Contemporary Dance and Southern African Rock Art: Tranceformations and Transformations

This book weaves archaeology, anthropology, culture, politics, colonial history, dance and choreography into a life-transforming tapestry. It charts the extraordinary story of the author’s work in South Africa during the abhorrent system of Apartheid when she started a mixed-race dance company called Moving into Dance in the garage of her house. Her in-depth research into rock art, its meaning, the creation and performance of Tranceformations, the dancers’ own transformative experiences, as well as issues of cultural appropriation, are at the core of this book. It straddles different disciplines, and shows in real terms how art, or specifically dance, can transform people’s lives, not only in physical or cognitive parameters, but that it can change attitudes and perceptions of both participants and observers; that it can touch the human spirit and transcend the very essence of being human.

This book also includes a link to a video of the 30-minute dance “Tranceformations”, choreographed by the author.

Sylvia “Magogo” Glasser is a cultural activist, dance educator, choreographer, mentor, social anthropologist, and writer. She founded Moving into Dance (MID) in 1978 as a revolutionary mixed-race dance company and training organisation, during the height of Apartheid, in South Africa. Her pioneering work in Afrofusion (started 1977), Edudance (started 1989) and the Anthropology of Dance (started 1990) at the interface between dance and politics, has had a major impact on the democratisation and transformation of dance performance, choreography and education in South Africa. For this work, Glasser received a Knighthood in the Order Orange-Nassau from the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Order of Ikhamanga (Silver) in South Africa.

“We learn how the author and the dancers she trained, many of whom now carry forward her teachings in their own international careers, built a resilient community of artist-activists during and following Apartheid. This book will be a useful model for others seeking to effect Systemic change through art making and arts education.”
Sharon E. Friedler
Stephen Lang Professor of Performing Arts and Professor of Dance Emerita, Swarthmore College, USA

“For those interested in the history of contemporary dance in South Africa, the wonders of San rock painting, the key themes that run through South Africa and the much-needed voices and stories told by South African dancers, this book is a must for your bookshelf.”
Dr Sarahleigh Castelyn
University of East London

“Those who took part in the dance and those who were privileged to witness it were also transformed. They came to see the San in a new and more sensitive light and to develop an empathy with one of Africa’s greatest traditions.”
David Lewis-Williams
Professor Emeritus of Cognitive Archaeology, Wits University, South Africa

“The rhyme and reason of ancient trance and modern dance— beautiful.”
Albie Sachs
Human rights activist and retired Constitutional Judge, South Africa.

“Anthropological in tone, and interdisciplinary in form, the insights into historical Southern African San culture and ritual practices provide solid building blocks for Glasser’s reflective discussion around the creation of her work while also interrogating the sticky terrain of cultural appropriation and representations of ‘the other’. […] Profoundly, what emerges is a vindication for the value of critical research and collaboration in the processes of artistic creation, firmly situating theory and practice equally in these processes. Simultaneously Glasser’s reflections provide an argument for and awareness of the need for principled and ethical creativity, necessary in any representational engagement of ‘the other’.”
Clare Craighead
Drama and Production Studies Department, Durban University of Technology, South Africa

“This is a book that anyone interested in South African politics, its diverse cultures, its complex history, history of the San, including their culture and suffering from colonialism, the contemporary dance scene in South Africa and its possibilities for the future, must read. No more suitable person than Magogo could have written this book.”
Edward Tsumele
City Arts, South Africa.

“From the beginning of performing Tranceformations, everything changed for me. It changed my attitude towards other cultures, and it also affected the way I do my work.”
Vincent Sekwati Mantsoe
Founder/Artistic Director, Association Noa-Cie, L’Audace Artistique and Culturelle

“Tranceformations continued my journey of artistic discovery and always served as a cautionary reminder to remain authentic in my research and output.”
Gregory Maqoma
Founder of Vuyani Dance Theatre; Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres

Buy This Book

ISBN: 1-5275-8443-7

ISBN13: 978-1-5275-8443-3

Release Date: 8th July 2022

Pages: 328

Price: £72.99


ISBN: 1-5275-1053-0

ISBN13: 978-1-5275-1053-1

Release Date: 27th April 2023

Pages: 328

Price: £36.99