Dance, Making It Visual

UCT Student vs UCT Dancer

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Dancer: Anderson Carvalho

Did you know that UCT has a Dance School? 

You have probably heard of students studying dance at the University of Cape Town (UCT) or perhaps you might have met a student. Dance has evolved so much and personally as a UCT School of Dance student, it’s time to have a little more insight about what the dancers really do or should I say study.

All of a sudden dance is always about doing the splits and turning multiple times, performing the unnatural human things everyday, like shaping themselves into distorted positions, jumping extremely high and stretching beyond the natural limits. Let me inform you that these ideologies around what dance is all about and what becoming a dancer requires needs to be clarified. Firstly the UCT School of Dance is not a platform where dancers stretch everyday, take a couple physical dance classes and leave. It is a space where the dance students equip themselves to either become a dance performer, teacher or researcher. Before I provide you in detail with what these three streams offer the main question is, what is the meaning of studying dance to you? Your knowledge about dance is only about the two factors that dance is physically demanding and mentally draining, however UCT is an academic institution and being part of the University, the School of Dance too is very academic.

When you meet a dancer, don’t just ask about how sore this/her feet are? It’s not just about physicality and training to do vast back bends and split jumps. Dance is political, in all aspects. Ask about the upcoming performances. Many choreographers that make works today use their art as a mechanism to educate, embodying political issues ranging from racism, sexism, femininity, culture identity, ones personal struggles, violence, everyday life experiences and more.

Yes dance is extremely strenuous, the ability and demands are high, not to mention our competition, don’t even go there…Balancing strength and flexibility is a physical journey for every dancer, gymnast, sportsman or any physical career for that matter. The body is a temple and as a dancer the journey is about finding their limits, working with their weaknesses and developing an identity as an artist, for myself as a white South African female. Identity is huge and again in dance it’s a journey of self -discovery. Basically what a students university is all about, not just about the studies, but about finding yourself.

What is like being a South African dance student at the University of Cape Town? And what does it even mean to study dance?

The theory consists of many courses:

African Dance History:  which deals with the history of Africa and how the history has affected South African dance today.

Western Dance History: The history of the West, the pioneers in American and German Modern Dance.

Choreography: Choreographers dance works that made history in the dance world. cChoreographers of today and their works. Writing reviews on their works, understanding the techniques and choreographic devices of choreographing. Physical training and exploration as well as theoretical lessons.

Performance Studies: graphic design, lighting, business studies, sound and stage production.

Musicology: History and evolution of music in the West and in Africa. This includes notation and instrumentation.

Anatomy: Anatomical structure of the body

Dance Teachers Method: child development, the cognitive and physical development of a child, which is very important when teaching a child dancing (their bodies are so pliable). Learning the codified dance technique as well as teaching creative dance and  technique dance.

Everyone should keep exploring their creativity. Look at the genius HOWARD GARDENER. He truly brings to ones attention the importance of creativity and how it plays a positive and stimulating role in many areas of ones life Gardeners Theory.

Next time you approach a dance student, ask when their next show is, ask about the gender discourses within the dance today. Their favourite choreographers or their inspiration and why? It’s post modernism today, not the baroque or romantic period. Our life is not just about doing the splits, there is a lot of emotional, cognitive, physical and mental energy happening. Studying is stretching with a book in our hand, whilst listening to music and keeping up with the social life, by texting super fast in the other hand.

Visit the University of Cape Town School of Dance website for more information.

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