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TO Mzanzi 3 - Hooked

John Hogg

Hooked for life: Moving into Dance Mophatongs Sonia Radebe performing as a sex slave in Sunnyboy Mandla Motaus Man-Longing at the Dance Factory.

Thirty-Five years of courageous choreographic creativity, 22 of visionary, life-transforming vocational training. Five Standard Bank Young Artist Award winners for dance and an international reputation for artistic innovation.

As impressive as these facts about Sylvia Glasser’s Moving into Dance Mophatong (MIDM) are, the real story about the on-going impact of this flagship institution, born in her Victory Park garage in 1978, lies in the repertory of dance works and the personal histories.

At the Performing Arts Training Course 2013 final performance (featuring 15 graduates), keynote speaker and body conditioning specialist, Pat Gush, thanked Glasser and the 350 students for “teaching me to be a South African” since she joined the teaching faculty of this non-racial organisation 22 years ago.

Equally thankful, and effusive, was second keynote speaker Charmaine Monareng who stated: “I am where I am today because of Moving into Dance.”

Today this 2002 graduate is employed by the National Arts Council of South Africa as an Arts Development Officer: dance and choreography. Other alumni have also gone the official route: Xolani Sibuta (1993) is a co-ordinator for the Eastern Cape government and co-founder of the Eastern Cape Cultural Ensemble, while Charles Maema (1997) is the principal cultural officer with the Western Cape government and Ntsane Mopeli (2002) is an official with the Free State Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation.

Some of the dancer-choreographers, who trained in Afro-fusion and edu-dance in that garage studio, the Braamfontein Recreation Centre or the studios in Newtown, have their own dance companies.

Notably Gregory Maqoma’s Vuyani Dance Theatre, Vincent Sekwati Koko Mantsoe’s Association Noa, in Vichy, France, and Lesole Maine’s Lesole’s Dance Project, in Washington DC. Individual, accomplished dancer-choreographers abound, such as African Footprint tap maestro Zakhele Nkosi (1994); Shanell Winlock (1996), who has worked extensively with Akram Khan, Gregory Maqoma and PJ Sabbagha’s The Forgotten Angel Theatre Collaborative, and VDT choreographer and rehearsal director, Luyanda Sidiya (2001.)

David Thatanelo April (1992) became MIDM director but left to start his own arts consultancy. Moeketsi Koena (1992) co-founded Inzalo Theatre and Dance Com- pany with Sello Pesa and is now based in Madagascar where he runs the Itrotra dance festival. Irven Teme (2003) is a distinguished dancer-choreographer with Forgotten Angel.

On the TV and celebrity front Khabonina Qubeka (1999) is high profile. Actor Sello Motloung (1993) is known on TV soap opera and stage, as is Tinah Mnumzana (1992). Among the young guns is Fana Tshabalala (2006), the 2013 Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for dance, and Themba Mbuli (2007), who is touring his solo Dark Cell.

The success stories in the professional dance and entertainment industries are many, yet the true measure of Glasser’s legacy is the quality of the dance training and how the new management of chief executive Nadia Virasamy and artistic director Themba Nkabinde (1993) function in a bleak economy. The calibre of the choreo-graphy and performance standards of the company are also crucial. On that score there is cause for not only optimism, but celebration because of Winds Of…, the celebratory double-bill at the Dance Factory.

Up to now Alexandra’s Sunnyboy Mandla Motau (2008) has been a choreographer in gestation who has used his urban roots as a springboard for his creativity. That status changed with Man-Longing (with input from theatre director Ntsieng Mogoro) first seen at Dance Umbrella in September. Exploring human trafficking, against the aural back-drop of two pieces of metal clanging, Motau marries concept with execution as the grimly comic figure of Tebogo Letele in a bloodied butcher’s apron wheels on six Chinese shopping bags into a cityscape.

The cargo is human and the dancers excel at depicting sex slaves, especially Sonia Thandazile Radebe (2002).

In contrast Radebe’s re-worked Treasure is a holistically spatial praise poem. Dressed in white shirts Muzi Shili, Julia Burnham, Thandi Tshabalala, Oscar Buthelezi, Letele and Motau are buffeted by rhythmic impetus as they sinuously scat with their undulating bodies and a dynamic vocabulary.

The tradition of brave experimentation continues…

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