Bachata and merengue both originated in the Dominican Republic, and it’s the place to go if you want to immerse yourself in a culture where people love these music and dance styles.
I spent two wonderful years living in the capital, Santo Domino. On my small street, there were two colmados (corner stores) where bachata or merengue were played on full blast all day long. On Fridays and Saturdays, my friends and I would go from location to location to dance, drink Presidente beer, and hang out. As a dance-obsessed traveler, I was in heaven.
So many people have reached out to me for dance recommendations that I’ve created a dance map of Santo Domingo. You can find it here. The dance map includes information on where to…
1) Dance most nights of the week, as well as what to wear to each venue
2) Shop for dance clothes and shoes
3) Stay in the city
I also share many of my other favorite tips for having a great time dancing while in the DR.
If you want one hot tip, watch the video below. I created this video on my very first trip to the Dominican Republic when I was scouting for a future retreat.
For all the wonderful details about the many, many places to dance in Santo Domingo, grab my dance map!
Africa is home to many rich and varied music and dance traditions. Artists around the world continue to innovate and expand upon these traditional styles. Modern-day dances in Africa have inspired the creativity of millions around the world. Check out some of the most influential dance styles inspiring creativity and joy.
Jerusalema (South Africa and Angola Dance)
Popularized with a dance challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic, Jersalema inspired millions. It started as a South African song, combined with dance steps from Angola, and reached everyone from politicians to priests.
After the Jerusalem topped South African charts in December, it wasn’t until February 2020 that the dance wave started. A group of friends in Angola created a video of themselves performing a line dance to the music. They called it the “Jerusalema Dance Challenge,” and it quickly went viral. The choreography has been performed by groups as varied as Portuguese healthcare workers, Dominican nuns, and Ghanaian army personnel. The dance challenge was also endorsed by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa as a way to uplift people in his country during the pandemic.
Odi Dance (Kenya)
Odi became widely known when the artists Timeless Noel, Hype Ochi and Jabiddi performed it in this video. The name “Odi” is slang for ordinary. According to Timeless Noel, the choreography was inspired by his desire to create simple moves that even ordinary people could dance to. While Odi originally first went viral in 2018, it recently had a second wave of popularity thanks to a video of Kenyans dancing in hospital gowns and hazmat suits at a COVID19 quarantine facility. It is now one of the most popular dances in Africa.
Pilolo Dance (Ghana)
Ghanaian dancer and choreographer Amofa Michael — popularly known as Zigi — created the pilolo dance steps. The name “pilolo” was inspired by a game similar to hide and seek that is popular among Ghanaian kids. Pilolo made its mainstage debut in the United States in 2018 when Janet Jackson executed the moves at the end of her performance of “Made for Now” on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon. In an interview shortly after, Zigi said that watching the American pop star do his moves brought him to tears.
Shaku Shaku (Nigeria)
Shaku Shaku is a contemporary Nigerian street dance. Many credit the Nigerian rap superstar Olamide for turning it into an international sensation. In 2017, Olamide featured Shaku Shaku dancers in the music video for his hit song “Wo”and his annual Olamide Live in Concert (OLIC 4) event. The internet now has many tutorials about the dance. You can find other music videos by artists such as Afro B and Wizkid that feature Shaku Shaku.
Kizomba, which means “party” in the language of Kimbundu, is a type of Angolan music and partner dance that dates back to the 1980s. Today the dance is not just popular in Angola, but also across the globe. Kizomba is now featured at many latin dance festivals and events worldwide. There is such an interest in Kizomba, that some believe it could benefit Angola’s economy via tourism. This is similar to how tango encourages tourism in Argentina. Watch a quick video about kizomba in Angola here or a video of international instructors Lucien and Isabelle here.
Learn more about dances in Africa at the links below:
DANCE IS A VIBRANT FORCE FOR CULTURAL IMMERSION DURING TRAVEL
New Book by Dance Travel Expert Spotlights How Dance Connects Travelers to Community, History, and Cultures Abroad
Dance Adventures: True Stories About Dancing Abroad by Founder of Dance Travel Company Releases December 2020
How can people with no shared language communicate? How can someone who has just arrived in a foreign country quickly make friends or meaningfully engage with local culture? To former professional dancer Megan Taylor Morrison, now a life coach and dance travel expert, the answer couldn’t be clearer:
In her new book Dance Adventures: True Stories About Dancing Abroad, Morrison demonstrates that dance can forge connections between people from different backgrounds, as well as lead to cross cultural experiences that promote greater understanding of another culture or engender tremendous personal growth for the traveler.
