Dr Sarahleigh Castelyn
Department of Music, Writing & Performance , School of Arts and Creative Industries
Dr Sarahleigh Castelyn is an educator, researcher, performer, and choreographer; a dance nerd.
Areas Of Interest
Dance, Politics, Ethics, Pedagogy, Africa, Gender, Race, Geography, Sexuality, Nation, Practice-Based Research, Theatre, Performance, recently the representation of women and madness in performance: the list goes on…
I am an educator, researcher, performer, choreographer and writer: a dance nerd. My dance research focuses on race, gender, sexuality, and nation in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa, the politics of hybridity, and the use of practice as a research methodology.
I have performed in and choreographed dance works, for example at JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Festival (South Africa) and The Playhouse (South Africa). I serve on a number of editorial and organisation boards, such as The South African Dance Journal and HOTFOOT.
I have published research on dance and South Africa, for instance in Viral Dramaturgies (2018) and Narratives in Black British Dance (2018), and in journals such as The African Performance Review, Dance Theatre Journal, Animated, African Performance Review, and The South African Theatre Journal.
I am interested in researching and documenting dance and performance practices that are often marginalised by the global north. I am currently working on a monograph on contemporary dance in South Africa during the early periods after the end of the apartheid regime.
My book aims to explore when and how, and to what effect, the body in South African contemporary dance post-apartheid is a toyi-toying body. Toyi-Toying is a South African dance motif that occurs at protests and is a powerful piece of choreography that creates a charged atmosphere.
My research makes apparent the relationship between political action and the dancing body and shows how South African contemporary dance choreographers makes visible the complex, fluid, multiple, and contradictory nature of South African identity politics.
My story: I was born in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa in the 1970s, and was sent to ballet at the age of four to cure my duck walk; I had teaspoons thrown at me by my ballet teacher because I wouldn't stop growing; I developed a love for Brenda Fassie and township jive thanks to the wise gogo who cared for me when my mom was working at the hospital; I landed up at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in the 1990s; during the most important election in South African history, I loved dancing the toyi-toyi up and down the voting lines with my fellow South Africans.
I learnt from Paul Datlen that everything was dance, including throwing yourself onto the floor, which I had no problem with, except the getting up. From Lliane Loots, I learnt that not only was everything dance, but dance was political, and dancing bodies are thinking bodies. I danced for Flatfoot when it was 'unofficial', and I takes pride in saying that I remember dancing on the top of a construction site with fiberglass wings on for a photo shoot. I likes to think that the photo in the local Sunday Paper made me famous when I was clubbing in Point Road. During this time, I made other dancers dance with chickens, and got really irritated that there weren't enough books about dance in South Africa on the library bookshelves.
In 2001, I left the sunny shores of the east coast to go to London and landed up completing a practice-based doctoral research project supervised by Jen Harvie at Queen Mary, University of London, which was funded by the United Kingdom's Arts and Humanities and Research Council.
Today, I am a practice-based researcher based at the University of East London but I have one foot in the United Kingdom and one in South Africa - I do have big feet. I love working with my students at UEL and I love working with the student dancers in UKZN (University of KwaZulu-Natal), such as with the Flatfoot Dance Training Company, or even bringing students from UEL together with students from UKZN on Khuluma – the dance writing residency project that is part of JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Festival.
I invite you to join the Dance Revolution: Dance Nerds Unite!
Currently working on a monograph titled Identity Politics in Contemporary Dance in South Africa: The Toyi-Toying Body and a book chapter about HIV/AIDS and contemporary dance in South Africa for an edited book collection on HIV/AIDS and Performance.
Arrangements are also being made for a collaborative dance project with student dancers from the UK and students from a South African university.
- 2018. 'Choreographing HIV and AIDS in Contemporary Dance in South Africa' appears in Section 3: Inter/National Narratives in Viral Dramaturgies: HIV and AIDS in Performance in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Alyson Campbell and Dirk Gindt and published by Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 215-233. REFable. (DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-70317-6_10)
- 2018. 'Why I am not a fan of the Lion King: Ethically-informed Approaches to the Teaching and Learning of South African Dance Forms in Higher Education in the United Kingdom' appears in Narratives in Black British Dance: Embodied Practices, edited by Adesola Akinleye and published by Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 115-129. REFable. (DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-70314-5_9)
- 2019. 'Saartjie Baartman, Nelisiwe Xaba, and me: The Politics of Looking at South African Bodies', South African Theatre Journal, 32 (3), pp.285-299. ( )
- 2019. 'We All are Makwerekwere: Xenophobia, Nationality, Dance and South Africa', Conversations Across the Field of Dance Studies. XXXIX, pp. 38-41.
