Teaching Dance as a Multi-Spatial/Multimedia Practice: Reflections on De- vising Contemporary Dance Pedagogy in University Spaces
Keywords:site-specificity colonial/neocolonial body-space interface visual arts
The last ten years have seen a remarkable rise in the number of art and dance degree programs in universities worldwide. This essay originates in my experience of having taught for three years (2019–2022) on an ad-hoc basis at one such program in a private Indian university. I describe some of my pedagogic methodologies and creative teaching experiments devised during my tenure and that were dedicated to questions of space and multimedia in dance and performance research. I examine how these methodologies and experiments were not just creative in nature but also triggered by: a. the output- driven approach of private-university systems, and b. the precarity of my own status as an adjunct teaching faculty and a “contemporary”—by which I mean non- classical, non-traditional—dancer in the Indian context. Dance scholar Janet O’Shea, in her essay Decolonising the Curriculum? Unsettling Possibilities for Performance Training, critiques the structure of the university as both “colonial and corporate” (750), and points at its links with the “precarity of neoliberalism” (750). I resonate with O’Shea’s position and acknowledge the neocolonial and neoliberal tendencies of private universities in India that idolize Euro-American university models in their approach to higher education. However, I also argue that these universities, with their advocacy for the interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary forms of research, mostly aimed at claiming the “cutting-edge” in the liberal art and education industry, inadvertently generate scope for upsetting the traditional hierarchies and trajectories of dance pedagogy and challenging the exclusive notion of dance itself.