Andrée Grau, Professor of the Anthropology of Dance at the University of Roehampton, was the lead interviewee on The Why Factor, a BBC World Service series that explores why people do what they do.
Posted: 8 April 2014
Andrée Grau, Professor of the Anthropology of Dance at the University of Roehampton
The programme [21 March] asked why people have the desire to dance and what they communicate while dancing. For Professor Grau, the key imperative to dance was transformation. ‘Dancing transforms human experience’, she said, ‘and creates a special kind of relationship between people’.
As an example, Professor Grau spoke about her anthropological research on the Aboriginal Tiwi people of Northern Australia, where, through dance, traditional roles attributed to males and females are inverted. Grau comments, ‘Through dance, men become women and women become men. Men dance about being pregnant and giving birth while women find the spirit of children because they have become fathers for the person for whom they dance’.
Professor Grau explained that through dancing, people can experience social relationships and personalities that they cannot experience in everyday life. A quiet, unassuming Londoner ‘can suddenly become this salsa queen on the dance floor’.
The programme looked at both dancing on stage and in social settings. Professor Grau said, ‘In barn dances, provided you had a go and went on the dance floor, by the end of the evening you would have touched everyone because you keep changing partners. I do think it’s quite important – we do need that sense of touch.’
Also interviewed on the programme was David Toole, a disabled dancer with Stopgap Dance Company, Professor Dee Reynolds of the Watching Dance: Kinesthetic Empathy project, and Kathak dancer Nikita Thakrar of the Dancing Nikita Company.
The programme is available to listen to for a year on the BBC World Service site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01v2hm6