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About the Centre for Theatre, Dance & Performance Studies

Director's Message:

As we pass the 100 day mark of life in lockdown, we have all been called to change, adapt, and re-imagine our lives and our place in the world. The CTDPS is undergoing its own transitions during this time, albeit it more gentle, planned and with a grateful heart. After several years of steadfast leadership of the Department of Drama, in the first instance, and now the CTDPS, we say goodbye to Professor Mark Fleishman as Director of the centre. Mark is not leaving us, he will remain a member of staff.  We are deeply grateful for Mark’s vision and wisdom.  He has led us confidently. 

It is a great honour for me to step into the Directorship of the CTDPS. I know that my learning in leadership has been and will continue to be inspired by Mark, even as I trust I will find my own feet.  I step into an institution that has an excellent reputation for the quality of students we graduate and the high standard of research, both creative and written, produced by staff. It is also an institution trying to find its new self in the necessary tectonic work of decolonisation. It is strenuous work, it is tender work, it is intergenerational work. It is with this awareness that I take on this role and invite you all to participate in the co-creation of who it is we want to be and how we want to serve our communities.

Dr Mbongeni Mtshali has taken on the position of Head of the Theatre Section and Dr Gerard Samuel remains the Head of the Dance Section.

It's a strange and uncertain time to be taking the reins when we all yearn for community and the intimacy of our craft.  In this, I know there is solidarity and commitment to sustain our energy and desire for what  we do as a Centre.

Here’s to our new chapter.

The Centre for Theatre, Dance & Performance Studies (CTDPS) at the University of Cape Town (UCT) proposes to teach Dance and Theatre performance as modes of critical inquiry, creative expression, pedagogy and public engagement. We see performance as a public forum for contemporary ideas, allowing us to test and debate the central concerns of our time in a space that is at once critical, emotional, and collective. 

Through performance training and research, we aim to produce graduates with expanded analytical, technical and imaginative capacities. As a public institution, we place diversity and inclusion at the centre of our teaching, performance-making and public programming. Our curriculum ranges from the classics to the contemporary with Africa as the central theme; it cuts across the traditional theatrical, dance and drama disciplines; it spans all corners of the globe while being cognisant of our place in Cape Town, South Africa and using the site of performance to deepen UCT’s critical education in the Humanities.

CTDPS DIRECTOR

Dr SARA MATCHETT

Theatre Section Head's Message:

Located in the heart of South Africa's beautiful Mother City and built on a proud tradition of excellence, the CTDPS is committed to nurturing individual creative and academic brilliance within the context of a vibrant local and international performing arts community

The Centre for Theatre, Dance & Performance Studies has a long tradition of graduating actors, theatre-makers, teachers and theatre practitioners. The centre offers both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in theatre making and performance. All courses offered combine a stimulating range of practical and theoretical studies, which include acting, voice, dance, theatre making, stagecraft, production, directing and theory options.

The CTDPS' resource unit, the Little Theatre is located on the Hiddingh Campus of the University, in the heart of Cape Town's 'cultural precinct' and near the loci of the film and television industry. The centre has beautiful premises on the Hiddingh Campus, a well-stocked library and access to the Little Theatre (270 seats), the Arena Theatre (80 seats), the Bindery Lab (90 seats) and other flexible performance spaces in the Hiddingh Hall, Playroom and Rehearsal Studio.

SECTION HEAD, THEATRE

Dr MBONGENI MTSHALI

Dance Section Head's Message:

The need for dance maybe furthest from some of our minds given the eruption of the global COVID 19 pandemic in early 2020. However, others may be asking how we can live in a world without dance, the performing arts and/or creative expression. As a Dance scholar/researcher located in South Africa, I am also challenged by these and other vexing questions that are facing grieving, anxious but also hopeful communities. Many young dancers continue to dream of fulfilling their artistic potential whether as professional artists, or in new roles as choreographers or ‘performance-makers’ in digital spaces. These new students of Dance are our future directors and ‘agents for social change’. (Augusto Boal, 1995)

Much has already been written about the power of Dance: its role in ritual, art, pedagogy and healing and still so much more needs to be unpacked. Dance can act as the ultimate expression and oozing of the soul through the body, but it needs to be practiced and theorized even as we mourn. Dance as ‘meaning-maker’ also needs to be understood in a rapidly changing and contemporary context. So, how can we understand Dance as a ‘knowledge producer’ one that will have even greater impact in the 2Ist century?  

The Centre for Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies (CTDPS) is the primary home for Dance Studies at the University of Cape Town and has a fine track record reaching back over 80 years. The first School of Ballet founded by Dr Dulcie Howes was opened in 1934 and transitioned to a School of Dance in 1998. Finally, in its current form it is integral to the work of the CTDPS and its articulations of pivotal research fields such as Performance Studies, Interdisciplinarity, Alterity and Theatre. Our graduates have entered leading dance companies (local and internationally), taken up positions in academic institutions globally and are at the coalface of groundbreaking performance works. The CTDPS is strategically positioned through our resources (infrastructural [ studios, theatres, workshops], technical and support, and faculty/ teaching staff – many of whom are award-winning choreographers.) We are committed to offering enquiry into diverse Dance related fields including Contemporary Dance, Ballet, Choreography, African Dance, Dance Pedagogy/ Applied Dance, Dance History and aesthetics, Dance and Community.  

As we grappled with complex theoretical issues such as Dance as (re)presentation, embodiment, somatic, Gender, the nexus of Dance and phenomenology, learning Dance online... we are reminded that Dance and biomedicine, Dance and AI may be the bold and unchartered areas of future knowledge consumers. We therefore look forward to exploring these and other related Dance Studies issues and interests in exciting partnerships with you.

SECTION HEAD, DANCE

ASSOC. PROF. GERARD SAMUEL

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