College of Humanities

Drama & Performance Studies hosts Swiss choreographer for dance, diversity and disability

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In an unprecedented exchange that has taken almost two years to set up, Swiss choreographer Jürg Koch, arrived in Durban on 31 January 2018 to work with UKZN dance studies graduates and Flatfoot Dance Company.

With support funding by Pro Helvetia, Jürg is spending three weeks in Durban to explore dance teaching and choreographic practices that are based on ideas of diversity especially as they relate to the inclusion of differently abled dancers into mainstream theatre dance.

Jürg’s own dance history has seen him work extensively with UK based CandoCo – Europe’s first professional integrated dance company working with dancers with disability. He taught, for ten years, at the University of Washington (Seattle) before heading back home to Switzerland and the city of Bern, where he now works as a freelance teacher and choreographer.

UKZN Dance Lecturer, Ms Lliane Loots said ‘Jürg’s connection with Flatfoot and with UKZN’s dance stream of study is a natural fit as our own integrated dance praxis has been seminal in shifting national perceptions around who can dance.’

In a four way collaboration Jürg, Flatfoot, and the UKZN graduate dance students, are also joined by the Wentworth Arts and Culture Organisation’s (WACO) Dance Movement headed by Jarryd Watson. The final outcome of this exploratory dance residency was on show at the Loft Theatre at the Durban Playhouse Theatre.

This final performance was also the culmination of a two day colloquium from 31 January to 01 February that Loots, has set-up to coincide with Jürg’s three week visit. Loots, working in association with The Playhouse Company, created a two day feast for dance teachers, dance academics and performers to allow further exploration of the politics and practice of integrated dance practice.

This colloquium features both papers and attention to pedagogy with special guests, Unmute Dance Company (Cape Town), Dr. Gerard Samuel (UCT), Moving Into Dance (Johannesburg), Gladys Agulhas (Johannesburg) and disability activist and filmmaker Liza Aziz amongst others.

Loots says that the intention of the colloquium is to ‘push the shared knowledge and practice-based learning around integrated and disability dance in South Africa – with a focus on revising the idea of dance as a tool for ‘living democracy’ – a term that Loots uses to describe her pedagogical impulses in dance education and community dance engagements.

She goes on to say that integrated dance ‘is also a growing desire towards diversity in terms of performance and the hope is that we are all challenged to think bigger and more inclusively in both our theory and practice.’

The colloquium took place at The Playhouse Complex.

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