For many of us during the age of COVID-19, life-giving experiences are in short supply. The things we love – attending incredible dance performances, going to dance classes, or hugging people within our dance communities – feel far away. Dance Adventures brings the wonder of adventure and movement to readers, wherever they may be.
This anthology includes 19 true stories written by a diverse group of renowned performers, dedicated dance teachers, dance scholars, and other avid dance travelers who:
● Explore their craft in locations tied to their family history and discover how dance helps them connect with their heritage;
● Build bonds and community with locals through a shared love of movement; ● Challenge their assumptions, embrace the unknown and find surprising new truths by saying “yes” to spontaneous opportunities; or
● Reflect on who they are and discover how dance can make them a better version of themselves.
The contributors hail from all corners of the world, and the stories take place in 17 different countries including India, China, Senegal, Philippines, Angola, Brazil, Morocco, Cuba, China and Mozambique. Contributors include:
Courtney Celeste Spears, a dancer with the world-renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. In Dance Adventures, she writes about her experience returning to her second home in The Bahamas and serving as an ambassador between her family, her heritage, and her dance company. For Spears, dance brought the two worlds she cherished together.
Indian-American folk dancer Dr. Ted Samuel, who embarks on a year abroad in South India where his parents are from. As a member of the Indian diaspora, he initially faces the challenges of feeling like an outsider in India, but ultimately finds an important vehicle for connection in Karagattam: a traditional south Indian folk dance.
Zsuzsi Kapas, a Hungarian dancer whose family immigrated to the United States in 2000 to leave behind a life of ethnic oppression. In Dance Adventures she shares a story from her three-year journey around the world, during which she studied the healing effects of dance and movement improvisation. She writes about her time in Indonesia, where her intensive work with the creator of a dance style known as Joged Amerta Movement led to lessons that helped heal her childhood trauma.
Makeda Kumasi, who teaches West African dance classes at UC Riverside, visits Senegal for the first time. There, she fulfills her long-time dream to set foot on the land of her African ancestors and gains the firsthand knowledge she feels she needs to teach West African dance at the university level. The story highlights her final day in the country, when she visits Gorée Island and confronts the realities of the Atlantic slave trade.
Topics Megan can also address include:
- ● 5 Travel Hacks Only Dancers Know
- ● Cool Dances Around The World You’ve Never Heard Of
- ● Why Dance Travel is the Next Frontier of Tourism
- ● How Dance Changes Us: Life Lessons learned While Dancing Around the World
Each of the stories in Dance Adventures highlights a way that dance travel leads to meaningful experiences, thereby shaping a person’s identity, facilitating their personal growth, or uniting them with people from different backgrounds.
About the Author
Megan Taylor Morrison is an avid dance adventurer and certified life and business coach. She has studied local dance forms in 16 countries on six continents, as well as designed and co-led dance retreats to Argentina, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic. In partnership with Melaina Spitzer, Meg debuted the talk “Dance Travel: The Next Era of Dance Education,” at the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO) Conference in 2018.
Through lectures, roundtables, and articles, Meg continues to share best practices for cultural immersion through the arts. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s in international affairs and French from the University of Puget Sound.
Advance Praise for Dance Adventures
“Armchair travel has never had it so good! Dropping into these cultural adventures is like landing feet first on the most dynamic dance floors around the globe. Each carefully curated story gives a dancer’s eye-view of the people, places, and practices that enrich our planet.”
—Mark Metz, publisher of Conscious Dancer Magazine and founder of The Dance First Association
“This book is indispensable in light of the current social momentum with regard to Black lives and the dismantling of violent systems. Many of the stories portray the experiences of individuals in whom multiple languages, customs, and spaces coexist, and for whom dance is the unifying factor.” —Moncell Durden, Assistant Professor of Practice, USC Kaufman School of Dance
“Dance Adventures contains beautiful moments of transformation and connection through dance—a wonderful extension of Meg’s own mission. The anthology’s writers create a strong case for using dance to understand the world.”
—Mickela Mallozzi, Emmy® Award-winning TV host of Bare Feet with Mickela Mallozzi
“I was captivated by Megan Taylor Morrison’s Dance Adventures! This vibrant and emotionally explorative collection of tales captures the power of dance in a way that transcends the stage.” —Aisha Mitchell, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater member (2008–2013), Broadway soloist in Oklahoma (2019), and featured performer in The Lion King (2013–2018)
Title: Dance Adventures: True Stories About Dancing Abroad
Author: Megan Taylor Morrison