Reaching back to move forward
The unfolding merger of two performing arts departments (Dance and Drama) at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, which cemented in 2018, has surfaced amongst many other issues: design of relevant curricula, disciplinary specific courses/’subject borders’, assessment, reception and delivery, changing student and staff profiles. As departmental cultures collide and power differentials, in Bharuchian (2016) terms, continue their negotiation, this chapter considers the epistemological and methodological potentials emerging from within this fertile context of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary performance making. An examination of two recent performance works, Alan Parker’s Sacre for one (2016) and Gerard M. Samuel’s Reminiscences (2018), become departure points for consideration of the potential intersections, overlappings, partings and coexistings that emerge from an interdisciplinary performative engagement with the past – specifically through the archive and archive theory. Diana Taylor’s (2003) locating of the repertoire as an embodied source of archival knowledge; Ramsay Burt’s (2004) notion of ‘dance genealogies’ and Andre Lepecki’s (2010) theories regarding re-enactment and the afterlife of dances are considered, in relation to these performance works, as points of intersection between the presentness of performance and the past contained and captured within archives. Samuel and Parker, who have both taught at the former UCT School of Dance and Drama departments for over a decade, position the choreographic processes of creating these works as a means to consider the ways in which the blurring of the borders between archive, performance making and education might constitute a broader crossing of borders between divergent discourses, epistemologies and/or theoretical frameworks. In this chapter, they argue for the appropriateness of transdisciplinary studies for the South African setting by extending notions of the nuanced mulatto Gomez-Pena (2001), Bharucha’s (2001) discourse of syncretism and Bhabha’s (1984) readings of a ‘Third space’. Finally, this chapter suggests how working across theatre and dance education, performance and archival studies, might serve as a complementary and contradictory approach to practice-led/practice-as research methodologies in South Africa in the twenty-first century.