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Director’s Message in 2nd Semester in 2016

The mid-year vacation period is traditionally when academics attend conferences around the world. This was also the case for staff at the School of Dance and me.  Dance lecturer, Lisa Wilson attended the Christian Dance Fellowship Conference in Accra, University of Ghana and I participated in the SIBMAS Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark’s Royal Library/ Black Diamond. SIBMAS’s catchy conference title, Freeze! posed several  questions including: How could we freeze the moment for artists, academics and other theatre practitioners to dialogue on the role and impact of the museum and theatre archives in academia? I wondered how I could respond as a dance scholar interested in the Body as the archive. These and other matters of mutual interest and concern were part of the debates.

Given our turbulent past year in South Africa with #RhodesMustFall , student protest and the larger ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaigns, the perspective offered by both SIBMAS and a generous invitation by the University of Copenhagen provided me with calm reflection in June 2016. I also engaged in the ‘Knowledge Production, Archive and Artistic Research’ project and will host Danish researchers in 2016. Two Guest choreographers:  Daniel Renner from Netherlands ( in August), and Marie Brolin -Tani from Denmark undertaken collaborations with the School of Dance (in November ). UCT’s Prof. Mark Fleishman’s presence in Copenhagen in June 2016 also meant that I could pursue discussion around the joint intellectual project in our research fields.  

The School of Dance is now in its 82nd year and re-curriculation and ‘decolonisation’ are topical issues.   We have been in conversation with the Drama department since 2010 to re-curriculate our academic programmes. Theatre studies, Performance theories and Cultural studies, as well as Interdisciplinary, are all areas that Dance and Theatre scholars seem to share. Increasingly, performers both in South Africa and abroad are being expected to articulate their art and craft in multiple artistic formats. How are the current Dance curricula and UCT going to respond to these changes? Should we move from a conservatoire model (first established in the 1930s) to a department at a university, given that UCT is research centered institution?   

My colleagues and I are in intense discussion to chart a way forward, seeking wide consultation. This process could begin to offer new courses and perhaps even new streams within the academic qualifications that we offer. These exciting explorations will be announced here. The School of Dance intends to retain its long held practices such as the use of ballet as a pedagogic methodology. And, Diploma level programmes and qualifications will remain.

As I lead this institution I am acutely aware of the integrity of our dedicated Dance qualifications and that The School of Dance cannot offer all things dance to all people , nor , in my view should we be doing so. The Faculty and university are assisting me to consolidate proposals and will make formal announcements such as a merger. I trust that the School of Dance both then and now will remain a hub for Dance knowledge in this region that could be shared with the diverse dance community that we serve.

GERARD M. SAMUEL