ON A DANCE DATE WITH MYSELF…

moving into dance
moving into dance

It’s been a while since I’ve been on a date with anyone including myself.  So Last night was special.  I took myself out on a night out to see a dance performance by Moving into Dance Mophatong Company in Newtown, Johannesburg. It was an auspicious event for the dance company which is celebrating its 35 year anniversary and the retirement of its founder and director Sylvia Glasser who started the company from her garage back in 1978, during Apartheids glory days. The company has since developed into one of South Africa’s premier professional full-time, contemporary dance companies, receiving numerous awards including six Standard Bank Artists of the year awards, more than any other dance company in Johannesburg.

It was  a special night for me too  since, apart from being on a date with me, I got to “meet” the  woman behind the dance company which back in 2007 tossed me lifeline through its after hours open dance classes. It was a dream come true, to learn how to dance, because though I have always loved dance and wished to dance professionally all my life, I had never had the opportunity to, except of course at parties and music venues across Johannesburg. The afternoon classes were vigorous and succeeded in convincing me that I could not dance at all since I seemed to have two left feet.  Instead of one- two- three- four, I would go five- eight- one- two.  I became so frustrated that one day I sat out of class and cried while others danced in harmony to the teacher’s metronomic voice.  I cried because, I sucked at the one thing I loved and thought I could do well.  I wanted so much to dance like the other students and follow the logical one-two-three steps but my feet would not let me.  The experience was rewarding physically even though I quit after a while due to work commitments and a broken heart – after realizing that my heart somehow misled me – in reality I cannot dance.

The Winds of…

The four-day performance titled “ The winds of..” is about change and introspection with the sole purpose of moving forward, looking beyond and  conquering all that lies across the horizon. It speaks of the natural progression that time initiates. It speaks of change and movement, of sunsets and sunrises of plateaus and climbs.   So with such a promising description you can imagine that I was more than ready to be inspired to move forward and a part of me was hoping to still be moved into dance again somehow.

Man-Longing

The opening performance was “Man-longing”, choreographed by Sunnyboy   Mandla Motau. The piece is an exploration into the dark and sinister world of human trafficking.  The five person dance performance piece uses dance and poetry to bring awareness of the dangers and  consequences of being a victim of human trafficking. “Several years ago one of my uncles disappeared. We have never been able to find him. It has been a huge loss for the family. I don’t want the audience to be comfortable; I want to create awareness around this very real and dreadful industry. People disappear without a trace in big cities, families meet dead ends all the time” says Motau. The piece is accompanied by a city soundtrack which has captured sounds of Johannesburg into a grizzly metallic sound scape.  It’s a spirited performance piece, with breathtaking choreography fusing tight balance between violence and sex. One moment it feels like someone is going to get seriously hurt the next it seems the dancers are about to engage in an act public masturbation.  I was definitely not comfortable but I was pleasantly surprised by the piece which was first showcased in September this year. I loved the story line, the theatrical performances, the strong presence of solid female dancers who beguiled me with the way they moved. And yet something was missing….

NATURALLY…

For the first time in my life I didn’t want to jump on to the stage and join the dancers. I have always felt, , believed that dance is meant to be a freeing experience.  Part of my frustration with my dance classes at MID was due in part to the fact that I had to remember movements, repeat them over and over again until my body had programmed them to each and every muscle and they happen automatically. So I become pre-occupied with the algorithms of dance that I actually ended up not dancing at all. Just following the steps. Smile. Breathe. Chin up. Stomach in.  Shoulders straight. Tighten the behind. Act natural.Posture. Don’t miss a step. Smile. Look at your audience. Focus. Don’t forget your step.  And One-two –three-ten! ahhhh Yes to be a professional dancer one needs to be fit, solid and centered.  To create those soft-flowing-seemless – movements one has to be as tough as nails. It seems so utterly contradictory but it’s true.  Dance is ultimately about being in control of yourself, in control of your body and how it moves.  It is highly disciplined art and being fit.

