‘We need to talk’: The diverse voices and shared visions of early career dance researchers

In July the ECR Community held a half-day event on the eve of Panpapanpalya Joint Dance Congress in Adelaide, Australia. We asked one of our speakers, Alfdaniels Mabingo, to share some of his reflections of the event.

It is not common for early career dance researchers from different global corners of the world to congregate and share their professional, academic and research stories, passions and aspirations. What was so special about the Early Career Researcher (ECR) meeting, which was held at the University of South Australia in Adelaide on June 30, 2018 is that it made this congregation a reality. What made it even more inspiring is the diversity of stories, expertise, aspirations, and identities that individuals from different countries in Africa, Europe, Asia, South America, North America, New Zealand, and Australia brought to the space and the shared experiences.

Seated amidst a sea of bubbling passions, I kept asking myself: ‘What does Early career researcher mean?’. The answers to this question came from a myriad of voices of fellow ECRers. As each individual introduced themselves, I realised the complexity and depth of what ECR means. The representation was so broad, ranging from fresh Masters and PhD graduates, continuing undergraduate and graduate students pursuing different researches, dance performers and choreographers inquiring about their own practices, dance educators who are experimenting with their pedagogic innovations, and interdisciplinarists whose minds seek to imagine the place of dance in a wide range of other knowledge domains such as health, psychology, peace and conflict resolution, and technology, among others.

Alfdaniels Mabingo

The richness of voices and expansiveness of research interests underscored the centrality of dance and the role of dance researchers in improving the human condition. From the dynamic, intimate and informative interactions that we had, I admired the selfless work that each individual is doing to ensure that dance shapes the future that we all imagine. It was clear to me that the curiosities and practices of ECR are producing visions that posterity will refer back to with pride and gratitude. I was so inspired to be surrounded by and immersed in exchanges that deepened my confidence, pride, commitment, and imagination as a dance researcher, writer, performer, and scholar.

Moreover, the meeting provided a platform for meaningful connections. As an early career researcher from a continent and a race that is on the fringes of dance discourse, I have always encountered the challenge of operating in and as a lonely universe. The meeting delivered the people that I can talk to, the people with whom we can peer-edit our works, the people that I can creatively collaborate with, the people that I can co-author works with, the people that I am keen to learn from and share resources with, and the people that I will be proud to call my lifetime friends and colleagues. The meeting reclaimed me from the lonely universe. My vision that the future does not only belong to us, but it rests in how meaningfully we connect with one another was reaffirmed. It was a meeting for and about the future. The interactions signposted us to many possibilities for our different path to cross. As a fresh PhD graduate, this is the place where I want to be.

As I was leaving the venue for the meeting, I deeply thought about the potential that the ECR platform has to empower and enrich early career dancer researchers. I was envisioning the global connections that the initiative can spark. I felt like emerging from a womb that has immense potential to birth more possibilities. The future will not be defined by how fresh we are as researchers, but it will be determined by how we blend this freshness into constructive connections that will elevate and translate our talents, ideas, passions, and dreams into purposeful and impactful action. As early career dance researchers, we need this space more than ever before. We have it. Let’s occupy it. Let’s make it a beehive of stories, connections, celebrations, sharing, inspiration, and support. Let’s paint it with imaginative energies, creative visions, and critical thoughts. As Barack Hussein Obama said: YES WE CAN!

Alfdaniels Mabingo, PhD, is a scholar of dance education and pedagogy from Uganda, East Africa. You can check out his impressive list of publications here and get a glimpse of his Ugandan dance class below.