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 compared to the choreographers of today. Writing reviews on their works, understanding the techniques and choreographic devices of choreographing as well as site specific dance works.

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, which deals with the multiple intelligences of Gardeners Theory.

Next time you approach a dance student, ask when their next show is, ask about the gender discourses, homosexuality. It’s post modernism, not the baroque period people, please expand your knowledge. We are students just like a normal acedemic student just with dance in front of it…

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

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Dance, Making It Visual

UCT School of Dance on FIRE!!!

IS THIS SOME SORT OF ‘AFRIKA BURN’ PRANK OR WHAT? 

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Smoke creeping up the wall (the recycle bins are removed).
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Part of the roof that was destroyed. (Unfortunately due to safety reasons, no images were captured inside the building).

The University of Cape Town School of Dance admin building caught a flame during the early hours of yesterday morning. Around 12-1am the fire was spotted by a campus security guard who immediately notified the fire brigade. As of today the police are still investigating the cause.

The Dean of the Dance School, Gerard Samuel, arrived immediately at the site around 2am after being notified by the campus security. Samuel instantly informed the staff members of the Collage of Music (the dance schools neighbour), Upper Campus Humanities head office and the UCT School of Dance staff members.

Soon after, in the afternoon a meeting in the canteen was held at the school of dance, hosted at 1pm by Samuel in collaboration with the dance schools SRC members (Bronwyn Probert, Talia Lewis and Carla Shultz) to notify the dance students about the incident and clarify what actually happened.

During the meeting the students including the Dean himself were quite emotional…His speech was moving, whilst speaking he stopped and took a deep breath, swallowing his tears from a flashback similar to the incident. This was enough to touch every member in the canteen. The students were fearful are concerned about their safety at the dance school, some were even crying, others just suffering silently. The majority of the students were angry and frustrated about the whole incident, hoping to just scrape through this and carry on with classes. Unfortunately the severity of the event needs a lot more attention than just a meeting.

After this emotional meeting and the affect it had on the staff, more so the students, some teachers cancelled their classes, because no one was in the right headspace to continue the day.

Evidently from an investigation, the fire started from the outside of the admin building, supposedly originating from the plastic recycled bins. The flames from the plastic bags crawled up the wall of the admin building, spreading fast across the security office roof, and damaging the wood. Being the old-fashioned building that it is, it burnt pretty quickly. Thankfully no bodies were hurt or harmed.

This horrific event affected more so disturbed many students and the staff members of the School of Dance. Some conjured up past memories of trauma, loss and for myself emotions of the past protests that took place last year on campus. Seeing such a beautiful university imbued with history slowly be destroyed is depressing. Thankfully the dance schools dearest neighbour, the Collage of Music have opened up their building for Gerard Samuel and the secretary to settle until the matter is resolved, and the building is repaired. With the support of Humanities and the insurance claim, I am sure the incident will be well taken care of.

After the emotional meeting, this school (which most of the dance students refer to as their second home) filled with young ambitious dancers where their passion is being nurtured to become a profession seemed to be slowly fading away with the building itself…

Worst of all the idea of not knowing who caused the fire is agonizing… As a third year dance student privileged to be part of an 80-year-old dance school, which in 1934 was originally known as the University School of Ballet, slowly turn to ash kind of like a valley of ashes.  Thankfully the building does not stop the dance spirit to keep dancing, working hard and supporting one another in love.

Furthermore this seems like a form of protest action. Why would someone single out the dance school? I’m aware that burning art in this manner is for Afrika Burn. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this something is very fishy…

Before this terrible event, there are suspicions that the dance school is some sort of target… About a week ago Maxwell Xolawe Rani’s (the African Dance Teacher and African course convenour) car was stolen during the day. Some say it was an inside job. It was out of the blue that the car was stolen. The car slowly and casually drove off from the School of Dance parking bay, right under our very noses. Two days later it was found in Grassy Park…How hectic? His car was returned in the same state it was stolen. What scares me is we supposedly just go back and dance in peace?

Before we assume, as Vice Chair on the SRC in the University School of Dance, the meeting being discussed tomorrow hopefully will come up with better safety solutions.