Patrica Noxolo reflects on the success of Dancing Maps

Patrica Noxolo reflects on the success of Dancing Maps

Had such a great time last night at the Dancing Maps live event!  A good crowd of people responded to the tweets, emails, flyers, and personal invitations, including academics and non-academics.  We had a little wait at the beginning before everyone could get through the Birmingham traffic, but the people who came were I think relaxed about it – they chatted, laughed, ate cake, and got to know each other.  Many also chatted with me about the project and what it sparked in their minds – really interesting inputs people!  (I’ll post more about some of their insights and what they sparked for me over the next week).  Thanks so much to you all for your support.

Dancing MpasThe event itself was fascinating.   My first input was about the concept behind the dancing maps project (I’ll post my powerpoint slides on my blog tomorrow).  Then we had two dances from ACE youth group – they were fantastic!  Not only did they dance with energy and skill, these young people (I estimate between the ages of 15 and 19)  also talked confidently and articulately afterwards about the meanings in the dances they performed (many of which interweaved with themes coming out of the project – more on that in my blogs over the next week).  Thanks so much to you all for that, and to Gail and Ian Parmel, whose wonderfully fertile work at Ace Dance and Music was very much on show in the polished performances.

‘H’ Patten then gave a remarkable presentation/performance, in which he mapped through speech and dance the multiple trajectories of African and Caribbean dance.  He illustrated how various circular movements in the body in a range of African dances get “re-presented” in dances in the Caribbean.  Beyond that he also talked about the returning bodily moves that we see in contemporary urban African dance forms, so that we can speak of ‘journeys’ (and we spoke a lot about this), but we can also talk about globalised juxtapositions, so that we begin to construct complex polylinear mobilities.  Brilliant!  Thanks so much H.

Finally, there was discussion (with those who could stay – it was getting late).  Some of the experienced dancers – Desmond Pusey, ‘H’ Patten, Gail and Ian Parmel, Iona Waite – as well as some of the Ace youth dancers, talked about their careers so far, about what drew them to African and Caribbean dance, and about its continuing influence and relevance, not only in performance, but also in therapeutic and academic settings.  It was a real privilege to be there.  Thanks to all.

I will say more about the ideas beginning to be generated over the next few days, but I don’t want to finish today’s blog without saying thanks to the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Advanced Studies, who organised the room, the cake/drinks, the flyers, and especially to Sarah Jefferies and the student helpers, who lugged around furniture, and offered invaluable moral and practical support on the day.  Thanks so much!


Dancing Maps is one of many events bringing cutting-edge research in the humanities to a broader audience during the Being Human festival. For updates on that programme and on the festival follow us on Twitter @BeingHumanFest,and on Pinterest. Don’t forget to sign up to our e-newsletter too!