Mdu Mtshali accepts the prestigious Eric Shabalala Dance Champion Award from Lliane Loots at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre on Wednesday. Picture: Val Adamson

Durban - Local dance-maker Mduduzi Mtshali received the prestigious Eric Shabalala Dance Champion Award at the JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience on Wednesday evening

The award honours the memory of Eric Mshengu Shabalala, a local dancer, choreographer, teacher and one of the founding dancers of the Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre in Durban who died in 2011. 

Speaking at the handover at the Elizabeth Sneddon theatre, artistic director Lliane Loots said: “The award is given not only in recognition of performance or choreographic excellence, but also in recognition of dance practitioners who have worked tirelessly to help grow a culture of dance and dance training in Durban – who have supported the growth of dance as an art form at both community and regional level.

“In selecting recipients, we look for those gifted individuals who have gone above and beyond – often without funding – to dedicate themselves to the cultural industry and to put KZN dancers and dance on the national and international map.”

Past recipients of this award include Jarryd Watson, Sifiso Khumalo, Byron ‘Bizzo’ Tifflin and Preston ‘Kayzo’ Kyd, Jabu Siphika, Julia Wilson and Zinhle Nzama, Ntombi Gasa, Musa Hlatshwayo and S’fiso Magesh Ngcobo.

Mtshali is a Durban dancer, choreographer and is currently the dance lecturer at the Durban University of Technology. In 1999, after completing his training at the then-Technikon Natal, he appeared with local dance companies before broadening his horizons by accepting an invitation to dance with the French dance company Jean Francois Duroure and travelled all over Europe and Africa. 

In 2002, he also spent a year at the London Contemporary Dance School in the UK after being awarded a Rio Tinto/ Richards Bay Minerals/ British Council Dance Scholarship. After graduating, he became highly active in the national dance arena performing and choreographing numerous works.

“In accepting this award, I will give back what Lliane Loots and the dance community in Durban has given to me, thank you,” said Mtshali. “I enjoy making theatre that serves a greater social function as well as to entertain. Credit must go to Eric Shabalala, the man who groomed me to be what I am today.”

JOMBA! continues until September 9 at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre with one performance on September 7 at the Durban Art Gallery.