Embracing Decolonial Pedagogy in Africana Dance and Choreography

Thomas Talawa Prestø


My teaching philosophy is deeply rooted in decolonial pedagogy and the principles of Africana dance and choreography. Drawing on my extensive research and unique terminologies such as Gestorhythmitization, Rhythmomodular Synaesthesia, and Polycentric Movement, my approach to teaching is holistic, inclusive, and culturally responsive. I aim to create an environment where students can explore and express their identities, narratives, and cultural heritage through the powerful medium of dance.

Pedagogical Framework

  1. Decolonial Approach: My teaching practice begins with a decolonial framework, challenging traditional Eurocentric narratives and methodologies. This approach encourages students to question and critique historical and contemporary power structures, promoting a more inclusive and equitable understanding of dance and choreography.
  2. Embodied Learning: Central to my pedagogy is the concept of embodied learning, where students engage with knowledge through their bodies. This approach aligns with my research on AfriCognoSomatics and embodied research practices, emphasizing the importance of lived experience and physical expression in the learning process.
  3. Community and Collaboration: I foster a sense of community and collaboration in the classroom, encouraging students to learn from and support each other. This principle is inspired by the African and Caribbean traditions of communal participation and collective creativity, which are essential to the practices of Polyethnorhythmokinetic Choreography and Endogenic Research.
  4. Reflective Practice: Reflective practice is a cornerstone of my teaching methodology. I encourage students to continuously reflect on their experiences, movements, and learning processes. This practice helps them to develop a deeper understanding of their bodies, identities, and the cultural contexts of their art form.

Innovative Concepts in Teaching

  1. Gestorhythmitization:
    • Application in Teaching: I guide students to explore how gestures can transform rhythmic movements into narratives. This technique helps them to develop a more nuanced and expressive dance language.
    • Pedagogical Impact: Students learn to use their bodies as storytelling tools, enhancing their ability to communicate complex ideas and emotions through dance.
  2. Rhythmomodular Synaesthesia:
    • Application in Teaching: I incorporate exercises that engage multiple sensory rhythms—corpokinetic, optic, sonic, tactile, and ethero. These exercises help students to experience and understand rhythm in a holistic and immersive way.
    • Pedagogical Impact: This approach enriches the sensory experience of dance, fostering a deeper connection between movement and perception.
  3. CorpoKinetic Effigization:
    • Application in Teaching: I encourage students to use their bodies to embody and convey cultural and historical narratives. Through this technique, they learn to create dynamic representations of their heritage and experiences.
    • Pedagogical Impact: Students gain a greater appreciation for the cultural significance of their movements, enhancing their ability to perform with authenticity and integrity.
  4. Polycentric Movement (Selfpolification):
    • Application in Teaching: I teach students to navigate and express multiple identities and narratives simultaneously through movement. This concept encourages them to embrace the complexity and richness of their cultural backgrounds.
    • Pedagogical Impact: This technique fosters versatility and expressiveness, allowing students to create multifaceted and impactful performances.
  5. Polyethnorhythmokinetic Choreography:
    • Application in Teaching: I guide students to integrate multiple rhythmic and cultural influences into their dance practice. This approach helps them to develop a more inclusive and interconnected understanding of Africana dance traditions.
    • Pedagogical Impact: Students learn to celebrate diversity and draw on a wide range of influences, enriching their choreographic creativity.
  6. Endogenic Research:
    • Application in Teaching: I emphasize the importance of the insider perspective, encouraging students to draw on their cultural backgrounds and lived experiences in their research and practice.
    • Pedagogical Impact: This approach promotes a more authentic and culturally specific understanding of Africana dance, empowering students to contribute to the field with their unique insights.

Practical Applications for Students

  1. For Dancers: Dancers are encouraged to explore their identities and narratives through the techniques of Gestorhythmitization and Polycentric Movement. These tools help them to embody their cultural heritage and express their stories with greater depth and authenticity.
  2. For Musicians/Percussionists: Musicians and percussionists learn to engage with concepts like Rhythmomodular Synaesthesia, enhancing their ability to create cohesive and dynamic performances that integrate multiple sensory rhythms.
  3. For Dance Scholars: Scholars are introduced to Endogenic Research methodologies, which prioritize cultural specificity and embodied knowledge. This approach helps them to conduct more nuanced and insightful studies of Africana dance practices.
  4. For Choreographers: Choreographers are encouraged to draw on the principles of Polyethnorhythmokinetic Choreography, integrating diverse rhythmic and cultural influences into their work. This approach fosters innovation and inclusivity in their choreographic practice.

Talawa Technique and Mythotechnical Animal

The Talawa Technique, which I have developed, is central to my teaching practice. This technique emphasizes the importance of grounded movement, cultural integrity, and the dynamic interplay between tradition and innovation. It incorporates the concept of the Mythotechnical Animal, a symbolic representation of the dancer as a living embodiment of cultural and historical narratives.

  1. T.A.P.A (Talawa Africana Performance Aesthetics):
    • Application in Teaching: T.A.P.A serves as a guiding principle for my pedagogy, emphasizing the aesthetic and performative dimensions of Africana dance.
    • Pedagogical Impact: This approach helps students to develop a deeper appreciation for the cultural and aesthetic aspects of their practice, enhancing their ability to create meaningful and impactful performances.
  2. Rhythmic Entrainer:
    • Application in Teaching: I teach students to become rhythmic entrainers, synchronizing their movements with the rhythms of their ensemble and environment.
    • Pedagogical Impact: This concept fosters a sense of unity and cohesion in group performances, enhancing the overall quality and impact of the dance.


My teaching philosophy is grounded in the principles of decolonial pedagogy, embodied learning, and cultural integrity. By incorporating innovative concepts like Gestorhythmitization, Rhythmomodular Synaesthesia, CorpoKinetic Effigization, and Polycentric Movement, I aim to create a dynamic and inclusive learning environment that empowers students to explore and express their identities and narratives through dance. The Talawa Technique and its guiding principles, such as T.A.P.A and the Mythotechnical Animal, further enrich this pedagogical approach, fostering a deeper connection between tradition and innovation in Africana dance practices. Through this holistic and culturally responsive pedagogy, I strive to cultivate a new generation of dancers, musicians, scholars, and choreographers who are equipped to contribute to the field with authenticity, creativity, and integrity.