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mandela: the revolution of dance post-apartheid
July 23, 2019
Nelson Mandela spent every day of his life fighting for the betterment of others. His selflessness has inspired the world to share in a little bit of kindness, to dream bigger, and to be more free. What does that mean in dance? And what does the freedom that comes along with body movement mean to people of color?
In memory of Madiba’s legacy, I received the opportunity to interview a pair of dance coaches — Gerald Witbooi (a.k.a. ‘Vouks’) and Tarryn Alberts — who unpack the revolution of dance, post-apartheid.
Vouks is a skilled choreographer who’s been dancing professionally for nearly a decade. “My experience has been enriching not only to me, but also the audience I perform for,” he says
Tarryn Alberts was born to dance. Her tenacity has granted her the drive to maximize every opportunity, from dancing on tour with international superstars, Die Antwoord, to opening her own dance studio. Alberts is achieving success on her own terms and nurturing others along the way.
Here’s what they had to say about dance and Madiba.
What is importance of celebrating the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela?
VOUKS: Madiba’s legacy gave me an opportunity to spread and reach many people through dance, and afforded me a feature on a national youth show for five years.”
TARRYN: The fact that we’re liberated is a big deal for people of color. We’ve been oppressed for the longest time. Now, we’re able to do/be anything we want, which is very inspiring.
Talk a bit about art and dance post-apartheid.
VOUKS: I got to realize that dance was for expressing feelings and situations around us while finding our own identity and being proud of ourselves. I remember Dancing for Mandela at the 46664 concert and sharing the stage with international artists like P. Diddy and Beyoncé.
TARRYN: My aunt used to be a ballroom champion she had trophies all over the house, But according to the systems in place, she wasn’t white enough to compete on a larger stage. I am now picking up and following in her footsteps.
Who is your inspiration for the day?
VOUKS: Meeting the legendary Ramone and DJ Ready D from Prophets of Da City (POC). Those two icons are who I believe kicked off my career.
TARRYN: My aunt is my biggest inspiration. I can’t forget to mention top dancer Gladys Aghulas, who teaches her art to the blind, deaf and disabled, and Manthe Ribane the South African polymath who has mastered dances from pantsula to voguing while collecting accolades for performance and design.”
Talk about your own love of dance.
VOUKS: I was a very shy person in school, I didn’t connect to the kids who were doing sports. Music and dance gave me a platform and voice to connect with people of the same interests. My passion to dance will always be there.
TARRYN: At age 17, I’d already turned pro! Last year of high school was the worst because I just wanted to leave school and start working. I matriculated and left home. I was in Germany doing missionary work that’s when I decided that I’d never work a normal job in my life.
What is the power the Black body possesses through movement?
VOUKS: Africa’s dance origin has always told stories. We dance and sing to express every emotion. People that come from privileged backgrounds and people who come from hardships have a different movement in their dance and passion.
TARRYN Our bodies are shaped and move differently. It is something unique and inspiring to learn. The sound of music in itself influences how we move. This makes us unique as young South Africans taking over the world.
Can you speak to how dance is a form of resistance?
VOUKS: We are still fighting the social norms that make us feel oppressed by our very own current system / government. We are using what we have and are driven by our passion to do more.
TARRYN: Currently, my dance academy has a specific piece aimed at social issues like drug abuse, gambling, teen pressure, sexual abuse and more. We’re using that as a message to show people that you can go through so much and still be a person.
How do you give back to the community thru dance?
VOUKS: I run workshops in my community and some parts of the country. I always use the opportunities I received to motivate kids and put them closer to their dreams.
TARRYN: I would love to make a safe haven for students who attend the dance academy classes. They need support and mentorship. At So Dope Dance Academy we aim to educate, entertain, inform our community through dance and give back hope.
How does this manifest as #AFROPUNKWESEEYOU?
VOUKS: I feel like AFROPUNK is my tribe, and for me, it’s all about the community. You can’t move forward without the community, and me being part of the AFROPUNK platform gives me more confidence to fight for what’s right.
TARRYN: I’d like to thank AFROPUNK for giving me recognition. It is not easy when so many things are happening around us. A platform like this gives us the courage and drive to do what’s right. I’m no longer afraid.
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