Aria Locustae – The Cicada Dance (Footnotes: A Spectrum of Dance, 1990)

Aria Locustae – The Cicada Dance (Footnotes: A Spectrum of Dance, 1990)

Copyrighted Work

In the 1980s and 90s, I was a member of Afrija, a professional company practising African contemporary dance.

In 1990, the Kenya Conservatoire of Music, where we rehearsed, staged a show to showcase the different styles of dance offered in Nairobi.

Suki Mwendwa’s choreography of Douglas Quin’s “Aria Locustae” was performed by Renate Freitag and I. We imagine and mimic the movements of the cicada returning to the world after a long sleep.

I recently came across the VHS recording of the dance, and had it digitised.

According to the composer Quin, “The cicadas are emerging up and down the East coast of the US at the moment in the trillions right now (late May 2021). Quite a magical phenomenon!

“The piece was composed in 1987, and it’s made up entirely of the sounds of the 17-year cicada. The title Aria Locustae is a reference to European colonists who thought they were a Biblical plague of locusts when they encountered them in the 17th century.”


Cicada Photos Credit: Benjamin Williams (Washington D.C., May 2021)



Magicicada belongs to the cicada tribe Lamotialnini, a group of genera with representatives in Australia, Africa, and Asia, as well as the Americas.

Magicicada species spend 13 or 17 years (that’s around 99.5%) of their long lives underground in an immature state called a nymph.

In the spring of their 13th or 17th year mature cicada nymphs emerge between late April and early June at a given locality, synchronously and in tremendous numbers.

The adults are active for only about 4 to 6 weeks after the unusually prolonged developmental phase.

The males aggregate in chorus centres and call there to attract mates. Mated females lay eggs in the stems of woody plants. Within two months of the original emergence, the life cycle is complete; the adult cicadas die and their brood disappears for another 13 or 17 years.

Music: Aria Locustae by Douglas Quin

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