Letting GO…

But nowadays I find that when I watch dance performances in Johannesburg… there’s everything in the performance but dance. There’s drama, costumes, lights, music but no-one is dancing.   I remember one dance performance piece where the dancer, just sat looking at himself in the mirror throughout the entire show, talking to the audience, threatening to move into dance but never did. It was a powerful political statement to make about the art of dancing, especially as it relates to the African experience “all things being equal”.  But I still wanted to see “actual” dancing. I miss dancing. I miss watching people letting go and allowing the music to dictate where their limbs go and how they move. That is  how I have always understood dance to be in my mind.  Music is not just a backdrop to a dance piece, it is what gives dance its power, what propels the dancer forward. At least when I’m dancing it’s the music, the sound, that tells me where to go.

Dancing for me is about letting go of control.  And though I may seem often completely out of control to your my dear reader, I have a hard time letting go of control.  What my “night-club-dancing“ and dance classes have taught me over the years about dancing is you have to release all desire for control, and just allow your body to move naturally – like walking.  When you walk, you don’t analyze it, plan it , you just walk how you walk , dancing for me is just like walking. Allow the music to do the talking through your body.  I could never let go while sober. In the past it became essential to have a drink or two to ge to the point where I can relinquish control – to dance – I would drink and go out dancing, and if I suddenly had an audience I would close my eyes.  Because dancing for me has always been a form of prayer, of communicating with my maker and getting close to a place where I am whole complete, lacking nothing. In the past three years I stopped drinking to dance – so I stopped praying.  Only doing it in the privacy of my home after a shower or bath in front of the mirror or when if music pulls me up.

That said  dance is a sacred act for me yes, but there is also ample room for all kinds of dance expressions in the world. I just miss the kind that is full of love and joy. Dancing that inspires both the dancer and the audience to love… again.

Catch Winds of…. at the dance factory from  the 22 to 24 November at the Dance Factory.

*http://www.midance.co.za/

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DRESSED BY JOZI THE CITY OF GOLD

Model: Jedi Ramalapa Location: Fox Street Jozi Maboneng. Picture: Bheki
Model: Jedi Ramalapa
Location: Fox Street Jozi Maboneng.
Picture: Bheki Dube

04 October 2013.  Heita!Happy Friday Everyone! Wow it’s a beautiful summers’ day in Johannesburg Maboneng and I have been out and about. Today I think we all deserve some lightness of being. So with the generous help of  Johannesburg’s young and inspiring photographer/entrepreneur Bheki Dube: my brother from another mother,  I decided to have a mini–fashion shoot to answer some of your pressing questions: Where do I get my clothes?

Okay you might think I’m fashion obsessed if you see me walking down the street but I have come a very long, long way to “defining” my sense of style (ask those who knew me in college, I used to wear my father’s blue overalls to lectures, much to his chagrin). Basically, I am influenced by many people, places, spaces, but most importantly how I feel. I don’t really enjoy elaborate shopping sprees nor do I have the time for them but I will definitely buy what I like when I see it and if the pocket allows.  So my shopping is often sporadic, as in any day can be a shopping day. Most of the time though I don’t set out to go clothes shopping – clothes come to me.

So today, and it’s high time I do. I want to celebrate and thank some of the city’s wonderfully talented people and amazing friends who have contributed to my sense of “style” over the years;  especially those who have  “Dressed” me today.

The HAT: By the General.  This is a recent acquisition, a generous donation from one of Johannesburg city’s finest minds Sibusiso Nxumalo.  My home-boy (Sowetan). To say he is passionate about music would be an understatement would be an understatement. He can out-play -out-rap many of the city’s DJ’s when the spirit takes him, which is almost all the time. He can be found playing his African mixes at the Lucky Bean restaurant in Melville Johannesburg. He is a talented writer, analyst, and voracious consumer of arts and culture, media and entertainment. He has commissioned a number of thought-provoking programs for SABC1 – a hip African centric channel with a focus on South African youth Culture. He is featured in the documentary on South African Struggle music Amandla! with his other twin brother  Bra S’fiso Ntuli, with whom he ran the much-loved and sorely missed  Cultural (Dance) Venue and political institution a home to many:  ” The House of Nsako” – Nuff Said Kollective, in Brixton Johannesburg. He has been my protector in so many ways that I cannot describe in this here post.  A brother, a gift, an angel and shining light in many of my darkest days. He feeds me and anyone who walks into his lovely home.  He can fix just about anything well almost anything  You can identify him by the sound of his voice, no-one else has it, and high laugh and his dance. But I won’t rob you of the opportunity to get to know him, he is amazing! Dankie! Siyabonga. PRICE: More than money can buy!

