Malaika Sarco-Thomas MALS, MA, PhD is a dance artist whose research spans dance improvisation, ecological philosophy, site-based performance, tree-climbing, guerilla tree-planting and community practice. Malaika studied dance, theatre, biology and improvisation at the North Carolina School of the Arts, Hollins University, Kyoto Art Centre, Dartington College of Arts and PARTS in Brussels and was awarded a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Fellowship in support of her postgraduate research.
Her PhD thesis Twig Dances: Improvisation Performance as Ecological Practice examines the usefulness of improvisation and phenomenological methodologies in facilitating a practitioner’s understanding of his performative role in relation to a wider whole that includes notions of self, space, time, structure, politics and paradoxical working processes. Finding ways to facilitate this ‘ecological understanding’ through practice and performance-making is the crux of her research interest. This relates to health through movement practices within the dance studio (including somatic work toward functional alignment, and the states of alertness that support this) and as environmental observation practices outside the dance studio (including located cultural exchange, dialogic practices and planting trees).
A significant strand of this research is represented in the 2006 collaborative, peripatetic project TWIG: Together We Integrate Growth, which was funded in part by Vitamin Creative Space Gallery and Nanling Eco-Tourism Company. TWIG Project was an initiative to cultivate ecological awarenesses by facilitating art-making in cross-cultural community settings. Working with 136 schoolchildren in Ruyang village of China’s Guangdong province, TWIG developed processes for using dance improvisation and drawing (among other art and gardening practices) to enhance perception of the local developed and natural environment. Malaika has performed her improvisation score Twig Dances in numerous outdoor locations across Europe, Asia and Africa to audiences of all ages gathered on urban streets and dirt roads as well as in school yards, theatres and art galleries.
With her husband Richard Sarco-Thomas, Malaika organises the Contact Festival Dartington in Devon and a weekly contact jam at Tremough Campus, University College Falmouth, where she lectures in dance and choreography and is award leader for the BA Dance: Performance program.
Read more about Malaika’s Touch&Talk research proposal