Talawa Technique



Talawa Technique is a fully codified and examinable technique for Africanistic kinaesthetic movement.

The Talawa Technique™ uniquely structures elements from African and Caribbean traditions to foster polycentrism, diverse movement qualities, grounding, and polyrhythms. This approach deconstructs and reconstructs these traditional practices, revealing the distinct qualities of each element both individually and in their combined, enhanced form when intentionally recombined.

Created by Thomas Talawa Prestø the Talawa Technique™ merges ancestral movements with culturally contextualized vocabulary and contemporary movement sensibilities.  The Talawa Technique™ bridges the gap between urban freestyling, traditional, and contemporary dance forms. This fusion offers a stylized approach to movement, suitable for both stage and art production.

Distinct in its combination of rhythmic structures, specialized grounding techniques, and traditional African aesthetic movements like trembling, shaking, undulating, and pulsating, the Talawa Technique™ enriches the dancer's repertoire. The Technique seamlessly co-exists as a blend of danced martial arts, empowered ritual dance, classroom instruction, technical drills, movement research, aesthetic formation, cultural studies, dance and performance theory, praxis, and practice, integrating well with a multitude of purposes and expressions.

The technique makes a clear distinction between aesthetic and technical choices, encouraging dancers to develop a deep connection with their body's natural bends and curves. This approach not only connects them to their historical and cultural roots but also empowers them. Dancers are guided to master multiple isolations and polyrhythmic articulations, while also working to break down mental and cultural barriers to liberate their movements. The Talawa Technique™ uses knowledge and culture as tools for liberation, creating confident performers who embrace both their own identities and the multifaceted nature of Africanistic movement.

The Snake the Bird and The Spider

Central to the technique is the Spider, the Bird, and the Snake. These are not separate elements but together form a mythical “animal”, binding the mind/body/spirit together in movement.

THE SPIDER (32 arm positions)

Anansi is a well-known character all through the African Diaspora and also on the continent.
He is a clever trickster and storyteller. He is credited with being the one who brought stories and storytelling to the humans from the Sky God.
Like our hands can draw inn, open dimensions, create illusion and animate our storytelling, the vocal gestures of the Talawa Technique is attributed to the principle of the spider, the storyteller.

THE BIRD (14 foot/base positions)
A creature that is a friend to the AIR, the LAND and the WATER. Believed to fertilize the land it also draws out the energy from the sun by pecking at the ground. Birds are also known to migrate, have an impeccable sense of direction and balance.

The foot positions are therefore linked to the principle of the bird. Filling every space it goes with possibility, drawing from the ground and giving back at the same time. The bird moves adapt and make its presence known.

THE SNAKE (7 levels of isolation in the torso)

Believed to be incarnations of particularly wise people. This element represents embodied knowledge. Instinct, intuition. The snake represents movement, and movement represents life. What does not move, does not vibrate, does not exist. The snake is cold-blooded and must be energized (heated up). We do this by moving it.

Most dance is to celebrate, and or reflect life. Therefore we move the spine.


TECHNICAL: Various movement techniques and practices, activates and engages the students in the essential work of alignment and conditioning. The techniques are designed to develop endurance, suppleness, awareness, economy, and precision in moving. These exercises are also intended to reduce injuries; including excessive spinal- tension, tension, awkward gestures, a casual carriage, and inexpressive mobility. Studies in African anatomy (different view of the body than in the Western world, this is reflected in dance, buttocks is a five directional muscle), further the student's self-awareness and provide practical knowledge for safe and effective use of the body.

EXPLORATION: This involves studies in space, time, energy, attitude, intention, spirit, gesture, and emotion, in which students relate, develop and explore their inner nature and relationship to the world and other people in terms of and through movement. Through improvisations and guided experimentation in a variety of movement practices, students will explore the relationship of mind, spirit, and body. How these things are expressed through an African, Black, and Caribbean body language, expression, and aesthetics, both historically and contemporary.

APPLICATION: In TT-Tech application quickly follows technical exercises. Often technical exercises are directly applied to choreography and movement. TT-Tech believes that an informed student that understands the uses of technique stays more motivated, and is quicker to internalize technique. It also helps separate what is aesthetics and what is technique.


Dance without technique is often limited, and lacking aesthetics, but technique without dance is not dance at all.
Talawa 200


Talawa-technique seeks to unlock the body, and give dancers the control needed to master the undulations, shakes, curves, shapes, and qualities of the Africanistic movement. The technique is considered one of the most comprehensive techniques for mastering African body movement styles, and separates the pure mechanics of movement from aesthetic nuances.

  • Talawa-Technique acknowledges that teaching abilities and dancing abilities are not necessarily linked. Africanist dance styles are often very physical. Teaching is often linked to the instructor's ability to physically show the movement. The codification, language and technical buildup of the Talawa-Technique, makes it possible to teach without having the physical capacity to demonstrate.
  • The Griot classification is linked, and students of this must acquire the same level of dance as instruction.


*Module 4-7 in both dance and Instructing was given 15 study points at the University of Trondheim (NTNU), in 2011-12.



TALAWA- INITIATE Introduction to Africanistic and Caribbean movement and recreational dance.


