Most male South African dancers have stories of perseverance to tell about their dance journeys, many having grown up in families and communities in which dance is not regarded as an appropriate career choice for a man.
The story of young Pretoria dance protégé, Kristof Skhosana, however, is nothing less than inspirational.
Skhosana says that he was born on the pavement in Stofberg, near Groblersdal, in Mpumalanga on December 20, 1996. His mother was on her way to the hospital to give birth, but didn’t make it.
His mother was, at the time, a domestic worker for whom Skhosana calls “two incredible women”, Rina and Magriet Nolte, in Garsfontein, Pretoria.
His mother asked if baby Kristof could stay there with her until he was old enough to go live with his grandmother, back in Stofberg. They agreed.
“Fortunately, when the time came Rina and Magriet missed me so much they collected me in Stofberg and brought me home,” Skhosana says.
He refers to Rina and Magriet as “my parents” and to his mother, as “my mom”.
His parents sent him to nursery school where he started with baby gymnastics. Rina and Magriet took him to a performance of Cinderella, after which all he wanted was to do ballet. He started his ballet training at age of eight.
After graduating from high school, Skhosana joined Joburg Ballet, where he met contemporary dance expert, Kelsey Middleton in 2015. He asked about her classes at the Kmad Dance Academy and Company in Pretoria.
Shortly after that, having not been emotionally ready for the demands of a professional company, he left Joburg Ballet and became a drifter for some time.
He says he spent most of his time sitting on a street corner, not knowing where to go or what to do? His parents enrolled him in a flight attendant course and considered his dance career to be over.
Then a friend invited him to Kmad Dance Company’s Early Bird workshop in January 2016. Middleton immediately spotted his pronounced talent and offered him a position in their graduate programme.
“I begged his parents for just one year,” Middleton says. They finally consented.
Skhosana has since received extensive training in contemporary dance, performed with Middleton’s professional company and received a scholarship to the American Ballet Academy summer school.
Towards the end of February, this exceptional young dancer will be seen competing in the South African International Ballet Competition in Cape Town. His offering of three extraordinary solos promises to impress.
Skhosana’s first classical solo comes from Marco Spada, a lesser-known ballet which premiered at the Paris Opera in 1857 and was choreographed as a ballet-pantomime by Frenchman, Joseph Mazilier. It was very popular.
In 1981 Pierre Lacotte, a French choreographer and researcher of ancient ballets, who had revived a number of forgotten ballets, including La Sylphide, re-created the ballet Marco Spada for the Opera of Rome ballet company.
The main part was designed for Rudolph Nureyev.
The ballet is sometimes referred to as The Bandit’s Daughter. The solo which Skhosana will be performing demands exceptional virtuosity.
Skhosana’s second classical contribution is the much spoken about, but rarely seen solo from Swan Lake, which Rudolf Nureyev choreographed for himself during his first season at the London Royal Ballet, dancing the role of Siegfried in the June 1962 production rearranged by Ninette de Valois and Frederick Ashton.
At the end of Act I, Nureyev took the liberty of introducing a new variation, choreographed around the andante sostenuto, preceding the pas de trois.
This melancholic, dreamy solo expresses Siegfried’s yearning for an ideal world and is central to Nureyev’s view of the ballet as being a daydream. This solo has more often than not been omitted from subsequent productions of Swan Lake.
Skhosana’s contemporary solo, I Will Still Rise, is choreographed by Pretoria choreographer, Wayne Bester.
Having had the opportunity to watch Skhosana in rehearsal, his dancing can be likened to the dazzle of a fireworks display, which spectacularly explodes into majestic formations of movement. Besides his technical prowess and impeccable lines, it is the verve and passion with which he dances that set him apart.
The South African International Ballet Competition celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
* The biennial event is scheduled to be held once again at the Artscape Theatre in Cape Town and takes place from February 27 to March 4.
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