Wodaabe Charm Dances

Wodaabe Courtship


Wodaabe Male Charm Dance, Niger, 1980

Once a year in the Sahel of Niger, up to a thousand Wodaabe men come together for a courtship ceremony called the Geerewol. At this time, men display their charm and beauty in a series of competitive dances, and the women judge them – selecting husbands, boyfriends, and lovers. Forming long lines, the men perform the Yaake Dance, rising up and down on tiptoe to show off their long lithe bodies. They change facial expressions every few seconds, accentuating their bright eyes and gleaming white teeth. If a man can hold one eye still and roll the other, he is considered irresistible to his female judges. The Wodaabe say “It’s through the strength of the eyes that marriages are made.”