Story-ideas-1011172

Dancing to a tune of a different kind

  • SADancer1
Dancer Londiwe Khoza might be thousands of kilometres from her beloved Cape Town, but she is dancing her dream with the best of them in Tel Aviv, Israel.
by NICOLA MILTZ | Jun 21, 2018

The 24-year-old classically trained ballerina is broadening her repertoire every day at the world renowned Batsheva Dance Company. Under the watchful eye of internationally-recognised choreographer Ohad Naharin, Khoza is taking dancing to new heights.

Naharin hand picked Khoza in 2016 to be his protégé as part of the much coveted Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. She was nominated for the initiative by Gregory Maqoma, the Director Founder of the Vuyani Dance Theatre in Johannesburg. After a thorough selection process, she was earmarked by Naharin to be his chosen dancer. Their relationship blossomed to the extent that now that the programme is over, Khoza has been contracted for another year with the Batsheva Dance Company.

“I am so grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with the finest in a country that continues to inspire me daily,” she told the SA Jewish Report this week from her Tel Aviv apartment.

When she arrived in March 2016, the shy dancer from Camps Bay, had no idea what to expect. “I was just so excited to be going to a new place to start afresh and see where the ride took me,” she said, adding that it was quite a shock to be so far from home.

“It’s not like you’re a half hour bus ride from home, it’s a ten hour flight away. It forced me to grow up quickly,” she said. She recalls the initial difficulties she encountered with the language, especially when it came to things like apartment hunting, going to the bank, or visiting the doctor.

Hebrew remains a work in progress, she admits with a laugh.

For Khoza, a graduate of the Cape Academy of Performing Arts who performed with the Cape Dance Company and Joburg Ballet, Israel is a melting pot of cultures where she feels free to be herself among a global assortment of dancers from around the world.

“Tel Aviv is so multicultural. I love the enormous pool of cultures here. It’s just so refreshing,” she said. “I love to be in a place that has so many different people all with such diverse styles, energies and personalities.”

Khoza not only had to contend with settling down in a foreign country, she had to face up to immense new dance challenges which have stretched her beyond her wildest imagination.

Naharin developed the now well-known Gaga dance style, which was completely foreign to the South African dancer whose classical ballet training initially clashed with the unconventional movement language.

“Gaga has opened me up to a whole new world of movement. It was very challenging in the beginning, and remains so,” said Khoza. She admits that it took courage, strength of character, and passion to unlearn her rigid training and open herself up to learning an entirely new dance language.

The Gaga way, she said, involves dancers using imagery to guide their movement and self expression, by focusing their attention on specific body parts without the use of mirrors in the studio.

Gaga has been described as “playfully Idiosyncratic”, and a very immersive-style of dance.

The dance style becomes more familiar to her with each new day, always posing new challenges along the way, which keeps it exciting. she said.

Her advice to other dancers is “be yourself”.

“Don’t change your beliefs, be true to your core, and don’t allow people to influence you to change. Always remember where you come from, and never forget why you started dancing in the first place,” she said.

“There are a lot of talented dancers out there whose bodies do crazy things, but the passion and the reason why they started dancing can be missing.”

Khoza started dancing at the age of five, when her mom took her to see a performance of Swan Lake. The dancers left her mesmerised.

“I was so inspired, so moved. I knew in my heart that I wanted to be able to move and inspire people in the same way one day. To make a real impact on their lives.”

She said the dancers who move her the most are the ones who have that rare ability to “tell a story with their body that hasn’t been written before”.

Her experience working with Naharin has been “incredible”, she said. “He has a wealth of knowledge and experience which I’m so fortunate to be exposed to. I feel like I’ve learnt so much, some of it not even related to dance, life stuff.”

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