Photos At the end of the rainy season, in the Sahel of Niger, up to 1000 Wodaabe nomads come together for a courtship ceremony called the Geerewol. Young Wodaabe men dress and decorate themselves for the upcoming festivities. Three dances will be performed: The Rume Welcoming Dance, the Yaake Charm Dance, and the Geerewol Dance of Beauty.Among male cousins of the same age, called Waldeebe, the tradition of reserve that normally governs the Wodaabe is lifted. These two Waldeebe, who openly display affection toward one another, may court and seduce the same girl.A young woman tresses the hair of two Waldeebe during the courtship season.The Ruume circle dance is performed to welcome the guests. The rhythmic repeition creates a hypnotic effect as the men sing paeans to female grace and beauty.A male Charm Dancer applies face make-up to attract the females who will judge his performance at the Geerewol ceremony. He uses pale yellow powder to lighten the face, borders of black kohl to highlight the whiteness of the teeth and eyes, and a painted line from forehead to chin to elongate the nose. Another Wodaabe man wraps a 12-foot-long turban in preparation for the Yaake, the competition for charm and personality.During the courtship season, two young women put finishing touches to their delicate jewlry and finely braided hair. Their indigo skirts are handembroidered with symbolic abstract designs.Young girls attend the dances, shielding their glances. It is considered unacceptable to gaze openly at a desirable dancer.Admired for their fine features, tattoos and face paint, three Wodaabe women are chosen to judge the men’s Charm Dance. When judging the men, the women must gaze coyly from beneath their veils. By tradition, they are not allowed to look directly at the object of their desire.Left: A Yaake dance judge carries an umbrella to shield her from the harsh Saharan sun. Discretely, she studies the male charm dancers. Right: A Geerewol Judge with long plaits of hair wrapped in brass coils and heavy brass anklets called Jabo awaits the arrival of the beauty dancers.A married woman decorates her wedding bed, which she carries by camel during each migration from one camp to another. A young girl adorns her mother’s wooden bedposts with metal thumbtacks and colorful plastic cut-outs. The Wodaabe are renowned for their talent in incorporating found objects from the outside world into their traditional style.During the Yaake charm celebration, a line of young Wodaabe men dance with rolling eyes and flashing teeth to impress their female judges. They sport embroidered tunics and white turbans. Two dancers accentuate their facial movements with a display irresistible to the women.As male dancers perform the Yaake Charm Dance, an elder woman dashes up and down the line of dancers, alternately praising and mocking them. If a dancer’s performance is exceptional, the woman dashes toward him yelling “Yeeee hoo!” and gently butts him on the torso with her head.At the climax of the Yaake Charm Dance, the finalists are singled out. If a man can hold one eye still while rolling the other, he is considered particularly alluring to his female judges. The Wodaabe say that it is through the strength of the eyes that marriages are made. The man in the centre acquired four wives by the end of the dance season.Wodaabe finalists in the Yaake Charm Dance accentuate their facial movements with a display of bright eyes and sparkling teeth for the benefit of their female judges. Each dancer applies pale yellow powder to lighten his face, borders of black kohl to highlight the whiteness of the teeth and eyes, and a painted line from forhead to chin to elogate the nose. He also shaves his hairline to heighten his forehead.A Wodaabe man prepares for the courtship season by tressing his hair in a series of fine braids. Small leather talismans, believed to have magical powers, are sewn into his hair or worn as part of his adornment. These talismans are thought to increase his beauty and charm, heighten his virility, and make him irresistable to women – there is even one that makes him invisible at night.Side by side, the Geerewol contestants present themselves wearing ocher make-up on their faces, tight wraps around their hips, bindings around their knees, and strings of white beads crisscrossing their bare chests. Resplendent in their face makeup, the contestants dress in uniform fashion, making it easier for the judges to discern their true beauty. The dance alternates between quiet quasi-religious passages and frenzied jumping and stomping designed to show off the physical strength and stamina of the men.Three young Wodaabe women selected for their beauty choose the male winners of the dance.At the climax of the Geerewol, the finalists are crowned with a headpiece of ostrich plumes to signify their special status.At the peak of the Geerewol dance, the crowned finalists form long lines, rising up and down on tiptoe to show off thier long, lithe bodies. They change expression every few seconds, rolling thier eyes and exposing their gleaming white teeth. The Wodaabe say “It’s through the strength of the eyes that marriages are made.” The men display their beauty and the women judge them, selecting boyfriends, husbands and lovers.The winners of the male beauty dance reap only intangible rewards: increased pride in themselves, the admiration of men and the ardor of women. In their hearts they know they personify the legacy of beauty handed down by their legendary ancestors, Adam and Adama.