Kenyan explores educational values in dance

06 October 2003
Christian dance groups in Kenya provide the unusual focus of Kenyan PhD student in Florence Miya's dissertation.

An ethnomusicology student at UCT's South African College of Music (SACM), Miya is supervised by Dr Anri Herbst.

Dance in churches is reportedly growing in popularity. Miya's interest is reflected in her dissertation topic: Educational Content in Performing Arts: Tradition and Christianity in Kenya.

Miya aims to discover whether this type of artistic expression conveys educational values. Using her CD, The Fruit of the Spirit, as the music to which the groups had to choreograph their dances, she studied how they developed their dance styles and dramatic actions.

Working with various dance groups, Miya said that it was evident Christian dance had been influenced heavily by North American, African pop and African traditional performing arts.

"Africans express their feelings, emotions and life experiences through song and dance, so these arts are not foreign to them, although they may be foreign to some churches in Kenya."

She intends to create a theoretical framework on how the performing arts can be used for educational purposes for the church in Africa.

A music lecturer at Daystar University in Kenya, Miya sings and composes songs and trains solo and small singing groups and choirs. She lectures in a variety of music courses including church music, music theory and practice, ethnomusicology, African music and dance, performance courses, and choral conducting, among others.

"I have a passion for choral music and all the aspects that go with music and music culture," said Miya.

Director, founder and owner of Ebenezer Music Centre in Nairobi, Miya also writes books for the centre, which are used for training young musicians. In 2002 she launched Building Effective Worship Teams.

She was also one of 31 authors who contributed to the recently launched Musical Arts in Africa: Music, Theory and Practice. (Herbst was also one of the main editors). The book marries the different disciplines in musicology and comes with a CD.

Co-writing the chapter Integrating the Arts in Africa, Miya worked with a Ghanaian and a South African, and described the project as "wide, informative and interesting", providing useful insights for her doctoral work.

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