Feel the heat of the Latin beatComment on this story
Pulse-pounding steamy embraces, swivelling hips and high-octane tempos can only begin to describe the intensity of the hit Broadway production Burn the Floor. Labelled as “ballroom reinvented”, the theatrical ballroom dance show hits the country for another season.
What more could you ask for in the heart of winter? Try a young man who is set to increase temperatures even further – the South African Keo Motsepe, who has joined the international cast.
It’s a firm handshake I receive as I greet the tall, masculine dancer with a broad smile and warm eyes when we meet for a chat. For Motsepe the reality of being in one of the top dance shows is still dawning.
A calling for dance came at the age of five after his best friend suggested they try it for fun.
Proudly flying the South African flag, he says: “I believe anybody can be a dancer, but most don’t have the passion. I do, I’ll do anything for it.”
That “anything”, Motsepe says, is from shark cage diving to singing the national anthem in front of thousands, but you will not find him jumping off any bridges or climbing any mountains, as he has a fear of heights. The one height he seems to be fine with, though, is the one he is currently enjoying.
“It was a dream I hadn’t ever conceived,” says the man who has has been the South African Latin American Champion since 2004.
A dance graduate in Latin American, ballroom and contemporary dance at the Corenergy Dance Centre in Joburg, it was when his dance teacher took him to see Burn the Floor at the Joburg Theatre last year that the game changed for him.
“At the time I was focusing on my championships and wasn’t interested in seeing it,” he admits. “I sat there and watched the first number and right there and then I was done – sold!”
Intent on being part of Burn the Floor, he contacted the manager and secured an audition with the show’s renowned ballroom choreographer, Jason Gilkison.
“I thought to myself, ‘this is crazy, I see this guy on M-Net on So You Think You Can Dance and now he’s going to see me dance’. I auditioned and he said to me: ‘Wow, you need to be in this company’.”
Touring with the company since January and performing on stage as opposed to competing were some of the adjustments Motsepe had to make. “Here I prepare to entertain people. That hunger of winning before now is my hunger for entertaining.”
Why Latin ballroom as opposed to, perhaps, hip hop?
“I did try it out at school, but fell in love with Latin as I could do more with it, it’s broad. I can dance my Latin moves to hip hop, but can’t dance hip hop to Latin.”
Other changes Motsepe had to adapt to are the quick costume changes backstage.
“I was shocked at how fast we had to change. The tie changes are not that simple. Once I went on stage with it undone, but just worked it into my act as I tied it,” he recalls of his first days.
Having now mastered the art as well as his trade, Motsepe says he brings a special African rhythm to the show. “I listen to the back-ground beats and move from that.”
His commitment to his performance is simple: he owns it.
“It’s hard work, you need to have a strong personality and you need to have fun while doing it.”
With the show touring 30 countries and more than 160 cities, Motsepe says his goal is simple.
“I want to go to Broadway,” he smiles.
South African audiences are in for a real treat.
Burn the Floor, The Temperature Rises tour runs in the Mother City until July 29 at the Artscape’s Opera House, before moving to Joburg and Durban.
• Tickets for Cape Town: R125 to R315 at Computicket. Tuesday to Friday at 8pm, Saturday 2pm and 8pm, Sunday 2pm and 6pm.