TALAWA- AKIMBO LEVEL Techniques, exercises and modules for professional and trained dancers within western styles, or dancers with basic within African and Caribbean Dance


TALAWA- YANVALOU LEVEL Professional Training for Caribbean and African trained dancers.


TALAWA- GRIOT Professional master technical dance training utilizing levels 1-32





TALAWA- INITIATE Recreational dance for teens, adolescent, and elders.


TALAWA- AKIMBO Techniques, exercises and modules for professional and trained dancers within western styles, or dancers with basics within African and Caribbean Dance


TALAWA- YANVALOU Professional Training for the Caribbean and African trained dancers.


TALAWA- MASTER INSTRUCTOR Instructor certified to teach the Talawa-technique module 1-25.


TALAWA-GRIOT Grand master can certify master instructors and wholly teach every module of the technique and theory.


*Module 4-7 in both dance and Instructing was given 15 study points at the University of Trondheim (NTNU), in 2011-12.



"Water Walks" presents a captivating exploration into the union of physical discipline and metaphoric resonance, providing a nuanced medium to delve into principles of balance, adaptability, and the omnipresence of change. Through the elementary act of balancing a water bottle atop one's head whilst navigating through technical exercises, the practice transcends mere physicality to embody the metaphor of water— a symbol of unceasing transformation and boundless adaptability. This paper seeks to unfold the layered dimensions of "Water Walks," examining it as a vehicle for understanding and embodying equilibrium amidst the unrelenting tide of life's alterations.


Technical Embodiment of Balance:

The act of balancing a water bottle in "Water Walks" is a concerted effort that demands acute awareness of one’s body and the environment. It challenges the practitioner to maintain a delicate equilibrium, a task that cultivates coordination, control, and proprioception. This technical aspect serves as a physical foundation to delve into the broader metaphorical insights offered by the practice.


A Somatic Connection: Embracing the Water Within and Without:

Central to "Water Walks" is the symbolic and somatic connection to water. The water bottle atop one's head serves as a tangible link to the water within the body, urging practitioners to harmonize their movements with the fluid nature of water. Embracing the weight of the water bottle, feeling its presence extending through the spine to the floor, and moving in unison with it fosters a deeper somatic connection, enhancing awareness and presence.


The Dance of Acceptance and Fluid Transition:

"Water Walks" educates practitioners in the art of acceptance and fluid transition. Each step is a commitment, a seamless flow from the present moment into the next. This practice cultivates a mental state of coolness and acceptance, as any agitation or hesitation disrupts the equilibrium, causing the bottle to fall. The exercise embodies the principle of fluid transition, encouraging practitioners to pour their presence into each movement, much like water flowing effortlessly along a path.


Following the Water: An Ancestral Communion:

The practice extends into a poignant exercise named "Following the Water." Here, practitioners carry the water of an elder, absorbing ancestral narratives as they move. This ritual fosters a deeper understanding of one’s lineage, tying the individual to the ceaseless flow of ancestral waters that have coursed through generations. It encapsulates a somatic and narrative tradition, linking individuals to the waters of their origins.


The Metaphysical Bottle in Africana Dance:

A critical observation is the presence of a "metaphysical bottle" in dances rooted in African traditions. This principle, originating from traditional practices of carrying loads atop the head, has permeated various dance forms like salsa, samba, reggae, and house. With modern living veering away from such traditional practices, "Water Walks" emerges as a crucial exercise to rekindle this unique movement quality and awareness, reconnecting practitioners to a fundamental aspect of Africana dance heritage.


Metaphor of Water: Embracing Change:

The water metaphor in "Water Walks" is profound. It invites reflections on the nature of change and the necessity of adaptability, much like water's unyielding fluidity amidst varying landscapes. The ocean, with its endless motion and vast expanse, mirrors life's inexorable shifts, offering a tangible symbol of life's fluid narrative.


The Dualism of Stability and Flux:

The practice elucidates the dualism of stability and flux, reminding practitioners that stability can coexist with change. Through the act of balancing, participants learn to navigate the fluid terrains of life while retaining a core of stability, embodying resilience amidst life's multifarious currents.


Rhythmic Repetition: A Holistic Integration:

The rhythmic cadence of "Water Walks" transcends physical exercise to offer a meditative endeavor, intertwining the rhythmic repetition with the symbolic resonance of water, fostering a holistic experience that integrates physical, mental, and metaphorical dimensions.


"Water Walks" as a Microcosm of Existence:

The practice unfolds as a microcosm of life's broader narrative, inviting recognition of change as an intrinsic part of life's journey. Through the lens of "Water Walks," participants are urged to navigate life's currents with grace and resilience, embodying the boundless adaptability symbolized by water.


"Water Walks" emerges as an exercise that intertwines physical coordination with metaphorical exploration. Through its simple yet profound premise, it serves as a vessel to delve into the essence of balance, adaptability, and the inexorable nature of change, enriching the practitioner’s understanding of these principles both in the realm of physical movement and in the broader spectrum of life's narrative. Through this exploration, "Water Walks" illuminates the rich interplay between motion, metaphor, and the multifaceted narrative of human existence.