Eskista dance: The Traditional Ethiopian dance 

Eskista is a traditional Ethiopian dance that captivates audiences with its energetic movements and infectious rhythms. Derived from the Amhara and Tigray regions of Ethiopia, Eskista is characterized by its fast-paced footwork, shoulder movements, and hip rotations. Dancers typically perform in a group, creating a mesmerizing display of coordination and synchronization. The dance is often accompanied by traditional Ethiopian music, adding to the lively and vibrant atmosphere. Eskista is not only a form of entertainment but also a cultural expression, showcasing the rich heritage and traditions of Ethiopia. Join us as we explore the dynamic and captivating world of Eskista dance.

Where did the Eskista dance originate?

The Eskista dance is a cornerstone of Ethiopian culture, known for its distinct shoulder movements that captivate audiences worldwide. Originating from the highlands of Ethiopia, particularly within the Amhara region, Eskista is more than just a dance; it’s a storytelling medium, a form of expression that has been passed down through generations. This dance reflects the everyday life, the joy, and the resilience of the Ethiopian people. It’s a dance that has been performed for centuries, during celebrations, festivals, and communal gatherings, making it a living testament to the enduring spirit of Ethiopia’s diverse communities.

What is the meaning of Eskista?

The term “Eskista” translates to “dancing with the shoulders” in Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia. This name aptly describes the dance’s most distinctive feature: the intense and controlled movements of the dancers’ shoulders. Eskista is characterized by a series of vigorous shoulder movements, including rolling, bouncing, and jilting, accompanied by the rhythmic beats of traditional Ethiopian music. This dance is not just about the shoulders; it also involves coordinated movements of the neck, chest, and the entire body, creating a mesmerizing spectacle that beautifully captures the essence of Ethiopian communal life and its deep-rooted traditions. Eskista is a celebration of Ethiopian identity, showcasing the intricate relationship between music, movement, and cultural expression. It serves as a vibrant reminder of the country’s rich history and its people’s ability to communicate profound emotions and stories through dance.

Costumes used in the Eskista dance

Traditional Attire

The traditional dress for Eskista dancers is deeply rooted in Ethiopian cultural heritage. Women typically wear the ‘Habesha Kemis,’ a white, hand-woven cotton dress that gracefully flows to the ankles, often adorned with colorful woven borders known as ‘Tibeb.’ The elegance of the Habesha Kemis, combined with its comfort, allows for the fluid shoulder movements that Eskista is famous for. Men wear a similar white garment known as the ‘Gabi,’ which is a lightweight, cotton cloak that wraps around the body, offering freedom of movement essential for performing the intricate Eskista steps.

Accessories and Embellishments

Accessories play a crucial role in completing the Eskista costume. Jewelry such as necklaces, earrings, and bracelets made from beads, silver, or gold add a layer of elegance and significance to the attire. Headpieces for women, often intricately designed, complement the overall look, adding to the dance’s visual appeal.

Colors and Symbols

The colors and patterns on Eskista costumes are more than just decorative elements; they carry cultural significance. Red, green, and gold frequently appear in these outfits, reflecting the Ethiopian flag and symbolizing the country’s history and values. The ‘Tibeb’ patterns can also represent different Ethiopian regions, showcasing the diversity within unity that characterizes the nation.

Top Eskista Songs To get you started

1. Yehunie Belay | ይሁኔ በላይ | ዘገሊላ | Zegelila

2. Dawit Nega – Wezamey (ወዛመይ)



As we draw our exploration of the Eskista dance to a close, it’s clear that this traditional Ethiopian dance is much more than a series of movements; it’s a profound expression of Ethiopian culture, history, and community spirit. Through the intricate shoulder movements, the rhythmic harmony with traditional music, and the vibrant costumes, Eskista embodies the soul of Ethiopia, inviting everyone to share in its joy and unity. Whether you’re watching a performance, learning the dance yourself, or simply exploring the rich cultural heritage of Ethiopia, Eskista offers a unique window into the heart of its people and traditions. We invite you to continue this journey of discovery with us, as we celebrate and share the beauty of Ethiopian culture and the Eskista dance, a treasure that resonates with the rhythm of Ethiopia’s past, present, and future.

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