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Culture, Jiva

An Explosion of Afros

by Lindokuhle Nkosi / Images by Sydelle Willow Smith / 25.05.2012

V.I.N.T.A.G.E loves to court attention. They do more than tease and entice, they practically force it on you. Stopping just short of grabbing your neck, and making you look. They get in your face and place themselves right, slap bang, in the middle of your consciousness. You will look. Twice. They will be noticed!

Vintage burst into the studio, a harsh contradiction to the stern white walls and infinity curves. An explosion of afros, silk, faux furs, feathers and tutus. They are loud, stopping only to strike a pose and pout in the big mirrors.

Lee-che’ is rocking vintage (if you’ll excuse the pun) cut-off paisley shorts, topped by a red shirt with heart-button detail. His hair matches the violent red of his shirt. He’s perched on the arm of the couch, legs crossed delicately at the ankles. He occasionally flips his curly hair back, inspecting his nails as he talks. “Yeah, you know. I’ve been dancing for a while now. Hip hop. I used to dance with Freeze Frame. I used to be a krumper.” It’s difficult to believe that this feminine wacker and voguer used to be an aggressive dancer. The transition could not have been easy to make. “Well, wacking is about a groove y’know. It’s funkier and happier. This is how I choose to express myself now. Krumping is about release. I had a lot to release back then, but when I came across wacking and voguing, it completely fascinated me. It is also powerful, but in its own way. It is more me.”

At that point, pantsula dancer Manthe loudly agrees from under a poof of yellow frills. “I came up with the name V.I.N.T.A.G.E because I feel that we’re all about recognising the past, but making something new out of it. I am a pantsula dancer, I can s’khanda with the best of them. My late mom was a pantsula dancer. She was huge. The best of the best, so pantsula is in my blood. This is the legacy she left for me. A lot of new South African dancers don’t look back to their roots, but we always do.”

Even though wacking and voguing is not an original South African dance form, V.I.N.T.A.G.E always incorporates original African dance into their routine. “Watch how we dance, and then watch how we dance!” Quips a bleached blonde Ashwin. “Wacking and voguing has very little footwork, we use Manthe’s pantsula training and add its quick-paced movements to our routines.”

Earlier this year, Tarryn and two other crew members participated in the fusion dance production, Mixing It Up. There they were taught indigenous South African dance styles like gum boot dancing and is’bhujwa, and other more traditional moves like those of the Zulu and the Khoisan. The influence is apparent. They kick and tap just as precisely as gum boot dancers would in the mine hostels. Add to this the lyricality and fluidity of wacking and voguing, and you almost get a picture of the eclectic mix that is V.I.N.T.A.G.E.

The eight members have their own personalities, and although they’ve been very careful to package themselves as a unit, they have never lost their individual flair. It’s the blend of these unique characters, and their histories, that is their true strength. And just like a finding a classic in a vintage store, they simply refuse to be tired and unoriginal.

*The Red Bull Beat Battle goes down tomorrow night, 26 May at the Baseline in Jozi. Get your tickets here.

**Images © Sydelle Willow Smith / Red Bull.

Learn more about Red Bull Beat Battle here.

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