If you’ve done the tango in Argentina, waltzed your way through Austria or sambaed the night away in Brazil, there’s one local activity you shouldn’t miss during your Cape Town stay. Put your dancing shoes away and learn how to do the gumboot dance during your stay in Cape Town.
What is Gumboot Dancing?
This expressive form of high energy dance is an enigmatic stomping and slapping affair performed by a group of dancers. Attire consists of long pants, long black rubber boots, a bandana and no shirt. Ladies should add a t-shirt (Cape Town isn’t as liberal as Rio). A safety hat is optional.
The Origins of the Gumboot Dance
Gumboot dancing has its roots deep in African soil where it originated in the mines of the interior and is a remnant of the apartheid era.
During these oppressive times, millions of labourers were employed in the gold mining industry, working under appalling conditions underground. What’s more these workers were subject to numerous archaic rules such as a ban on talking during shifts.
Labouring in the heat, mud and darkness of the bowels of the earth, these teams soon developed their own kind of Morse code, by tapping on the sides of their ‘gumboots’. With a general lack of things to entertain themselves with after hours, these signals soon became incorporated into a dance, known as isicathulo – meaning ‘shoes’ in the Zulu language.
This fun and energetic dance soon spread throughout the country and is even sometimes performed by minstrel troupes during the Tweede Nuwe Jaar parades. You can also see dancers in full regalia putting on performances at the V&A Waterfront.
How to do the Gumboot Dance
If you want to join in the fun, here’s what you need to do. Don a pair of gumboots and start practicing your moves.
Step 1 – Raise one leg with your knee bent so that your thigh is in line with the ground.
Step 2 – Hunch forward and slap the sides of your gumboot alternately (right, left, right) with your hands to the count of 1,2,3.
Step 4 – Stamp your foot down on 4.
Step 5 – Repeat with the other leg.
Step 6 – Assume the ‘posture’. This means bending forward with your weight over your bent knees. Stay like this while you lift your feet during the dance. It’s actually easier to balance this way.
Step 7 – Mix it up. Adjust your 1, 2, 3 down routine to the following 1, 2, 3 down (twice), then 1, 2 down (twice), then 1 and down while exclaiming ‘hey!’.
Congrats! You’ve added gumboot dancing to your international repertoire.
Get in touch today and you could enjoy this and many more fun cultural activities during your stay in Cape Town.