Just a short while ago I wrote a piece and photo article on what was easily one of the best travel experiences I’ve ever had: witnessing the stilt dancers of Cote d’Ivoire. While hiking well off the highway and arriving in the beautiful village in North-West Cote d’Ivoire would have likely been reward enough, as soon as I arrived kids attacked me so that they could see themselves on camera. Most of these kids had never seen photos of themselves before. It’s always a treat to get to share the joy of photography with kids like that. Of course, moments like that would have been more than enough, however, the stilt dance afterwards was beyond incredible.
Things started quite slowly with a small gathering of people with drums and women dressed in white dancing around them. But soon men in costumes started rolling out and the intensity of the dance grew with every minute. It all really culminated at the end when the stilt dancer came out. It is likely hard enough walking on homemade stilts, but the dancer twirls, hops and kicks along with the dance. It really is an incredible sight.
Moreover, experiencing the stilt dance is a wonderful glimpse into a culture that few people know about. Unfortunately for the curious mind, most of the cultural background in regards to the stilt dance is a bit of a mystery. Secret societies rule the villages out here and although the dances are very public, that’s as much of a look into the culture as outsiders are allowed. Well, actually in the case of the stilt dance it’s even a mystery to the locals. The dancers train for years in complete secrecy, without even their family or friends knowing that they’re taking part of the training. Truly, this is an incredible sight.