A dance is the formal result of a certain kind of symbolic transformation of reality. The instinct that moves the dancer is that of measuring and forming the space with his own body. In the archaic conception life is certified by the presence of movement. A primary characteristic of every living being is that of having a shape and a movement. So, the imitation of those shapes and movements is for the archaic man the most adequate way to catch its force and magic. The animals themselves are keepers of magical powers; imitating them means to seize this power and control it. The imitation is attained by a continuous and precise observation of nature and by its exact application to the real.
Trois Frères cave (Ariège, France, from Breuil). Scene “of charm”. The masked human figure follows with a hopping gait a group of animals playing the musical bow, a one-string instrument whose sound is amplified by the mouth, which acts as a sound box. The action of the famous “sorcerer” is magic and addressed to the animal world. The dance which imitates the animal movements also wants to reach the magical effect of subjecting them to the power of the hunters, to propitiate their breeding or appease their spirit after the killing.
The Bushman of Namibia still plays the musical bow today.
At the center of the ceremonial space a group of Bushman shamans is engaged in the dance of the mantis (Kaggen), god of life and Supreme Being of the San. All around the men and the women close the circle accompanying rhythmically the dance with hand clapping. The events mimed in the dance belong to a cycle of myths on the creation of the world that the Bushmen hand down from generation to generation. (Kalahari desert, State of Orange, South Africa, from Lewis Williams).