Visit him @ the Lucky Bean on Fridays/Sundays or sit just down for great food, atmosphere and people.

Location: No 16 7th Street  Melville

Contact:  011 482 4472

SUNGLASSES:  by Street Trader. This quite frankly was a shocking bargain, I stumbled on this guy shouting –  10rand, 10rand, and I asked just to be sure, he said “ yebo Sisi, sunglasses for 10 bucks, Kuse Jozi lapha” PRICE: R10.00. Love this city! Dankie! Siyabonga!

Location: Jeppe Street Johannesburg.

Contact: Walk the pavements.

THE SCARF:  By Mahlatse Gallens.  This is a VERY special scarf bought for me by my friend MG after a visit to Paris France; knowing my love for scarves and the many things French, she chose this special piece for me.  She said, “you need more colour in your wardrobe” when she gave it to me.

This is my favourite scarf of all time.  It has opened so many doors and it has travelled with me from SA to Senegal where someone offered to give me an Aldo scarf in exchange – I said no. This one is mine. It works for summer and winter – perfect for any season. Each time I wear it I feel closer and more in awe of the power of love and friendship.  Mahlatse Gallens is  well-known to our TV Screens and on our radio dials, her voice is distinctly hers. She is an accomplished  South African senior political journalist who has travelled the world reporting on Health, Natural Disasters, Politics and more. She has lived in Nairobi Kenya and Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a Foreign correspondent for the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).   She is a well-connected journalist with a wide network of contacts throughout out the continent. Politics is her Passion. Watching the Fixer (Scandal) is her chosen form of relaxation. She has paved the way for me in my own career in more ways than I can mention. She’s beautiful, loving and caring as a friend. She is passionate about politics, about the continent and its people.  Her latest assignment was in Zimbabwe during the country’s  recent national elections, for which she delivered in-depth reporting which for me was more compelling than what the traditional western media broadcasters were delivering under less than ideal conditions. She inspires me. PRICE:  More than money can Buy.

Location:  SABC.

Contact: Your TV/Radio

GREEN HEART NECKLACE By Jenna Desfontein.  This was an amazing gift from a sister whose unconditional love continues to floor me. It has made out of the prized Original Nguni Cowhide, and dyed green.  She presented the gift to me before my journey to Senegal, so that I remember who I am always. This beautiful soul hails from Durban KwaZulu Natal, a gifted singer whose voice continues to melt my heart. She is also a formidable storyteller and a natural caregiver. She recently released her solo Album  UnEarthed – which is just beautiful. She is also lead singer a Johannesburg based gospel group with whom she recently performed on SABC1’s  gospel music program, Gospel Gold. A talented musician who plays her chords with the strings of her soul,  a  lover of children, surfing and a creator of beautiful moments (events) full of love for everyone she meets. Love you, my sister. The Price: More than money can buy! Dankie.Siyabonga. KAKHULU!

Here’s a link to her album check it out:

http://allevents.in/eugene/jenna-leigh-official-ep-launch-unearthed/200559930017718

GREY TANK TOP: By Real South African designs from Pick’n Pay Clothing department. I love grey, it’s awesome. Tank tops show off my skinny arms. I often wear sleaveless tops when I go to meet people at restuarants. I get real sympathy when people see them, and they often offer me food for free.. “poor thing –she must be hungry”  so sweet.   Price: R30 bucks.

Location: Most Pick ‘n Pays

Contact:  In almost all malls.

GREY PANTS: By EllA  Buter from  Superella.  A very quirky Afrikaans Woman. She’s lovely. Now these must count as the most “enviable” trousers I have ever owned. I am asked about them each time I wear them by both men and women and there have been many attempts to separate us. These pants were originally a dress, but Ella who pays attention to her customers was willing to modify them to fit my style making. They are still the most  fashionable item of clothing I own 4 years later. I have bought a number of items from Ella’s shop in Melville, but this is the  only piece I have managed to hold on to, the rest I have given way.  I have travelled to Senegal with these pants which have attracted admiration of the city of Dakar’s Bifal (Rastafarians) who ably looked after me in the most trying times, particularly during my pilgrimage to the MAGAL of TOUBA in 2012. I love these pants because I can dress them up or down, they are comfortable and provide ample room for free movement.  PRICE: R800. Dankie. Siyabonga.

