dance of masks
(sunday may 9th

the dance begins with the griot approaching a sitting mask and calling the mask to dance with shrill beats on his drum. The griots then lead the mask around the edge of the dance area, where the mask petitions the crowd for power and offer their backs to be touched. Money may be thrown at the masks and various elders draw circles over the masks with the coins. Then, as the beat intensifies, the mask moves to the center and unleashes a ferocious dance -- either by spinning with arms spread out, or by removing the mask and twisting it left to right in a riot of movement and energy.






Each dance is a competition -- trying to outperform the other dancers with pure energy and balance. If a dancer can whirl his arms around in large fast circles and continue for a few minutes, the crowd becomes hysterical -- shouting and screaming and waving their arms in enthusiastic support. Each mask seems to have a band of supporters who rush in to prevent the dancer from collapsing out of dizziness.




members of the crowd are often rushing in to save the dancer from falling, or even to dance themselves. Some carry long branches or whips and make mock beatings causing whole sections of the crowd to bow submissively.



and all the while, the griot is whipping up the crowd into a frenzy with his contagious burst of rythym and high-pitched calling