Production images of Bidvest corporate production, courtesy of Zoom Photography. Left: The ‘first lady of dance’ Debbie Rakusin. Picture: Josef Raskinen

Dancers respectfully refer to her as their “first lady of dance”. Acclaimed choreographer, dance connoisseur and businesswoman, Debbie Rakusin, after almost four decades in the dance industry, remains ahead of the game in producing top notch dance entertainment.

Not only has Rakusin over the years provided thousands of dancers with work, she has done so in pronounced style. Known for her challenging work, which demands thorough technical prowess, her creative ingenuity and her extraordinary industriousness, Rakusin has consistently been producing theatre of the highest quality and impeccable taste.

Rakusin is best known for her choreography in Richard Loring’s hugely successful African Footprints, a show-stopping dance production created by Rakusin and David Matamela that ran nationally and internationally for no less than 18 years.

Early on in her career, Rakusin found a niche for her talents and skills within the corporate entertainment industry. Corporate dance productions can best be described as dance performances commissioned by corporate clients, created to suit respective clients’ specific needs and requirements, pertinent to their industry, target market and, ultimately, their audience. Within the corporate dance industry, Rakusin’s work has become unmissable.

Production images of Bidvest corporate production, courtesy of Zoom Photography. Left: The ‘first lady of dance’ Debbie Rakusin. Picture: Josef Raskinen

She ascribes her success to remaining at the cutting edge of dance innovation, whilst faithfully maintaining old school professionalism. She believes that it is vital to remain current in so far as developments, trends and new inventions in the dance world go. However, it is of equal importance to her to uphold firm standards of professional conduct, something that is frequently lacking in today’s industry. 

Rakusin says that she has been fortunate in drawing a profile of dancer that emulates her work ethic. “I find that by respecting my dancers, they, in turn, tend to respect me,” she says. She believes that one attracts that which one projects.

Rakusin expresses concern for the fact that very few dancers today engage in improving themselves. Dancers bounce from one contract to the next, without investing time and effort in refining their craft. She stresses that dancers ought to be doing class daily. 

Most dance students have a preferred dance genre in which they aspire to make careers for themselves. However, in reality most professional dancers earn their living by doing commercial dance work in the entertainment industry, and, more specifically, in corporate productions. 

Rakusin implores dancers to acquire thorough training in dance technique, specifically referring to classical ballet, which has proven to be a great technical foundation for any dance genre. She furthermore stresses the importance of becoming as versatile as possible.

Working within the South African dance milieu with its eclectic assortment of idiosyncratic dance forms and styles has been particularly thrilling to Rakusin. 

Creating from within this melting pot of diversity has aided her in merging her own unique and exhilarating flavours of dance.

Rakusin is very optimistic about the future of dance in South Africa. Becoming increasingly more involved in mentoring dancers and developing dance among the youth, by, for example, serving on the judging panels of dance competitions such as World of Dance, she has been witnessing an immense excitement about, and a renewed dedication, to dance.

She recently completed her written judging exam with the International Dance Organisation (IDO) with distinction, and will be completing her practical examination in June in Prague. 

Dance audiences have long been feeling somewhat deprived since Rakusin’s successful venture into the corporate dance world, and would dearly like to see her return to public theatres. This she says is at present not in the pipeline, but the possibility is not completely off the cards.  Time will tell.