We Can Danceby Ts'eliso Monaheng / Images by Mpumelelo Macu / 27.03.2013
Braamfontein, Johannesburg. Not quite the inner-city and not exactly suburbia, the hub enjoys the benefits of being on the periphery – edgy enough to not scare away the upper middle-class who frequent its Neighbourgoods market every Saturday, yet still accommodating of the scruffy-looking, rugged-and-raw, might-still-rob-you-anytime variety. Today sees another addition, and it has nothing to do with the trendy student population. Dancers from far-out places like Bloemfontein, Cape Town, and KZN (via Orange Farm) have intercepted Braamfontein’s main vein for the weekend, forming mini-estuaries, barricading the entrance to the Alexander Theatre, where today’s leg, the last of the Red Bull Beat Battle qualifiers, is being held.
Jozi filled in all the missing bits that Pretoria had left out: hunger, action, and a thirst for victory. Over two days, the theatre witnessed curious displays of both talent and mind-blowing athletic exquisiteness, a feat unsurpassed by their peers in Cap City a week before. When spoken to, the dancers replied in a manner befitting their dance style; one pantsula cat described how it’s not only about the feet crossing each other, but also about the solos – individuality and expression juxtaposed – while moving his whole body like a thug reaching out for his okapi knife in preparation for battle.
During the warm-up workshop, judge Sello Modiga shared bits of his story about how he started out on that very stage, dancing in this very competition. “The people who come to the final event are there to be entertained.” He said matter-of-factly, adding that eye contact with one’s audience during these initial stages is the best (and perhaps only) way to win the judges’ favour.
Breakdancers set the tone on Saturday before passing the baton to a succession of abo-majivane base-sbujwa (sbujwa dancers) who passed the crown between themselves before handing it over to the amapantsula who did a trap-jive which elicited solid vlytes from the semi-packed auditorium. The krump kids couldn’t be left behind; they brought their refined mechanical backflips and Hollywood blockbuster-style sound effects to the party. Over two days, the stage was part-kuduro party, part-revue, part-stokvel with complementary fighting sticks and beer bottles in the back yard. The latter part was acted out expertly by pantsula-meets-stickfighting outfit Dlala Mapantsula who tapped into their inner bundu-dweller to choreograph solid moves with the precision of a Capoeira instructor.
On stage, fashion sensibilities abounded. It’s clearly a means of expression around these parts. It’s in the music, it’s a lifestyle; it’s probably a genetic predisposition or a by-product of the food they consume, but no one can really tell. “If you can talk you can sing, if you can walk you can dance,” they say; but there’s no way the ability to perform either of the two can reproduce the on-stage camaraderie and exquisite routine of Beauty and the Beasts, and there’s absolutely none that can out-dance, out-manoeuvre and out-shine 325 Homeboys’ polished pantsula jive. Neither can any random walker grab Togetherness Crew’s wellingtons to pull off the same gumboot dance interpretation of popular house and kuduro tunes. Their chants of “Woooooozaaa, wo wo wo wo wozaaaa!” Segue into the hypnotic groove of ‘Windeck’ with perfect precision, while Volcano’s new age pantsula-tapdance combination elicited more than an excited response; people were ululating for a long while during and after.
As the weekend nears its ending, clouds begin to build over Jozi. Perhaps it’s a metaphor; after two full days of nostalgic pantsula acts with moves harkening back to competitions at town halls where Euro-dance music played from C-90 Sonotech cassette tapes, blaring through tinny, distorted speakers and inspired new school kids doing their best to re-enact Transformers-style robotic movements. It’s up to the rain showers to clear the scene for the finals.
– Vox Pop –
Kasi’s Innovative Dancers (K.I.D)
“We’re gonna kill it, no matter what.”
“Dance is a part of our lives, we cannot ignore it. It’s been there from a long time ago.”
“More dance workshops would be good. It’s quiet where we’re from.”
“The costume goes together with our dance style, hence our reason for choosing it.”
“May the best crew win!”
“We went through a lot to be able to make it here.”
“We want to put Bloemfontein on the map and make it proud.”
“We’re unique. We’re different.”
“We’re precise, we’re versatile, we’re sexy.”
“Expose your body, use your body and everything that you’ve got.”
Duduza Young Generation
“We want to take what we do overseas. We want people to be exposed to what we do.”
“We want to win, we want the money and the benefits. Then we’ll see what the future holds.”
“We’ve put a lot of work into it. We want to achieve more, to do workshops in the hood.”
Beauty and the Beasts
“We’ve come to conquer Beat Battle.”
Learn more about Red Bull Beat Battle here.