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The boots may be embellished with bells, so that they ring as the dancers stamp on the ground. This sound would be a code or a different calling to say something to another person a short distance away. This was used to communicate in the mines as there was strictly no talking otherwise there would be severe, drastic punishments at the discretion of their superior.
Gumboot dancing was conceived by black workers in South Africa as an alternative to drumming—which authorities restricted. Another reason for gumboot dancing was for the miners in South Africa as they worked they sang. Gumboot dancing has now become a world-known dance; in schools children perform the dance. The boots were a solution to a problem of often flooded gold mines in which men otherwise stood in knee-deep water toiling at their work stations. It is also thought that the workers used the gumboots to relay messages to each other that they did not want their bosses to overhear.
Gumboot dancers are commonly sighted on the streets and plazas of tourist areas in South Africa, such as the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town. Many of the steps and routines are parodies of the officers and guards who controlled the mines and barracks of South African gold miners. Like other forms of African dance, Gumboot utilizes the concepts of polyrhythm and total body articulation, drawing from the cultural dances of the African workers that manned the mines. It is a percussive dance made by idiophones or autophones (objects of the everyday life vibrating by themselves), and is similar in execution and style to forms of "stepping" done by African-American fraternities and sororities.
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