The masquerade performs feats of physical dexterity, dance and complexity. The Mmanwu is believed to be spirits of a deity and feature in select ceremonies, funerals and festivals.

Other functions of the masquerade involve protection, penalties, delivery of judgments including community police. The Mmanwu masquerades are divided into invisible and visible masquerade. The invisible masquerade operates only at night and strikes fear in un-initiated village folks.

Ijele Masquerade- Ijele is one of the most elaborate masquerades in igbo land. Referred to as the king masquerade it is beautifully adorned with delicate craftsmanship, symbols, colored cloths and figurines.

Igbo traditional dances are fun, energetic, colorful and significant to the occasion.

Ogbaru Masquerade

Famous Igbo Dances

1 Atilogwu Abigbo Dance

2 Egwu Amala Dance

3 Egwu Ogene Dance

4 Ode Dance

5 Odebara Dance

6 Nkwa Dance

7 Mkpokiti Dance

8 Akwunechenyi Dance

9 Nkwa Umuagbogho Dance

10 Nkwa Nwite Dance

11 Egwu Ubo Dance

12 Okanga Dance

13 Egedege Dance

14 Adamma Dance

15 Mgbaga,

16 Agbacha Ekuru Nwa Dance

17 Egwu Ijele Dance

18 Ntukpo Dance

19 Odegelu

20 Igede and Igba-Udugongo.

© 2016 femi


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    • tony55 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 months ago from Nigeria

      Thanks,the igbo people are proud of their culture and traditions.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      5 months ago from England

      A fascinating look at these amazing people and their dances. Great article!

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Igbo people culture is interesting


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