Korhogo was one of those overland stops with a bit of everything. We saw cloth being woven and decorated, granite being chipped, bead making, wood being carved, a typical village, and some amazing traditional dancing.

We’d been told that the dances were quite athletic, but you can never be exactly sure what that means. Turns out the star attraction is the Boloye, or the Dance of the Panther. The name stems from the fact that dancers wear costumes that are reminiscent of panther fur. And the dance is definitely energetic.

Dance of the Panther, Ivory Coast

An airborne dancer

Dance of the Panther, Ivory Coast

Airborne again

Historically, the Boloye was a sacred dance of the Sénoufo (Senufo) community in the Ivory Coast. It used to be performed only at funerals and possibly at initiation rites, but now it’s more widely shown. It must be highly regarded because photos of this type of dance were featured on tourist posters throughout the region.

We saw the dance performed in the village of Waraniéné. 

The event started with an ad hoc dance by children. It went on for about 15 minutes with the assembled band providing music. Eventually, some of these kids will be part of the main attraction, but that day they were improvising. It was great fun to see their moves.

One thing you might notice from the pics of the kids dancing is that people carry babies on their backs. We saw that all over Africa—this time and 10 years ago. Women, children and sometimes men wrap a cloth around their waists to hold their babies securely on their backs. It’s a fantastic way to do hands-free carrying. I’m surprised it has never caught on in the West.

Kids dancing, Ivory CoastKids dancing, Ivory Coast


Kids dancing, Ivory Coast


Carrying a baby, Ivory Coast

But back to the main performance. 

The all-male band had about 15 members. That said, a few other men wore the same blue and white shirts and black and white beanies as the band members, but seemed to have more of a managerial role.

I’m pretty sure the instruments were the shekere, a gourd covered in netting and wooden beads, and a larger drum, that looks a bit like a kora but doesn’t appear to have strings. I haven’t been able to find a name for the latter instrument.

A shekere, African instrument

Our guide shows us a shekere up close

Musicians for the Dance of the Panther, Ivory Coast

The band plays and sings

I guessing that most of the costumes were made of cotton, and you can see that they were dyed in earthy colours, as well as black. Their ankles were decorated with grass or wool (not sure which) and they had twigs for hands.

There were nine masked dancers, presumably all male. I believe the small one was a child. They entered single file and did an introductory routine (shown in the first video). You can see how they greet/acknowledge each of the band members, as well as the audience in general. You’ll see one dancer shoo a couple of children away from the ‘dance floor’.

Dance of the Panther, Ivory Coast

The youngest performer

Dance of the Panther, Ivory Coast

The most elaborate costume

All the dancers then sat on the ground off to the left and performed one by one. In the last video, you can see how they greet/acknowledge their fellow dancers before each performance. You’ll also see just how athletic these guys are.

Each dancer did at least three routines and while some were more complicated and athletic than others, they were all excellent and well timed. I was especially impressed by how well the dances and music complemented one another. Clearly these are routines that are well rehearsed.

 

 

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