Dalcroze-inspired activities at Oak Tree care home for the elderly as interaction rituals: an ethnography

Meeting social needs and providing social engagement are key challenges mentioned by the World Health Organization (2015) for a growing ageing population. In our experience, at Oak Tree care home for the elderly social interaction becomes a challenge for older adults as a result of age-related physical and emotional problems. Van der Merwe and Habron (2019) found that Dalcroze practice can connect us to others and generate spiritual experiences. This potential motivated us to apply the Dalcroze approach in this context of care for the elderly.

Hence the purpose of this ethnographic study is to explore the interaction rituals between participants during Monday afternoon Dalcroze-inspired musicing sessions at Oak Tree care home for the elderly. Data were collected through observations, weekly reflections and reflective discussions, photos, videos, objects, songs and 8 interviews. 97 primary documents were added to one project in ATLAS.ti 8, a qualitative data-analysis software programme. We co-coded the data using four ritual ingredients and four ritual outcomes (Collins, 2014) as a theoretical lens to explore social interaction.

Our data analysis shows that the shared symbols, such as singing sacred songs, enhance the mutual focus of attention and the shared mood, which in turn heightens group solidarity and emotional energy. In other words, the activity is not a one-way process whereby ritual ingredients merely produce ritual outcomes, but the ritual outcomes also strengthen the ritual ingredients. Furthermore, according to Collins (2014), interaction ritual theory helps us understand the conditions that lead to successful and failed rituals.

We argue that Dalcroze-inspired musicing can result in successful rituals which bring change to communities, since it enhances group solidarity and generates the kind of emotional energy that moves participants to engage in pro-social behaviour. Successful rituals also build relationships, promote social interaction and generate spiritual experiences. We would like to make a case that interaction ritual theory can help us to understand failed rituals and as a result improve Dalcroze-inspired musicing in community music engagement settings, such as care homes for the elderly.







Liesl van der Merwe, Associate Professor, North-West University, South Africa

Catrien Wentink, Senior Lecturer, North-West University, South Africa

Janelize van der Merwe, Senior Lecturer, North-West University, South Africa