Contextualising form, content and creative practice in Igbo dance theatre

  • Christian Nwaru

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The discourse that surrounds Igbo dance theatre has not received substantial critical scrutiny. This study seeks to investigate the absence of exposition and post climatic stages in Igbo dance theatre. It argues that the absence of these stages or 'missing links' has resulted in the sequestration of structure and plot of contemporary Igbo dances thus making it difficult for audience members (especially the non-indigene or foreigners) to fully understand and appreciate the performances. Through a studio practice, this research aims to create a new dance theatre narrative to help analyse and read Igbo dances, and develop a new 'Igbo Descriptive Documentation System' derived from Ann Hutchinson‘s motif notation. The investigations of selective archetypal dances from Igboland form the basis of this study. These dances took place at the following places: the Iri-Agha dance of Ohafia in Abia State; the Nkwa-Umuagbogho and Nkwa-Nwaite dances of Afikpo in Ebonyi State; the Agborogu dance of Mbaise, in Imo State and Nkwa-Agu that originated from the Ogbagu masquerade dance of the Ajali and Nofija people in Anambra State. Field interviews and observations conducted in Eastern Nigeria helped generate information on dance narratives, patterns, designs, and overall aesthetic strategies and enabled me to trace the cultural activities and background of the Igbo people from which the above named dances have evolved. This research draws its critical methodology from Brad Haseman‘s performative and Yvonne Hardt‘s repertoire theories referring to practice-based research. Through studio practice, an extensive and holistic narrative in Igbo dance theatre (Nkwa-Ike) was created which featured a dramatic plot development consisting of a beginning, middle and end with the view of justifying the all-embracing theatrical nature of the dance. It is expected that the practice will enable audience members to fully comprehend the performance and read the dance narrative effectively. In contrast to Hutchinson‘s euro-modernist model of recording core movements in dance, this new model is framed within the polyrhythmic and polymovemental aesthetics of Igbo dance theatre.
Date of Award2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Northampton
SupervisorV Ukaegbu (Supervisor), R Braeuninger (Supervisor) & J Ewu (Supervisor)

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