- 2018 'Dance Infrastructure in South Africa: An Introduction to Dance Forum and Georgina Thomson', HOTFOOT (Autumn 2018)
- 2013. "'Why I am not a fan of the Lion King": Ethically-Informed Approaches to the Teaching and Learning of South African Dance Forms in Higher Education in the United Kingdom', South African Dance Journal, 2 (1), pp. 1 - 19. ISSN2223-8425
- 2013. "'Home is where the heart is": Black South African Identities and Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre's Home', African Performance Review, 5 (1), pp. 30 - 42. ISSN 1750-4848
- 2012. 'Flatfoot Dance Company's training programme in South Africa' in ANIMATED Winter 2012, pp. 32 - 35. ISSN/ISBN: 0969-7225
- 2010. 'Mapping the Body's Movement', South African Theatre Journal, 24 (1), pp. 220 - 240. ISSN/ISBN: 1013-7548. DOI: 10.1080/10137548.2010.9687931
- 2008. "'Mama Africa', HIV/AIDS and National Identity in South Africa Choreography', South African Theatre Journal, 22 (1), pp. 62 - 83. ISBN 1013-7548. DOI: 10.1080/10137548.2008.9687884
- 2006. 'JOMBA! A Festival Diary', Dance Theatre Journal, 21 (3), pp. 40 - 44. ISSN 0264-9160
- 2019. 'Spotlight on Kendra Horsburgh and BirdGang LTD' HOTFOOT (Spring 2019)
- 2020. Review of Tranceformations and Transformations: Southern African Rock Art and Contemporary Dance by Sylvia 'Magogo' Glasser (Staging Post, 2019) HOTFOOT (Autumn 2020)
- 2020. Review of Contemporary African Dance Theatre: Phenomenology, Whiteness and the Gaze by Sabine Sörgel (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020) HOTFOOT (Autumn 2020)
- 2020. Review of The Essential Guide to Jazz Dance by Dollie Henry and Paul Jenkins (The Crowood Press, 2019) HOTFOOT (Autumn 2020)
- 2020. Review of Body Politics: Fingerprinting South African Contemporary Dance by Adrienne C. Sichel (Porcupine Press, 2018) HOTFOOT (Autumn 2020)
- 2018. Review of British Dance: Black Routes edited by Christy Adair and Ramsay Burt (New York and London: Routledge, 2017), HOTFOOT (Autumn 2018)
- 2017. Review of Hidden Movement: Contemporary Voices of Black British Dance edited by Pawlet Brookes. With contributions by Dr Patrick Acogny, David Bryan, Hilary S Carty, Jackie Guy MBE, Henri Oguike, Dr Bob Ramdhanie, Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp OBE, and Sharon Watson (Leicester: Serendipity Artists Movement, 2013) HOTFOOT (Autumn 2017)
- 2017 Review of Creolizing Dance in a Global Age edited by Pawlet Brookes. With contributions by Marie-Laure Soukaina Edom, Gladys M. Francis, Roshini Kempadoo, Patrick Parson, L'Antoinette Stines, and Verene A. Shepherd (Leicester: Serendipity Artists Movement, 2014/15) HOTFOOT (Autumn 2017)
- 2017 Review of Blurring Boundaries: Urban Street Meets Contemporary Dance edited by Pawlet Brookes. With contributions by Kyle Abraham, Funmi Adewole, Ivan Blackstock, Jreena Gree, Robert Hylton, Jo Read, Nefeli Tsiouti, Tia-Monique Uzor, Orson Nava, and Danilo DJ Walde (Leicester: Serendipity Artists Movement, 2015/16) HOTFOOT (Autumn 2017)
- 2017 Review of Black Women in Dance: Stepping Out of the Barriers edited by Pawlet Brookes. With contributions by Adesola Akinleye, Deborah Baddoo, Hilary S. Carty, Catherine Dénécy, Pam Johnson, Mercy Nabirye, Maureen Salmon, Jessica Walker, Sharon Watson, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar. Additional Research by Funmi Adewole and Amy Grain (Leicester: Serendipity Artists Movement, 2016), HOTFOOT (Autumn 2017)
- 2009. Review of Choreographing the Folk: The Dance Stagings of Zora Neale Hurston by Anthea Kraut (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), Platform, 4, 1 (Spring 2009)
- 2007. Review of Theatre, Body and Pleasure by Simon Shepherd (London and New York: Routledge, 2006), Studies in Theatre and Performance, 27, 2 (2007)
- 2007. Review of Choreographies of African Identities: Négritude, Dance, and the National Ballet of Senegal by Francesca Castaldi (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2006), Contemporary Theatre Review, 17, 1 (2007)
- 2006. Review of Athol Fugard by Dennis Walder (Tavistock, UK: Northcote House Publishers, in association with the British Council), Contemporary Theatre Review, 16, 3 (2006)
- 2019. 'Choregraphing Creolisation in South Africa Contemporary Dance' - Hybrid Practices: Methodologies, Histories, and Performances at the University of Malta
