Noxolo Dlamini as Ntombi. Picture: Netflix
Noxolo Dlamini as Ntombi. Picture: Netflix

When it comes to the dance genre, 'Jiva!' makes all the right moves

By Debashine Thangevelo Time of article published Jul 2, 2021

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“Jiva!” makes all the right moves to step up the appeal of the dance genre.

Over the past weekend, I decided to take a break from watching anything.

You see, while it is a joyful experience for most, for me, as a critic, it is often work for me. Don’t get me wrong.. I’m not complaining, in the least. But sometimes, I just need to switch off.

As such, I didn’t catch “Jiva!” like most streamers did over the weekend.

But, after some colleagues discussed the five-episode series during our meeting on Monday, I was intrigued.

Of course, they made some valid points on the need for creatives to ensure the locations allow the audience to suspend their belief.

Overall, they were impressed. And, honestly, so was I.

I was hooked from the first frame. This series is a vibe, an infectious one at that.

And Busisiwe Ntintili (“4Play: Sex Tips for Girls” and “Happiness is a Four-Letter Word”), who wears the hat of writer, director and executive producer, deserves much praise for a first-rate script.

It is engaging, powerful and so in tune with the socio-economic realities of our country. I love how she’s taken artistic liberties by interweaving headline-grabbing political issues into the narrative.

She also ensures that her storytelling is on the pulse with the culture and aspirations of the youth.

The series follows the journey of Ntombi (Noxolo Dlamini), a gifted street dancer from Umlazi. Her life and dreams were upended when her father committed suicide.

At the time, she was on the brink of landing her big break - an opportunity to tour as a dancer.

But that fell by the wayside when her uncle Bra Zo (Tony Kgoroge) arrived and gave her the devastating life-changing news. Since then, she’s been the breadwinner in the family, taking care of her wheelchair-bound mother and her teenage brother Samu (Given Stuurman).

She’s stuck in a dead-end job at uShaka Marine World and yearns to change her monotonous routine.

And that fire in her belly keeps drawing her to her first love, in more ways than one. And Bra Zo champions her dreams, too.

The fifth Jiva Loxion street dance competition is back in town and so is Ntombi’s now famous ex, Bheki (Zamani Mbatha).

Things between the two of them ended badly, more so when he took her dance slot, which she had to give up, and, in doing so, became a reality TV star.

Aside from him breaking his promise to her, she’s upset by the fact that he stole her life.

Candice Modiselle as Vuyiswa in a scene with Dlamini. Picture: Supplied

Fortunately, her sassy and protective ride or die, Vuyiswa (Candice Modiselle), steers her away from the past and pushes her to focus on the future by entering the competition.

She eventually gives in and signs up The Trollies. Next, she goes on a recruiting mission and lands Zinhle (Sne Mbatha), Lady E (Stella Dlangalala) and Nolwazi (Zazi Kunene).

While they have their group of five, there’s some internal squabbles within the group.

But there’s no disputing the wealth of talent among them.

These guys are hot, passionate and have those popping street dance moves down to an art form. And they are dripping swag.

There are many layers to the storytelling and Ntintili handles it like the maven that she is.

We have the romantic aspect with Samu pursuing his high school crush, who is in his sister’s dance troupe now.

Meanwhile, Ntombi, who has been too distracted by life to realise that she has a secret admirer, is fighting several battles, one of the hardest ones is trying to convince her mother to support her dreams.

Although Vuyiswa is life goals with her designer wardrobe and lavish apartment, she’s got her own struggles with a controlling sugar daddy.

On the flip side, DJ Sika (Anga Makubalo) is putting out a fire that could undo everything he’s built with the Jiva Loxion competition.

As much as I’ve been raving about the stellar casting and brilliant script, the fashion, music and dance choreography in the series is a wonderful ode to Africa’s culture and talent.

Watching “Jiva!” fills one with unmistakable pride.

The performances are authentic and engaging. The drama is offset by brilliant dance choreography and dance-offs.

Don’t even get me started on the perfect choice of beats and the homage paid to icons like Brenda Fassie, Lebo Mathosa and more.

This series makes all the right moves and steps up the appeal of the dance genre. It’s got heart, soul and an infectious vibe!

“Jiva!” is currently streaming on Netflix.

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