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MxolisiI Majozi was sooo excited after his first contemporary dance choreographic experience that he battled to go to sleep that night.
This isn’t just any little anecdote, because the 30-year-old doing pliés in preparation for the Dance Umbrella premiere I Feel Ya is rapper, TV actor and music show host Zuluboy.
The presenter of SABC1’s Fan Base admits that in the studio with choreographer Sifiso Kweyama and the MIDM Performing Arts Training Course trainees it’s been tough not having his Zuluboy persona.
It is Mxolisi who does dance class. But ultimately this is a very positive experience because “I see dance as sign language. People tell stories through body movements.
“Sifiso gets me to do stuff with the whole group, which I feed off. I go home, push the couch to the side, and practise. I have an acting history (Soul City, InterseXions, Muvhango). We are designed to transform matter. We are shape shifters.”
The sophisticated man of the entertainment world is very honest about how much he owes to growing up in Durban; how, after being born in Kwa-Mashu on December 21, 1982, all his experiences growing up in Ntuzuma, a bit in Inanda and the CBD, and schooling in various communities, have enriched him.
Among his biggest influences were the pantsula culture of dancing at birthday parties, beauty pageants and hoping that when he dies he will have a proper pantsula funeral with everyone dancing.
His primary school group was called the Groovies with its own style of miming and moving to techno and hits like Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger. Then the teenager started miming American rap.
A turning point in his life was the arrival of returning exile Bacco Xaba, who worked with the towns hip youth creating sketches, some of them political.
“I didn’t get far,” recalls Mxolisi, “but he started training me (with acting exercises). We didn’t know he was grooming us.”
Nor did Xaba the soldier-turned-community theatre cultural activist know that he would be a drummer in one of his young protégés’ band or be employed, as he is now, in the SANDF marching band.
Another career-making moment was meeting Skinny Boy from the Kwaito group Tribe after coming to Johannesburg to study at Dorkay House in 2002.
“Staying at my cousin Thembi Ncetana’s place in Roodepoort, I heard there was a superstar in the complex. I showed them different dances.”
In their orange overalls, floppy hats and red All Stars, Mxolisi, Pule and Mbuso were paid R150 a gig. “I left the dancing for the microphone,” smiles the shrewd operator but he still sags his pants sometimes and loves his All Stars.
“And he wears them with a suit,” exclaims his partner Andiswa Gebashe.
Andiswa, a professional sign language interpreter, introduces herself as a coda (child of a deaf adult). Growing up, she took dance classes at Sbonakaliso Ndaba, Sifiso Kweyama and Ondine Bello’s Phenduka Dance Theatre. She now signs for presidential state-of-the-nation speeches and SABC3 special broadcasts.
“We share our issues, which are close to our hearts,” explains Zuluboy. “The stuff deaf people go through; they just speak a different language, like Zulu or Chinese. A lot of deaf girls get raped because they don’t have interpreters. People die at clinics and hospitals because doctors can’t sign. We want to do projects like a shelter in Westonaria, where a kid was chained at the back of a house because he was deaf.”
On September 6, Zuluboy is organising a fundraiser for sign language interpreter bursaries. He will present to 150 chief executives the concept of the dance project I Feel Ya a collabo- ration between himself, Dutch Cross-over Dance Company ISH and Moving Into Dance Mophatong. His connection to ISH is through its production manager Marloes van Elswijk, whom Zuluboy previously worked with on Music May Day projects.
Zuluboy describes I Feel Ya as a mixture of South African sign language with hip hop, contem- porary dance and maskandi.
Two pieces “which take you into a world where no sound exists” are being created simultaneously in Joburg and Amsterdam and the choreographers consult via Skype.
The real fusion happens when the two companies meet in Joburg on September 2.
Not a tall order for the inventor of Skandihop (maskandi meets hiphop), a form he developed after overhearing two Ugandans talking about him, and his unoriginality, while travelling on a train in Canada.
Little did they know what they had started.
• I Feel Ya is at The Market Theatre On September 7 at 6.30pm and September 8 at 3pm. Book at Computicket.