Dancing Along the River Niger
with Marc Kotz


Experience some of the dancing, drumming and singing that serve as primary forms of cultural expression along the Niger River in west and central Africa.

Participants will learn about the communications of the griot (a storyteller /historian,) “talking drums,” and dances related to food/famine, war/peace, and world religions.

On this e-field trip your students will take a cultural journey into West and Central Africa following the continent’s third largest river, the Niger. They will experience some of the dancing, drumming and singing that serve as primary forms of cultural expression and community connection throughout the region. They will be introduced to the communications of the griot (a storyteller/historian); “talking drums”; and learn dances related to food and famine, war and peace, and world religions. The program takes you through the half-dozen countries in which the Niger flows, making stops at places such as Timbuktu (to learn about the ancient empires of Mali), and in Nigeria (to observe the Yoruba people in their religious practices). There is no better way to appreciate the life and history of a land and its people than to sample their traditional expressions and unique ways of knowing themselves!

Learning Objectives:

Students will

  • experience dance as an expression of traditional cultures and values.
  • understand the role of dancing, singing and drumming in African cultures and along the Niger
  • appreciate the diversity of culture, history and tradition on the African continent
  • become familiar with the Niger River, its course and unique attributes

Program Format:

  1. In preparation for the journey, students participate in a “harvest” dance, simulating the motions and gestures involved in producing agricultural crops. Discussion is included of how most traditional African dances express a story or some aspect of daily life.
  2. The journey proceeds while learning about the “Griot” of West Africa, a traveling singer/storyteller whose purpose it is to entertain, recite genealogy, and sing the praises or criticisms of their hosts.
  3. Students get an overview of the ancient Songhai Empire and celebrate the significant location of Timbuktu, which is at once remote and yet a gateway to the Sahara desert, with proximity to the inland Niger estuary.
  4. Participants are introduced to the Yoruba people of Nigeria and their religion. A Woman Warrior dance is learned in honor of the Goddess Oya, emphasizing the strong and powerful nature of pre-colonial women in Africa.
  5. The last leg of the journey is accompanied by the sounds of talking drums as they guide us to the Gulf of Guinea. A brief lesson in the talking drums emphasizes how this form of communication is similar to travel in that it can be conveyed over long distances.
  6. A Yoruba peace dance and song is learned and performed upon reaching the mouth of the Niger. Praises are given for completion of a successful, fascinating journey, and prayers are made for peace.


Students, grades 3-12

Primary Disciplines:

History, Social Studies, Fine Arts, Performing Arts, Phy Ed

Cost per session/school:

$150 per session

To register or for more information:
Visit the Center for Interactive Learning & Collaboration (CILC) for more details, including standards met by this program.


View a video about this and Marc’s other efield trip offerings

Comments about this program:

“Thank you so much for the effort in coordinating the video conference on Niger River Dance…The overwhelming response from kids today was so encouraging. Some went home and shared the dances with families, others talked about it.” Northern York County School District, Pennsylvania

“The students really enjoyed the interactive nature of the program and learned a lot. [We] gained a better understanding on how to tell a story with different dances and also learned something new about the history and culture of the places that the river Niger flows through. The program helped the students to see dance as an expression of the culture of a group of people and their everyday experiences in life. The students learned about the creativity of people, their survival and their search for peace around them in the midst of war.The concepts learned may not have been gained in a traditional setting because they needed space for dancing and communication.” Ms. Gbemre, Ms. Garza, Fort Bend High School, Texas

“My students enjoyed it. It was fun, interactive, informative.It is a nice option for bringing a guest artist into the classroom when a local person is not available.” Anonymous


About the presenter:

Marc Kotz is a life-long performing artist and teacher who delights in venturing to other cultures and times through the means of dance, theater, music and educational exploration. His career has taken him around the world, (literally and figuratively) delving into diverse cultures and artistic disciplines. He has performed in numerous dance and theater forms, collaborated on two dozen plays/musicals/operas and has choreographed and directed ten concert-length productions, half of which were his own original scripts. Marc received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowas as an Iowa Arts Fellow, has taught all ages from pre-school to the aged (including 12 years at the university level) and directs his own arts-integration company, Born 2 Move Movement Adventures, LLC.


For more information, contact:

Dean Leisgang
Distance Learning Coordinator & Scheduler
(920) 617-5633



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