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About the Centre for Theatre, Dance & Performance Studies

Director's Message:

The Centre for Theatre, Dance & Performance Studies (CTDPS) at the University of Cape Town (UCT) focuses on teaching Dance and Theatre performance as forms of critical inquiry, creative expression, pedagogy and public engagement. We view performance as a public platform for contemporary ideas, allowing us to examine and question the fundamental concerns of our times in a space that is at once critical, emotional, and collaborative.

We aim to produce graduates with increased analytical, technical and imaginative abilities through performance training and research. As a public institution, we place diversity and inclusion at the heart of our teaching, performance-making and public programming. Our curriculum ranges from the classics to the contemporary with Africa as the core theme; it traverses traditional theatrical, dance and drama disciplines; it extends to all corners of the globe while being aware of our place in Cape Town, South Africa. All the while engaging the position of performance to expand UCT’s critical education in the Humanities.

In 2020 we were abruptly woken up to change, adapt and re-imagine our lives and place in the world. The need for responsiveness, compassion and relationality is evident.  We are being called, more than ever, to build reciprocity and respect between all living beings. These are all qualities that inform the essence of what we do in theatre, dance and performance.

The CTDPS is 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 and students. 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. With this awareness, I invite students and staff to participate in the co-creation of who we want to be and how we want to serve our communities.

These are strange and unknown times. 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

CTDPS DIRECTOR

Dr SARA MATCHETT

 

Theatre Section Head's Message:

Dear Students, Staff, and Friends of the Centre,

It gives me the greatest pleasure to welcome you to the 2021 academic year. I want to begin by thanking you for facing the challenges of 2020 with grace, with sensitivity to our many differing personal circumstances, and with an unparalleled commitment to the success of our collective project. We learned much about the possibilities and limitations of the institutional environment in which we work that we can bring forward to improve our approach to learning and teaching in this second year of the pandemic, and I for one am excited about the exciting directions that we are moving in as a result.

Among these developments was the necessary acceleration of curricular investments in digital and other modes of performance presentation in line with the changing global profile of the discipline. The work that you were all able to produce under these circumstances was remarkable not only for its having taken place when it seemed least possible, but for its quality, ingenuity, thoughtfulness, and rigour. The results of your efforts only affirmed something that we have always known and taken seriously in our field: that even at the worst of possible moments, it is our capacity to share time and to make space with and for one another that positions us especially well to respond to crises such as this.

This year, we will continue in this long tradition of using our craft to make generative meaning of an ever-changing and sometimes confusing world, to develop resilience, to grow, and to imagine ways of being that make the world ever more capacious and able to hold us in all our complicated diversity. To be sure, it will take commitment, grit and resolve; it will require our generosity, openness, and patience. However, I have no doubt that this is a task to which we are all more than equal, and look forward to continuing this exciting journey with you. 

Onwards!

—eM.

SECTION HEAD, THEATRE

Dr MBONGENI MTSHALI

 

Dance Section Head's Message:

If anyone in 2020 had suggested that dance practice, -making , and -critique would continue for a period beyond a year we might have been skeptical. Who would imagined teaching the pirouette online to students locked in their dormitories, cramped bedrooms and  with unstable WiFi? Dance assignments and improvisation tasks found new articulations away from the traditional studios to become videos on WhatsApp and YouTube.  Such (mis)fortune has become our reality.  It is a shifting dynamic which as students, teachers, dance practitioners and theorists we have rightfully embraced and for which I am very thankful. 

The 2020 year saw many rapid changes which shifted the ways in which we considered the limits of our dance classrooms and performance spaces. New partnerships were entered into, and important conversations were held including a new African creative arts network called Afrika Speaks [Visit https://afrikaspeaks.org/  ] . Amongst other encounters in Dance, a bold exchange with students from Ohio State University OSU Dance department reflecting our diverging and converging perspectives on the global pandemic that is COVID 19 was held.

Our work in Dance, at the tip of the African continent continues to explore multiple intersecting frames of pedagogies, dance and diaspora, Bodies unlearning post-coloniality and choreographies and Quare studies. In short, Dance has remained an inexhaustible terrain, for me. The CTDPS Dance section is very proud of our postgraduate Dance work that is beginning to unpack a contextual aperture of South Asian Dance in Africa with some of our studies in Bharatanatyam in South Africa in their infancy. Although large scale projects and presentations in dance were not possible due to the limitations imposed on theatres and many public spaces the creative artists within our section continued to push their artistic and creative boundaries with great flair and confidence including in the digital space.

The CTDPS Dance has been greatly challenged by the restrictions and limited access to dance studios which is why we are deeply grateful to the senior UCT leadership for the opportunities that were afforded to a select few UCT students to return to campus under strict guidelines and compliance to all safety measures around COVID 19.   Security of such campus life made it possible for us to complete our face to face study and  daily practice - a central pillar in our work in Dance and tackle head on, end of year examinations. We succeeded. Student Wellness, Residence staff  and Campus Protection Services, Libraries , tutors and staff are amongst many arms that have held and supported our dancers in these difficult times. We are mindful of the challenges and setbacks that many have experienced and which  continue to affect us as a UCT community and urge all to remain compassionate and resolute in their goals. #patience #care

As a Dance researcher, I am currently intrigued about the manner in which dance in South Africa can nurture resilience in children and young people. I have written elsewhere ( see Samuel, GM 2015)  about dance as social healing and facilitator and many other reviews on this topic exist . For example, de Villiers, D., van Rooyen, F.C., Comm, M., Beck, V., Calitz, Y., Erwee, T., Engelbrecht, C., Odendaal, E., Roothman, L. and van Eeden, L., 2013. Wheelchair dancing and self-esteem in adolescents with physical disabilities. South African Journal of Occupational Therapy43(2), pp.23-27. So much more remains to be explained and through Dance studies... 

We are confident that the CTDPS remains one of the primary locations for studies in Dance, Theatre  and Performance. I look forward to welcoming you to the CTDPS in this new academic year.

SECTION HEAD, DANCE

Dr GERARD SAMUEL

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