Looking at dance through the Te Whare Tapa Wha model of health

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This dissertation uses Mason Durie's Te Whare Tapa Wha (the house of four sides) model of health to examine the benefits of participating in dance. Durie's (1994) model is widely used and taught throughout Aotearoa New Zealand as a guide for discussions and practices involving total health and wellbeing. The four sides of the house are: taha wairua, the spiritual aspect of health; taha whānau, social aspect; taha hinengaro, mental and emotional aspect; and taha tinana, the physical aspect; each of which will be applied to circumstances, situations, and phenomena found in dance. Each aspect of health, although they stand alone in their own right, is interconnected with, and relies on the other. Dance is a place to explore, understand, and come to know oneself and others in each aspect of health; as dance is a holistically healthy activity which empowers an individual in life, as it reflects and amplifies issues, perceptions, and ideas, and is a place to explore those issues. Dance enhances the sense of spirituality and connection to one's self, others, and the environment. This occurs through muscular bonding, use of the shared breath, and the feeling of connectedness between people when honouring and embodying one's ancestors and history through movement. The dance community can also be a surrogate family, through developing how one builds and maintains relationships by building rapport, caring for others, and creating a sense of belonging within the group. Dance improves the ability to think through the body, and is a site for physically maintaining and improving the body.

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