What is the significance of the dance scene in A Raisin in the Sun, and why is it important?

The significance of the dance scene in A Raisin in the Sun is that it shows the ignorance that the various characters have of their African heritage. Beneatha thinks she understands the cultural significance of the African dance but is in fact woefully naïve. The importance of the scene lies in its showing Black Americans exploring their African heritage, however imperfectly. This would've been a rarity on the American stage at that time.

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When Beneatha puts on an African dress and starts to dance in act 2, scene 1 of A Raisin in the Sun, she's attempting to reestablish a connection with the culture of her ancestors. Wearing some Nigerian clothes given to her by Asagai, Beneatha engages in what she believes to be a ritualistic dance, complete with an insistent incantation.

In actual fact, however, Beneatha remains naïve about African culture, for all her apparent enthusiasm. She might be wearing traditional African dress, but she's fanning herself with a fan that's more East Asian than African. Beneatha's heart's in the right place, but she still has a lot to learn about African culture.

But Beneatha's not alone in her ignorance. Ruth has no understanding of African culture, either. Nor, for that matter, does Walter. Although he engages in what looks like an African ritual dance when he comes home drunk, it soon becomes apparent that this is more of a parody than the real thing.

Even so, the importance of the scene cannot be ignored. Here, we have African American people engaging, however naively and imperfectly, with their cultural heritage. And at the time when Lorraine Hansberry wrote A Raisin in the Sun, that was a very rare thing to see on the American stage.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on March 1, 2021
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