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Common steps and sub-activities

Traditional shaking

We are apt to associate the process of Shaking with the Shakers and Quaking with the Quakers, but both shaking and quaking as techniques are both widely known and have been widely used throughout the world.

Robert W Nicholls – African Dance:  Transition and Continuity

From African Dance – edited by Kariamu Weish Asante

….. Gorer maintains that the M’Deup possession dance of the Wolof of Senegal is not particularly elegant or varied, consisting of small shuffling steps and a violent jerking of the arms and head.


Doris Green – Traditional Dance in Africa

From African Dance – edited by Kariamu Weish Asante

Shaking is found in many dances of the Birnin Kebbe people.  The word ‘rawa’ means to shake.


John W Blassingame: The Slave Community Plantation Life in the Antebellum South

From African Dance – edited by Kariamu Weish Asante

In contrast to most white churches, a meeting in the quarters was the scene of perpetual motion and constant singing.  Swaying the body, patting the foot, clapping hands, and shouts have always been part of the African tradition.  After the praise meeting is over, there usually follows the very singular and impressive performance of the ‘shout’ or religious dance of the Negroes.  Three of four, standing still, clapping their hands and beating time with their feet, commence singing in unison one of the peculiar shout melodies, while the others walk round in a ring, in single file, joining also in the song.  Soon those in the ring leave off their singing and others keeping it up the while with increased vigour and strike into the shout step, observing more accurate time with the music.  This step is something halfway between a shuffle and a dance, as difficult for an uninitiated person to describe as imitate.  At the end of each stanza of the song the dancers stop short with a slight stamp on the last note and then, putting the other foot forward, proceed through the next verse … the shout is a simple outburst and manifestation of religious fervour.

Shaking has been used in the past in combination with meditation techniques by the Tantrics; and Hindus are well aware of the effect of violent physical activity in helping to induce trance like states.  There are also a number of African dances which might be more properly called ‘shaking’.

Generally speaking, the Siberian shamans used dancing of a particularly frenetic kind to induce a spiritual experience, however, it appears that forms of quaking/shaking were also used.

Peter Dobell – Travels in Kamchatka and Siberia with a Narrative of a Residence in China 1830

….. the two Kamchatka women performed in a manner which excited my admiration and astonishment.  Every feature of the face and muscle of the body seemed in motion at the same instant… as if seized with a sort of frenzy… the whole frame was violently agitated and distorted into a hundred different postures; some of the gestures were by no means ungraceful, but at the same time, not altogether decent.