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The emergence of intercultural dialogues : children, disability and dance in KwaZulu-Natal : case studies of three dance projects held at The Playhouse Company (1997-1999)

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This thesis examines the emerging intercultural dialogues around disability, performance dance and children in the multicultural context of KwaZulu-Natal. It focuses on creative dance (or modem educational dance), as it has emerged in KwaZulu-Natal schools post-1994. The intervention of the arts and a holistic approach to education is examined by appropriating Rudolf Laban (1948), Smith-Autard (1992) and other guiding principles for dance education. The thesis presents an analysis of how creative dance has come to influence notions of contemporary performance dance. This has provided a framework to argue in favour of dance making by untrained (sic) dance teachers and children with and without disabilities. The period under investigation post-1994 coincided with fundamental transformations within the South African cultural landscape, including the following: restructuring of performing arts council, the merging of former separate education departments and the strengthening of disability consciousness within human rights culture. These topics are briefly discussed. The transformation of the arts at The Playhouse Company in KwaZulu-Natal contributed to changes within dance development programmes. These dance development works addressed previously marginalized communities, including the disabled. The potential shifts to mainstream notions of performance dance by children with disabilities have provided an opportunity to theorise the practice of dance in special education and its relation to performance dance in the multicultural KwaZulu-Natal setting. Chapter one begins by firstly problematising disability, which it argues is an occurrence constructed by medical, social, political, historical, cultural and gender identities. Chapter one goes onto explore the changing concepts of dance for children with disabilities by offering a critique of existing notions of performance dance for children with disabilities. Distinctions between social dance. performance dance, dance therapy and educational dance are clarified and the practice of children's dance is contextualised. Chapter two argues that 'disability' within a context of multiculturalism in South Africa could be seen as a culture in and of itself. It does this by accessing the critical writings of Schechner (1991), Pavis (1992), Brustein (1991) and others. Definitions of 'culture' are problematised and the debates: high art vs culture, fusion, multi-, intra-, and inter-culturalism in the South African context are explored. Chapter three looks at three specific dance projects, which emanated from The Playhouse Company. The case studies explore how children between the ages of 8 - 18, who are defined as disabled, have engaged with dance and have had little or no interaction with the performing arts particularly as performers. It critiques and evaluates these projects in order to make conclusions around the following: the need for training of dancers and choreographers with disabilities and to underscore the role of the media in the disabled's plea for access to the performing arts. The idea of integrated 'enablers'(children and adults) with disabled children in the same performance dance work was innovative. Such inclusion and re-dress, as also expressed by The White Paper 6 on Special Education are supported by this thesis. Many children and their teachers have, through these creative movement and dance projects, begun to challenge notions of disability and of performance dance within the 'mainstream' performing dance environment as they emerge as potential artists in their own space. The thesis concludes by offering suggestions for how dance by those defined as 'disabled' is understood, critiqued and reported by reviewers and researchers of dance. It is hoped that these suggestions would strengthen the wider acceptance of notions of dance that emerge from a range of previously marginalised groups.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of Natal, Durban, 2001.


Modern dance--KwaZulu-Natal., Movement, Psychology of--Therapeutic use., Children with disabilities--Development., Modern dance--Study and teaching., Theses--Drama and performance studies.