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Choreographies of identity, self and the ‘African’ dancing body in negotiating contemporary dancing histories and practices in KwaZulu-Natal post 1994 : a case study of Flatfoot Dance Company.

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This thesis, through a series of case studies of my dance work with FLATFOOT DANCE COMPANY (post 1994), offers an interrogation of both my internal and external processes of decolonising entrenched paradigms of training, writing/researching and making dance and attempting to re-imagine an inclusive dance practice in South Africa. I use the conceptual framework of ‘decolonisation’, in part, because it is the key political and pedagogical terminology being used in South African within current student protest movements such as ‘#Fees Must Fall’ and within the 2016 (onwards) South African debates around recurriculation of higher learning institutions. I further, use the frame of decolonising as it offers me personally, pedagogically and politically an opportunity to look deeply at what this might mean in action and in practice for my own dance teaching and dance making in South Africa – post 1994. This is an autoethnographic study of a 24-year temporal space in my own engagement with dance and is set against the larger geo-political, social and cultural fights of South Africa. The personal narratives offer a microcosm of larger issues and focus a lens on how arts (and dance in particular) have been, are, and become, a tipping point in the enactment of lived – and significantly – embodied democracy (a term I go on to explain) in South Africa. Section One of this thesis is an investigation – through my community-based dance education work with FLATFOOT DANCE COMPANY – into a proposed methodology and praxis for a decolonised pedagogy. Section Two turns away from an explicit discussion around pedagogy and moves to an examination of my choreographic practices with FLATFOOT DANCE COMPANY post 1994. In Section Two, I reflect on my own on-going work as a professional choreographer and attempt to bring together my own multiple identities as researcher, teacher and choreographer as I begin to interrogate, through this academic text and the writing and reflective process, my own artistic process as a dance maker, dance educator, and a choreographer in South Africa. I do not isolate methodology in a chapter of its own in this thesis. Given the feminist and autoethnogaphic nature of this study, I have opted instead to allow the methodology to inform and be articulated in each chapter as it reveals process and practice.This thesis is also made up significantly, though not exclusively, of collecting together, re-considering, re-writing and re-focusing a selection of my previously published articles that have spanned 23 years as an academic scholar interrogating my research within the paradigm of Praxis Led Research. This act of re-visiting dance practice, writing and pedagogy is also part of the autoethnographic nature of interrogating and re-interrogating identities of self and of the ‘African’ dancing body. This is all effected in a negotiation of contemporary dancing histories and practices in KwaZulu-Natal post 1994 through my case study of FLATFOOT DANCE COMPANY.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.