Dance and Performance Studies lecturer and founder of the Flatfoot Dance Company, Dr Lliane Loots, graduated with a PhD for her research titled: Choreographies of Identity, Self and the ‘African’ Dancing Body in Negotiating Contemporary Dancing Histories and Practices in KwaZulu-Natal Post 1994: A Case Study of Flatfoot Dance Company. 

As an autoethnographic project, her study is rooted in her lived experience as a dancer, choreographer, feminist and social activist. It tells the story behind the making of dance as an act of artistic expression, and also as a form of social action. Loots interrogates established paradigms of training, writing, researching and making dance. She shows that the decolonising project not only produces relevant and aesthetically pleasing art, but also offers hope for a better society. 

Loots believes that contemporary dance is the most controversial and cutting-edge art form in South Africa and that the body politic engaged by dance makers is at the forefront of the decolonising movement and the art form’s ability to viscerally express the underbelly of our society.

‘The power of self-expression through dance in a proclaimed democracy should never be underestimated,’ she said.

Apart from her teaching and research at UKZN, Loots has been running Flatfoot for 24 years. Her work with the company in the arena of African dance pedagogy and dance performance and choreography is the subject of her PhD research. She is also the Artistic Director for UKZN’s Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) annual JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience. 

Loots’ belief in dance education as a tool for profound social change has seen Flatfoot use dance and arts as a mechanism to address gender-based violence, HIV and AIDS and for environmental education. Flatfoot is globally recognised as a company spearheading new ways of thinking about dance and education within a southern context.

Words: Melissa Mungroo 

Photograph: Rajesh Jantilal