Masai Dance Guide 2023

Masai jumping is a traditional form of Masai warrior initiation. It is an important rite of passage for young boys who are on the verge of becoming men. The boys must jump over high wooden poles in order to prove their courage and physical strength. The activity is performed in front of an audience that includes family members, friends, and elders.

How Masai Jumping is done:

What I learned from the Masai jump is that it is not a regular jump, but a choreographed routine. Instead of using drums, they use only their voices to create the rhythm of the jump. The men start jumping slowly and as they approach the crowd, the volume of their chanting increases and their movements become more intense, creating a steady beat.

It’s not just men. Women join in with the singing. The women in the crowd then start singing as the men enter the circle. It is a human pulse and beat that can be felt in your bones even as it fills the open air. In the center of the circle, two men are jumping higher and higher than before. They are circling back and forth as the energy flows into the corral. They are chanting in a call-and-response manner, which is the signature Maasai adamu dance. Their voices are getting louder as the pitch rises.

Origin of Masai’s Adumu Dance:

As stated on Wikipedia, the Maasai tribe has a history that suggests that the dance originated as a way for young warriors to practice and improve their jumping and leaping skills, which were essential for hunting and fighting.

No scholarly research pinpoints the exact period/century that this tradition stems from but there is consensus that the dance has been adopted generally by men in the community when celebrating significant cultural occasions including weddings, religious rituals, and other community functions.

So is it a dance or jumping?

What makes a Masai jumping dance is its organized structure of jumping sequences performed by the dancers, who stand in a circle and alternately jump in the air while keeping their bodies as straight and upright as possible. In essence, the jumping is an homage to the traditional African dance, although it does not follow any specific set of steps and moves.

Masai Dance is intertwined with the overall culture;

The Adumu dance is a significant cultural ceremony that utilizes various cultural objects and symbolisms. As Katja notes, it is performed by the Maasai people and represents their culture, history, and importance. One crucial aspect of the dance is the use of traditional Maasai clothing. The Maasai people often wrap colorful cloths called shukas around their bodies in a specific manner when they dance. These shukas are typically adorned with intricate beadwork and decorations, and are most commonly red in color, serving as a symbol of the Maasai culture.

What ceremonies are Adumu Dance most notable;

Adumu dance wakes up the calm Masai villages and Manyattas during the Eunoto celebration. The Eunoto ceremony is a rite of passage for Masai boys into adulthood. It lasts for at least ten days and marks their transition to becoming senior warriors, giving them the privilege to choose wives. It is just one of many ceremonies in Masai culture.

The Significance of Masai Dance/Jumping:

Brings the community together:

Masai jumping is a great example of how the community unites to celebrate an important event. The ritual brings together people from all age groups and walks of life, allowing them to share in the joyous occasion.

Promotes physical health:

Masai jumping requires strength and agility, which encourages young boys to lead physically active lifestyles and maintain their physical fitness. It also teaches the importance of personal discipline and respect for tradition.

Encourages creativity:

Masai jumping requires strength and agility, which encourages young boys to lead physically active lifestyles and maintain their physical fitness. It also teaches the importance of personal discipline and respect for tradition.

Masai jumping is an activity that requires skill, imagination, and coordination. It encourages participants to think outside the box and be creative in their approach to movements and jumps.

Jumping ‘Olympics’ is replacing wild hunting;

As noted in this Aljazeera article, the number of lions has plummeted from 30,000 in 1970s to just over 2,000 today because of hunting for sport/fun. A decade ago, the “Maasai Olympics” were created by community leaders and the conservation group Big Life Foundation to replace hunting with sports.

Creates stronger bonds amongst initiates;

Adumu dance is very competitive and initiates must work together to win. This creates a strong bond between them as they rely on each other for support and encouragement. It is also an important way for the Maasai people to demonstrate their commitment to their culture and traditions.

How high can Masai Jump?

Some sources indicate that very physically fit Masai warriors can jump as high as 80 centimeters (according to Katja, an anthropologist) and others quote 3 feet vertically (according to this blog) while unaided by any external means. This form of jumping is a testament to the physical strength and endurance that have been built up over centuries of practice. When you convert 80 centimeters to feet, it equates to 2.6 feet – just under 3 feet so I would say the accurate estimate of the possible highest jumping a Masai can reach is 3 feet.

Is a 3 ft vertical jump very high?

Comparatively, competitive sportsmen and women jump higher than this in their respective sports. However, when taking into account that the Masai Jumpers jump vertically and are not using any external tools to aid them in jumping – such as a running start or a pole vault- 3 feet is considered an impressive height for their traditional jumping.

Why do Masai Jump so high?

The Masai people are a proud and incredibly powerful tribe who have been performing the ceremonial dance of Adumu since ancient times. The purpose of the jump is to demonstrate strength, pride, power, and vitality within the Maasai community. As mentioned earlier, it was also a practical way for young warriors to practice their leaping skills for hunting and fighting – skills that remain important for the Masai culture today.

Video of Masai Traditional Dance, Adumu;

Below is a video of a group of Masai youth dancing the adumu jumping dance;

FAQs

What is the Maasai traditional jumping dance called?

The Maasai people of Kenya and Tanzania perform a dance called Adumu or jumping dance. During weddings, religious ceremonies, and other important cultural celebrations, young Maasai warriors energetically and acrobatically showcase this traditional dance. The dance involves a lot of jumping up and down.

When you take a Masai Safari, make sure to ask your tour operator to incorporate a visit to a Masai village where you can see Adumu dance live for less than $20. Read about our Masai Mara safari from Nairobi here with this experience incorporated.

Related: Why do Masais wear Red Clothes?