Location:  Cnr Rustenburg Road
8th & 9th Street
Melville
JHB

Contact: best to walk in.

THE BAG: by Urban ZULU. I love these guys; it’s always such a pleasure walking into their shop. I always find something I love even though I cannot always afford it.  They have personalized sales people who pay attention to you and your needs until you are satisfied with a garment. They can be found near the Carlton Center in Johannesburg’s CBD. On my last visit they bought me coffee – as a thank you gift for making their day! How awesome is that? They always make one feel special and I love the brand because I am an Urban Zulu myself.  PRICE: R45.

Location:  Cnr Fox&Kruis Opp Carlton Centre

Contact: 011 354 2139

Ghetto:  076 482 7789

Nthabi: 084 321 0221

email: info@urbanzulu.o.za

THE BELT: by Newtown Market. Now Newtown is well-known to many for its theater and jazz culture: Standard Bank Joy of Jazz festivals, Johannesburg Fashion Week, are just some of the annual events that bring life to this part of town. The African Museum and the Market Theater are mainstays which offer a delicious dish of the countries’ best actors, directors and creative Minds. It’s also the city’s dance hub, home to a number of dance companies, The Dance Factory and Moving into Dance. The photo market workshop has offered training to many of the city’s celebrated photographers. When I saw this leather stud belt I fell in love, but the traders (who have since been moved due to ongoing development of the area) where patient with me, the belt was too big, but they took their time until the belt could fit my waist. Awesome service.  PRICE: R40.00 bucks.  Dankie. Siyabonga

SHOES By Nelisiwe Xaba. I love BirkenStocks because though they might look ugly to some, they are a really great buy, good for your feet as they are designed to fit your foot for walking which I love and do a lot of. They keep me rooted to the ground. They were also a generous gift by South Africa’s most gifted, talented and hardworking Dancer-Choreographers– Nelisiwe Xaba.   I have written about her a couple of times in this blog. She is one in a million! She is the A-in awesome, the most stylish and  kindest woman I have met yet. Dankie. Siyabonga! PRICE: More than Money can BUY.

If you  want a pair, the sales ladies at the Birkenstock shop in Hyde Park, were absolutely awesome – we laughed a lot.  They were patient with me and entertaining and even got us a discount.  Very Kind.  We had fun in the shop!

Location: Hyde Park Corner (Mall)
Corner Jan Smuts Avenue and William Nicol Drive, Sandton, Gauteng

Contact: (011) 325 5893

So as you can see, I have only bought 4 items of clothing – mostly accessories – on my body right now – the rest have been gifts from Johannesburg’s’ Beautiful People.  This is what makes Johannesburg amazing: not the infrastructure which is good, nor the buildings which are great, or its history which is amazing, or its wealth which  is enormous.  It is the city’s people whose hearts are made of solid GOLD that make Johannesburg Great! Heita da!  Nowhere else in the world will you find such LOVE. Honestly, I am truly blessed, enormously, to be dressed by Johannesburg’s FINEST.

On  another day (one of my favourite dresses) Glasses: Mr Price  Price: R30 Dress: Big Blue Price: R500 Ring Silver: Prine of Newtown Price: R50 rand Yellow Ring: Jenna Leigh des Fontein Prices: Less Model: Jedi Ramalapa Loation: Mainstreet, Marsharll Town Johannesburg. Picture: Tshepo Ramalapa
On another day (one of my favourite dresses)
Glasses: Mr Price
Price: R30
Dress: Big Blue
Price: R500
Ring Silver: Prine of Newtown
Price: R50 rand
Yellow Ring: Jenna Leigh des Fontein
Prices: Less
Model: Jedi Ramalapa
Loation: Mainstreet, Marshall Town Johannesburg.
Picture: Tshepo Ramalapa

Dankie. NGIYABONGA! KAKHULU