Date of Award

5-2020

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Abstract

“When it comes to traditional dance, we don’t learn steps and combinations, we learn language” -Akosua Akoto

This thesis is an inquiry into the place of West African dance in university curricula in the United States and the technical hierarchies that persist in dance programs. Focusing on ballet, modern dance, and West African dance, I draw on theories of Africanist aesthetics in dominant American dance forms, embodied knowledge, and concepts of technique as a value-based system. Using these frameworks, I highlight disparities in American dance curricula, alongside historical advancements and shortcomings, while offering interventions derived from my embodied practice of all three forms. I offer my lived experiences, both learning and teaching, in suggesting methods that seek to balance the need to preserve cultural material and codify information for transmission. My navigation through the American collegiate system serves to provide methods to create inclusive and representative dance education for all students. By implementing West African movement into University curricula alongside existing dominant forms such as ballet and modern, I argue that the unequal technical value placed on the African dance, and the terms by which West African dance currently exist in the University can be rectified.

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