- 2017. ''We All are Makwerekwere: Xenophobia, Dance and South Africa' - Society for Dance Research's Age of Forgetfulness Conference at Royal Holloway University, London
- 2017. 'Toyi-Toying: South Africa's Popular Dance of Protest in Townships, Suburbs, and Shopping Malls' - Pop Moves's PoP turns 10: Celebrating the Popular, Practising the Urban Conference at the University of East London
- 2016. Invited by THE ARTS CLUSTER (at the University to Pretoria) for their Colloquium: on Embodied Knowledge(s) and Embodied Pedagogies. Presented a paper titled 'Embodied Cognition: Strategies for Researching the Body in South African Dance Theatre'
- 2015. 'The Toyi-Toying Body: Identity Politics in Contemporary Dance in South Africa:' - Confluences – Bi-Annual Conference at The School of Dance at The University of Cape Town, (UCT) South Africa
- 2012. Accepted by the Association of Dance of the African Diaspora to deliver a paper on the ethics of teaching South African dance in a British university at their Re:Generations conference at The Place, London
- 2011. Invited to deliver guest seminar at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, as part of the 2011 Jomba Contemporary Dance Festival
- 2011. Accepted by the Association of Dance of the African Diaspora: London Metropolitan University to deliver a paper/workshop titled 'Dancing through the Minefield: Studying the Politics of Africanist Dance Aesthetics'
- 2010 'South African Daughter: The Responsible and Accountable Dancing Body': Imagining Bodies Conference: Tallinn University, Estonia: Paper on my practice-based research project that explored the body in apartheid and post-apartheid national and HIV and AIDS discourse
- 2010. 'Langarm en London: The Performance of South African Nationality at Social Dance Events in London': Society for Dance Research: Dance Ethnography Forum: De Montfort University, United Kingdom: Paper on my practice-based research project into South Africans and the performance of national identity in the United Kingdom
- 2010. 'Globalised Perspectives on Popular Dance: Or Signposting the Roots/Routes of South African Dance'. Palatine Conference on Teaching Popular Dance in Higher Education: University of East London, United Kingdom: Paper on how my ethical viewpoints inform my teaching of global dance forms in the United Kingdom
- 2009. 'The Politics of Looking and Dancing': International Federation of Theatre Research: University of Lisbon, Portugal: Paper on Nelisiwe Xaba and my solo practice-based project focusing on South African national identity and 'race'
- 2009. 'The Politics of Looking and Dancing': African Theatre Association: University of Northampton, United Kingdom: Paper on Nelisiwe Xaba and my solo practice-based project focusing on South African national identity and 'race'
- 2007. 'Home is where the heart is': International Federation of Theatre Research: Stellenbosch University, South Africa: Paper on Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre and my choreographic work with Flatfoot student training company focusing on choreography and the value of home
- 2007. 'Home is where the heart is': Postgraduate Seminar: Queen Mary, University of London, United Kingdom
- 2006. 'Babies, tutus, and guns: the body in South African dance theatre': Dramatic Learning Spaces: University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa: Paper on Flatfoot Dance Company and my practice-based research project that explored motherhood, HIV/AIDS, and national identity
- 2006. 'Mothers and Daughters': SuperVisions: London School of Contemporary Dance with the University of Roehampton, United Kingdom: Paper on Flatfoot Dance Company and my practice-based research into surrogate motherhood and HIV/AIDS
- 2006, 'Mothers and Daughters': British Forum for Ethnomusicology: University of Winchester, United Kingdom: Paper on Flatfoot Dance Company and my practice-based research into surrogate motherhood and HIV/AIDS
- 2006. 'Mothers and Daughters': QUORUM: Queen Mary, University of London: Paper on Flatfoot Dance Company and my current practice-based research into surrogate motherhood and HIV/AIDS
- 2015. 'The Toyi-Toying Body: Identity Politics in Contemporary Dance in South Africa:' - Confluences - Bi-Annual Conference at The School of Dance at The University of Cape Town. ISBN No 978 - 0 - 7992 - 2516 - 7.
