AIMING HIGH: Paul Modjadji

WHO knew the young boy from the dusty streets of Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria, who was the laughing stock among his peers for being a dancer, would end up on international and national stages?

This is the tale of dancer and choreographer Paul Modjadji, 31, who is the creative director and head choreographer for the fourth edition of the Gauteng Sports Awards (GSA) next Friday.

The current Africa ambassador for Austrian-based European Star Dance Union (Esdu) auditioned for this gig last year and eventually signed on the dotted line.

To some he may be a newbie in mainstream dancing circles, but internationally he has built a reputable profile, with awards such as Global Young Leader bagged in Washington DC, Talent America adult category top dancer, New York City, and being Esdu’s World Championship title holder in the solo jazz category in Croatia, among other achievements.

When he was 14, young Modjadji fell in love with dance but faced a lack of resources to nurture his craft, so he had to rely on watching Mbongeni Ngema’s historic musical Sarafina.

“I’m a self-taught dancer and would practise watching Sarafina and videos of Fame. I knew I was born to dance – the lack of a recreation centre in my hometown did not deter my spirits. It was only after I graduated with a diploma in journalism that my parents would let me pursue dance.”

He moved to Cape Town to join the now defunct Backstage as an extra and dancer. This exposed him to other styles such as ballet, contemporary and other dance forms. “After Backstage I came to Joburg to try my luck and my career started taking shape. In the midst of all the excitement of being in the big city and losing track of having to build my brand, I ended up broke and with no place to stay.”

With his tail between his legs he headed back home in 2012 and depended on his widowed mother for survival. Through this dark phase he only had a handful of friends, who encouraged him to give dance another chance.

“I had to regroup and focus on what I wanted to do. I realised I got carried away by the glitz and glamour of the industry, forgetting that hard work pays the bills. Since then I have not looked back and I am happy to say the sky is the limit.”

His dance skills have also been showcased locally in productions such as The Crown Gospel Awards and Big Brother Africa.

Modjadji also choreographed what is believed to be Africa’s first made-for-cinema dance film Hear Me Move, billed for release later this year. Through his Dare To Dream non-profit organisation hosting dance workshops and motivation, primarily in Hammanskraal, he has positively affected the lives of more than 10 000 youngsters.

• The Gauteng Sports Awards will be held at Montecasino on July 11 and will be broadcast live on Supersport at 8pm.