The best dance spots in Dakar
Here’s where to get your groove on in the capital of Senegal
West Africa’s dance scenes are as vibrant as its diversity of cultures (more than four hundred ethnic groups call this region home). One of the area’s most interesting scenes can be found in Dakar, a city on the westernmost point of West Africa. Dance clubs in Senegal’s cosmopolitan capital bring together the local traditions of sabar and djembe (local drum rhythms with an accompanying dance) with the hugely popular Latin influences of kizomba, salsa, zouk, rumba, meringue and dance hall. Mix them all together with a splash of hip hop and you get a cool, multicultural fusion that never ceases to excite the senses.
So, next time you’re in Dakar, head to one of the following spots, order a chilled glass of bissap, and throw some shapes on the dancefloor!
Dance everything from kizomba to hip hop at The Dance Hall / Image: Siaka Soppo Traoré
Throwing shapes at The Dance Hall / Image: Siaka Soppo Traoré
The Dance Hall is touted as the first of its kind in Dakar. Here, certified dance instructors offer lessons in styles such as salsa, kizomba, modern afro, dancehall, basic hip hop, urban for kids…and there’s even a class called bootylicious. Amateur dance enthusiasts and fitness lovers can also enjoy pop-up courses like bachata, the sensuous dance from the Dominican Republic and belly-dancing from North Africa. Most of the classes take place in the evening hours so hop in a taxi and make your way to Dakar’s neighbourhood of Mermoz. It’s easy to make friends at The Dance Hall – students and instructors come together like a big family.
2 étage, immeuble BOA, Km 4,5 route de Ouakam
If you want an energetic nighttime club experience, follow the crowd and head to Vogue Super Club. This swanky discotheque in the upscale Almadies neighborhood is where locals, tourists, and (sometimes) celebrities dance the night away to the pulsing sounds of afrobeats, hip hop, coupe decalé, amapiano, electronica and American pop. Once a week, there’s a mbalax (basically Senegalese pop music) night. The music is an intriguing and explosive blend of sabar, Latin-inspired rhythms and hip hop and, once you hear it, you’ll definitely want to dance. The dress code here is strict. Dress to impress or you might not get a chance to get your groove at this hot spot.
Rte des Almadies
If you’re ready to take your dance skills to the next level, you’ll have to head 80 miles east of Dakar to Toubab Dialaw. The little town is home to Ecole des Sables (School of the Sands), the most prestigious dance institution in West Africa. It’s run by Germaine Acogny, a renowned dancer/choreographer who is regarded as the ‘mother of contemporary African dance’. The school offers intense training for professional dancers; many travel from all over the world to learn Acogny’s complex technique and explore new genres. A course here is a worthy investment in any dancer’s career.
BP 22626-15523 Dakar Dakar SN, Toubab Dialao 15523
This venue is beloved by kizomba, rumba and salsa fans. Salsa (which borrows heavily from West African music genres) has had an enormous following in West and Central Africa since the 1920s, and – along with rumba – the dance remains a craze. Kizomba is a similar (and very intimate) partner dance that was brought to Dakar by its Cape Verdean diaspora. Complexe Hibiscus is a great place to experience all three types of dance and give them a go yourself in a welcoming atmosphere. If you need some fuel for your moving and shaking, this place also serves food.
23 Rue 7
Established in 1965, this theatre named after the Senegalese-French actor is a historic institution in the heart of downtown Dakar. More than a thousand spectators can fit in this beautiful space and watch the dazzling National Ballet of Senegal. Its performers display the traditional dances of Senegal’s largest ethnic groups, including the Fulani, the Wolof, the Serer, the Diola, and the Mandinka – a cultural tour of Senegal and you don’t even have to leave your seat. It’s not uncommon for spectators to get up and dance by their seats or hop on the stage, too, so get involved if the mood strikes.
45 Bd. de la République Dakar
One of the most popular night clubs in Dakar, Castel is where the locals and nationals from other African countries go to hang out and have fun. It rivals Vogue Super Club, but Castel is less touristy. You’ll hear more mbalax, hip hop, dance hall/reggae, R&B and Nigerian afrobeats here. Joyful madness unfolds at Castel so expect a wild night.
10561, Sacré coeur 3 ext., Voie de dégagement Nord