- 2014. Performer: Etheatre and Collaborators project which was part of the 10th Birthday of UpStage! Online Performance Platform
- 2013. Performer and Co-Creator: The Falling Shift: Durational Interventionist Performance Project with Hari Marini: Performed outside The National Theatre and in Siobhan Davies Studios as part of the Falling About Research Lab
- 2011. Choreographer: Brenda and the Bluebottles: with Flatfoot Dance Company's training dancers on a choreography for the fringe night of Jomba Contemporary Dance Experience Festival
- 2007. Solo-performance of How I Chased a Rainbow and Bruised my Knee: Queen Mary, University of London, United Kingdom
- 2007. Installation with Lauren Park of How I Chased a Rainbow and Bruised my Knee: African Theatre Association: Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom
- 2006. Choreographer: Body Maps with Flatfoot Dancers: Jomba! Contemporary Dance Festival, Durban, South Africa
- 2005. Scratch solo-performance of Mothers and Daughters: Queen Mary, University of London, United Kingdom
- 2005. Choreographer: I'm Sorry I Never Meant to Hurt You with Flatfoot Student Dancers: Jomba! Contemporary Dance Festival, Durban, South Africa
- 2001. Actor: Seeing Red written and directed by Greig Coetzee: toured South Africa
- 1999. Choreographer: Damage: Dance Shongololo and Redeye: The Natal Playhouse and Durban Art Gallery, South Africa
- 1999 to 2000. Actor and writer: various productions such as No Sir, I Am Not On The Menu for Mad Cow Productions in South Africa which toured and performed to full houses at the National Arts Festival in 1998, 1999, & 2000
- 1998. Dancer: Final Instructions to the Waking choreographed by Lliane Loots: Durban, South Africa
- 1998. Choreographer: Second Hand Goods: The Square Space Theatre, Durban, South Africa
- 1997. Choreographer: If the straitjacket fits: The Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, Durban, South Africa
- 1997. Dancer: Athena and Aphrodite compete for Paris's attention: choreographed by Natalie Beaton, The Square Space Theatre, Durban, South Africa
- 1997. Dancer: Arabesque: choreographed by Linda Peyters: The Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre and The Natal Playhouse, Durban, South Africa
- 1997. Dancer: Free Inclinations: choreographed by Linda Peyters: conceptual work at the University of Natal, Durban, South Africa
- 1996. Dancer and choreographer: Lady and the Tramps: The Square Space Theatre, Durban, South Africa
- 1994. Dancer and choreographer: The New Snow White: The Hexagon Theatre, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
- 2018. UEL Mini-Sabbatical Research Scheme
- 2018. UEL Undergraduate Research Intern Scheme
- 2016. UEL Undergraduate Research Intern Scheme (First Prize for student's work)
- 2015. UEL Undergraduate Research Intern Scheme
- 2015. ADI UEL Conference Attendance
- 2014. UEL Undergraduate Research Intern Scheme (Second Prize for student's work)
- 2013. UEL Mini-Sabbatical Research Scheme
- 2011. UEL Research Scheme
- 2010. UEL Conference Attendance
- 2010. UEL Teaching Support Awards
- 2009. UEL Conference Attendance
- 2005 to 2008. AHRC PhD Funding
- 2005 to 2008. QM Student Conference Support
- 2005 to 2008. AHRC Student Conference Support
- 1998 to 2001. UKZN MA Funding
- 1997. UKZN Honours Funding
- 1994 to 1996. UKZN Undergraduate Funding
- Supervision of PhD Students
- Research Methods in Creative Practice
- Practising Research, Researching Practice
- Border Crossings
- Dance Write Now!
- African Theatre Association (Executive member)
- African Performance Review (Subscriptions editor)
- South African Dance Journal (Editorial Board)
- Society for Dance Research
- Society of Dance History Scholars
- Foundation for Community Dance
- Congress of Dance Research
BA (Hons) Dance: Urban Practice
Study dance urban practice with a dynamic and specialist skilled dance team in a great location that is the cultural hub of East London.Find out more
- PA4204 Reading the body, preparing the body
- PA5203 Crossign borders, hybrid forms
- PA6203 Practicing research, researching practice