Expanding the Boundaries of Africana Dance through Talawa Technique and Smaddiaesthetics

Research Statement: Expanding the Boundaries of Africana Dance through Talawa Technique and Smaddiaesthetics

Thomas Talawa Prestø


My research is rooted in a profound commitment to expanding the theoretical and practical frameworks of Africana dance. This work is inherently decolonial, challenging dominant paradigms and introducing new concepts that reflect the rich, multifaceted nature of Africana cultural expressions. Through the development of unique terms such as Talawa Technique, Smaddiaesthetics, and AfriCognoSomatics, my research endeavors to provide practitioners and scholars with a robust vocabulary that captures the depth and diversity of Africana dance practices.

Research Objectives

  1. To Develop and Articulate the Talawa Technique: The Talawa Technique is a comprehensive dance methodology that integrates physical, cognitive, and spiritual dimensions of movement. This technique emphasizes the importance of grounding, polyrhythmic movement, and the dynamic interplay between the dancer and the environment.
  2. To Explore and Define Smaddiaesthetics: Smaddiaesthetics, derived from the Caribbean philosophy of smadditization, is a concept that encapsulates the assertion of self-worth and identity through embodied practices. This term provides a framework for understanding how marginalized communities use bodily expression as a form of resistance and affirmation.
  3. To Advance Africana Dance Theories: By introducing terms such as ChoreoNommo, ChoreoWanga, and PerformancePwen, my research aims to deepen the understanding of Africana dance practices, highlighting their spiritual, cultural, and performative dimensions.
  4. To Establish New Methodological Innovations: Through concepts like Ethnorhythmokinetic Choreographyand AfriCognoSomatic Dance Praxis, I seek to develop new methodologies for dance research that prioritize embodied knowledge and insider perspectives.

Key Concepts and Their Impact

  1. Talawa Technique: The Talawa Technique is a cornerstone of my research, representing a holistic approach to dance that integrates physicality, rhythm, and spirituality. This technique not only enhances the dancer’s physical capabilities but also fosters a deeper connection to Africana cultural heritage.
  2. Smaddiaesthetics: Smaddiaesthetics emerges from the Caribbean ethos of smadditization, where the body becomes a site of resistance and identity assertion. This concept is crucial for understanding how Africana communities navigate and challenge societal marginalization through dance and other forms of bodily expression.
  3. AfriCognoSomatics: AfriCognoSomatics bridges cognition and somatic experiences within an African context, emphasizing the body as a repository of collective memory and cultural wisdom. This approach is essential for recognizing the importance of embodied knowledge in Africana dance practices.

Expanding Africana Dance Theories

My research contributes to the expansion of Africana dance theories by introducing concepts that encapsulate the complexity and dynamism of these practices. ChoreoNommo explores the power of words and gestures to affect change, both physically and metaphysically. ChoreoWanga emphasizes the infusion of spiritual elements into choreography, recognizing dance as a medium for cultural and ancestral connection. PerformancePwen highlights the deliberate access to performative and spiritual states during a performance, showcasing the intentional and ritualistic aspects of Africana art.

Intersectionality and Africana Dance

The concept of intersectionality is integral to my research, as it acknowledges the multiple, overlapping identities that influence Africana dance practices. By considering factors such as race, gender, and socio-economic status, my research provides a more nuanced understanding of how these intersecting identities shape and are expressed through dance.

Methodological Innovations

Through Ethnorhythmokinetic Choreography and AfriCognoSomatic Dance Praxis, my research introduces innovative methodologies that prioritize the lived experiences and embodied knowledge of Africana communities. These approaches challenge traditional, Eurocentric methods of dance research, offering new ways to engage with and understand Africana dance practices.

Embodied Research Practices

My research emphasizes the importance of embodied research practices, where the body is both a subject and a tool of inquiry. This approach is exemplified by concepts such as Rhythmokinetic Prosody and Rhythmokinetic Inscription, which explore the deep interconnectedness of movement and sound in Africana dance.

Practical Applications

The concepts and techniques developed through my research have significant practical applications for dancers, musicians, choreographers, and scholars. For practitioners, these frameworks offer new ways to engage with and perform Africana dance. For scholars, they provide a robust vocabulary and methodological tools for analyzing and documenting these practices.

Comparative Analysis of African Diaspora Sites

My research also involves a comparative analysis of African diaspora sites, exploring how Africana dance practices have evolved and adapted in different contexts. This approach not only enriches the understanding of these practices but also highlights the dynamic interplay between local and global influences in the evolution of Africana dance.

Contributions to Africana Performance Studies

By introducing new concepts and frameworks, my research makes a significant contribution to the emerging field of Africana Performance Studies. This interdisciplinary field examines the cultural, social, and political dimensions of Africana performance, providing a comprehensive understanding of how these practices function and are experienced.

Impact on Africana Rooted Practitioners

For Africana rooted practitioners, the terminology and frameworks developed through my research offer new ways to articulate and discuss their practices. This is particularly important for dancers, musicians, choreographers, and scholars, as it provides a language that reflects their experiences and cultural heritage.

  • For the Dancer: The Talawa Technique and Smaddiaesthetics offer new ways to explore and express their identity through movement.
  • For the Musician/Percussionist: Concepts such as Rhythmokinetic Prosody and Meloprosorhythmic Practicesprovide new insights into the relationship between rhythm and movement.
  • For the African Dance Scholar: The new terminology and methodologies offer robust tools for analyzing and documenting Africana dance practices.
  • For the Choreographer: The frameworks developed through my research provide new ways to incorporate cultural and spiritual elements into choreography.

Impact on Institutions and Conservatories

The concepts and methodologies developed through my research have the potential to transform dance education in institutions and conservatories. By incorporating these frameworks into their curricula, these institutions can provide a more inclusive and comprehensive education that reflects the diversity and richness of Africana dance practices.

Potential for Academic Papers

The innovative concepts and frameworks developed through my research have the potential to be expanded into multiple academic papers. These papers can further explore the theoretical and practical implications of these concepts, contributing to the broader field of dance studies.

Contribution to an Under-theorized Field

My research makes a considerable contribution to the under-theorized field of Africana Dance. By introducing new concepts and methodologies, it provides a robust theoretical framework for understanding and analyzing Africana dance practices. This work not only enriches the field but also ensures that the voices and experiences of Africana communities are represented and valued in academic discourse.


My research represents a significant advancement in the study of Africana dance, introducing new concepts and methodologies that challenge traditional paradigms and reflect the richness and diversity of these practices. Through the development of the Talawa Technique, Smaddiaesthetics, and other innovative frameworks, my work provides practitioners and scholars with the tools they need to understand, engage with, and celebrate Africana dance in all its complexity. This research is not just an academic endeavor but a decolonial action, aiming to reclaim and reassert the cultural heritage and identity of Africana communities through dance.