With dismally few professional opportunities, a career with a short shelf life, and the constant risk of injury, what is this inextinguishable fire that burns within dancers to pursue a life of dance against all odds?
I spoke to students from the Tshwane University of Technology Faculty of Dance, who are in rehearsal for their annual dance season, to find out more about their relationships with dance.
Trishanta Raman, who also choreographed a work for the production, loosely quotes Rupi Kaur in explaining both her choreographic inspiration and her feelings towards dance.
“Our art is not about how many people like our work. Our art is about if our heart likes our work, if our soul likes our work. It is about how honest we are with ourselves, and we should never trade honesty for relatability.”
Arnoldine Labuschagne says that, whereas other artists use instruments to create their art, dancers have their own bodies to create magic. “Dance is like moss growing on to your body. It doesn’t matter where you go, it will always be there.”
Akhona Mbekwa is more pragmatic. He says that he chose dance as a career because that is where his heart belongs. “I want to make a change in the futures of young people by giving them something to work on by creating dance groups.” he says.
Mandla Mokoena explains his talent as a God-given gift. It is a calling. He says that success is doing what you are passionate about. “When I dance I know that I am changing people’s lives,” he says.
Mxolisi Motaung, who is also a choreographer on the programme, says that, regardless of the many challenges that dance poses, he has fallen into an inexplicable kind of love affair. “It is a calling I couldn’t and still cannot deny.” he says.
These students’ production, Tshidziki: Ikigai (The essence of life: Your reason for being), opens on 14 May 14 in the Breytenbach Theatre in Pretoria, and runs until 19 May 19.
Ashley Wakefield, the programme co-ordinator at TUT Dance, says that “the programme captures the vibrant spirit of dance and everything that makes it our reason for being”.
The programme consists of physical theatre, contemporary dance, African dance, tap dance and a razzmatazz jazz work, making it a proper celebration of dance.
Wakefield’s Claustro is an embodied representation of the feeling of being trapped. It deals with the visceral experience of helplessness and being emotionally, mentally and physically stuck.
Megan Rosenberg’s Tap That is a condensed progression of tap dance from the style of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson to the 21st century.
Sunnyboy Motau (from Moving Into Dance Mophatong), created Dawn KusaKusa, which celebrates the new beginnings of our time. It embraces our African backgrounds as the people of Southern Africa and the world at large.
“After all the years of segregation, we are able to look at the future with smiles,” Motau says. “This is the new era of change and transformation. The new dawn has risen. Through dance we will rejoice and feast as one.”
I had the privilege to, assisted by the expertise of Joubert Jonker, Sylvia Prinsloo, Mathew Winters and Mandla Mokoena, create a fast-paced, vibrantly energetic jazz work, 50 Shades of Boogie, for the TUT dance troupe.
What has been most rewarding is the dancers’ eagerness to learn, not only about dance, but also about the profession and professionalism. These dancers are hungry for success.
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