International Dance Day is celebrated on the birthday (April 29) of Jean-Georges Noverre, the creator of modern ballet, with the hopes of bringing people together through one common language – dance.
Since we love to dance and are no strangers to moving our bodies to the beat, we wanted to introduce you to a few dancers who have been showcasing the amazing talent that can be found in South Africa as they waltz, spin, and bop around the world.
Gregory Vuyani Maqoma
Gregory wrote last year’s International Dance Day message and it’s no surprise as to why he received this honour. It is one of many the dancer, choreographer, actor, and dance educator has received since he started dancing in the 1990s.
He has worked with the likes of Akram Khan, Vincent Mantsoe, Faustin Linyekula, Dada Masilo, Shanell Winlock, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Nhlanhla Mahlangu, theatre director James Ngcobo, and collaborated with William Kentridge as a choreographer and performed in Kentridge’s opera ‘The Head And The Load’.
He’s even worked with Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei Armah!
He founded his own dance company, Vuyani Dance Theatre, in 1999 and he has achieved local and international acclaim. We can’t possibly list all his awards and accolades, but just know that he has quite a few from all around the world. In 2017 the French government honoured him with the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of the Arts & Literature) Award and in 2018 the South African Department of Arts & Culture awarded him with the inaugural Usiba Award for dedication to dance teaching.
His most recent works, Via Kanana and Cion: Requiem of Ravel’s Bolero, have toured across Africa and Europe
Gladys was exposed to dancing from a very young age and her love for the art form blossomed from there, which turned into a passion. After finishing high school, she studied at the Johannesburg Art Foundation, but she also went on to study dance teaching in Switzerland under the watchful eye of the world-renowned teacher, Londoner Adam Benjamin.
She went from being a senior dancer at the Johannesburg Dance Theatre to becoming an independent performer and opening her own company, Agulhas Theatre Works. She has also worked with PACT Dance Company and has performed with almost every South African company you can think of. She has also received many honours, awards, and accolades, which includes being the recipient of the Department of Arts and Culture “Mosadi Wa Konokono” (Woman of Substance) National Award in 2007.
But she is not only an incredible dancing talent, she also uses her talents for good. She has received the Eldorado Park Women’s Day Award for the promotion of arts in the community, she is the co-founder of the Kliptown Arts Foundation, and she’s involved with Dance in Education!
She has conducted multiple dance workshops worldwide and performed on international stages from Sweden to Holland and Switzerland. She wrote the 2008 International Dance Day message.
Kitty is probably not only one of the most famous South African ballet dancers in the country, but also in the world. She has been dancing since primary school, where she chose dance as her extracurricular activity instead of karate.
She was discovered at the young age of nine by iconic choreographer Martin Schönberg, who was her coach and mentor until she was 25.
She is trained in Spanish dancing, contemporary dance, and Afro-fusion, but most notable ballet. She joined the Joburg Ballet Company in 2002.
However, she made history in 2012. While touring Russia she performed the famous solo in The Dying Swan, becoming the first black woman to perform this very role in Russia. The performance also traditionally calls for the performer to wear a pink tutu and tights, but Kitty decided to make it her own when she wore a black tutu and stockings.
She also went on to reprise the role for a special performance presented to Nelson Mandela and the Dutch Royal Family, which she says was “the biggest day of her life”.
Kicking it into high gear is none other than the woman of many talents – Bontle. She might be young, but she has already racked up an impressive list of accomplishments!
In 2007, the dancing bug bit Modiselle and she started taking dance classes and eventually made her debut in the music industry as a video model and dancer. She has appeared in numerous videos for some of the biggest names in the SA music industry, including Rouge, Major League DJz, and DJ Tira.
She even made her film debut in a dance-drama called, Hear Me Move.
But she is not just a mover and shaker herself. Her talents have been put to good use as she has taken on the role of the main choreographer for shows such as MTV’s Lip Sync Battle and the Castle Lite Unlocks event that had American rapper Meek Mill as the headliner. She was also one of the choreographers for the MTV Africa Music Awards in 2016.
These days she’s been keeping it moving by teaching dance classes on social media during the lockdown and sharing any dancing tips and tricks she might have.
This is just the tiniest taste of the incredible dancing talent SA has to offer, but make sure you keep an eye on them.
During these uncertain times, it is also more important than ever to support the arts and highlight these incredible artists and performers that make SA more colourful. – East Coast Radio