Health, decolonisation and the language of dance

<blockquote>Industry Journal</blockquote>
Magazine cover - two women smiling and dancing back to back. Animated Summer 2013 issue

– published in Summer 2013 Animated from People Dancing (Foundation for Community Dance). 

Citation: Akinleye, A (2013) Health, decolonisation and the language of dance, Animated, Winter 2008 pp. 10-13

Link to full article

Abstract: As a community dance artist and choreographer I have been welcomed into so many lives. People who allow me and dance to be a central part of their weekly routine. But this is more than a romantic pass time, there is a vitality that people talk about when they describe the community dance projects they have been a part of. So many people I have worked with attribute that vitality to a feeling of well-being. In this article I am suggesting that the joy, vitality, associated with getting moving is more than a happy coincidence it is because dance is the liberating language of the body.


… As we tentatively launch ourselves into twenty first century it is clear that there have been power shifts. We have seen the colonizing model of 19th century  marginalise people by using their bodies as evidence of worth. Gender, racial and class discrimination were all justified through suggesting the bodies of people ‘gave away’ an inferiority. In 19th century small size of women’s bodies gave away their fragility and along with this diseases such as ‘the vapours’ which doesn’t exist today (Harrington 2008). The small size of a specimen head of an African man was used to demonstrate African peoples mental inferiority (Gould 1996). Measuring and evaluating the body left some people’s bodies as appearing to be ‘defective’ or ill. In order to support the marginalisation of these people the body was medicalised. The body became the site at which your faults gave you away and a site to develop and change in order to overcome inadequacies.

This medicalization of the body treats the body as a kind of alien thing, which you must fight in order to control, as if your Self was trapped in a shell that needed to be watched and improved constantly or be at the risk of illness or immoral behaviour. The mind and body are separate in this colonialist model – the mind working to ‘fix’ and re-create the body, the body a docile shell. This is how the dualist model has been used in the rhetoric of colonisation. Of course the dancing body threatens all this because when dancing we associate ourselves as our bodies. Dancing melts the colonialist divide between mind and body; when dancing we are embodied. 

Part of the power of the colonialist is the ability to instil fear. We fear our bodies will run away with us, give us away by displaying some secret about our personality, will break, become diseased; dance challenges all these because when one dances one is stepping into ones body and allowing it to be a representation of Self. The dancing body has always been a threat to the colonialist. Under colonialist rule dancing was often outlawed (Ehrenreich 2007). Dance has a long history of being a site of resistance, a form of protest: protesting the isolation of the dualist body by joining with others to move joyfully…