Meet SA’s top choreographer Paul Modjadji

By Drum Digital
06 August 2014

Paul Modjaji has been dancing since his teens and the City of Tshwane’s official brand ambassador.

Paul Modjaji has been dancing since his teens and the City of Tshwane’s official brand ambassador, dancer and fully skilled choreographer has received plenty of international acclaim.

For people who don’t know about you, who is Paul Modjadji?

I’m a dancer and choreographer who was born and raised in Hammanskraal, Pretoria. I had a normal upbringing, with both parents raising my siblings and I.

When did you get the flair for dancing?

I always entertained my family at gatherings, especially during Christmas and New Year. I was the kid that was always summoned to perform and I would gladly oblige.

How did you consider it as a career option?

When I was about 12, I started watching a show called Fame on TV that showed me the possibility of a career in dancing.

At that time, I wasn’t clear how it would pan out but Fame and Sarafina! became my first inspiration to becoming who I am today.

 So, from mimicking TV dances to the actual professional stage, when did that happen?

At 16 I saw an advert in a local paper about auditions for a dance school in Johannesburg and I applied for it. The course was at Wits University and I attended it on Saturdays. I juggled high school at Hillview High School and dance for three years.

When I left high school I got offered an opportunity to study dance in Denmark at the Danseorkestret dance foundation in 2002. During my time there, I started doing professional gigs at 18.

Why do you think it has taken you so long to get recognition locally?

I think that is simply because when I got opportunities to do dance or choreography they were mostly overseas and the local shows

I did, which include 2011 Crown Gospel Music Awards, Miss Soweto 2009, Miss Moreleta 2007 and others, were not dance publicity-driven campaigns but more about the events themselves.

How have you learnt to make a living from dancing?

I’m a graduate in media studies and journalism. When I started dancing I understood that a career as a dancer was sustainable, but it was important to have a back-up plan. That’s not to say I’m not passionate about dance, but in the early 2000s dance wasn’t taken seriously.

But people like Somizi Mhlongo, Gregory Maqoma, other dancers and I have worked hard to show that you can be a professional dancer.

It’s often hard to convince parents that dancing is a job. Did you encounter that problem?

My late father, who was a businessman, was very supportive of my decision to do dance. He just wanted me to be sure about what I wanted to do and to be excellent at it.

My mother,  who was also in business, has always been sceptical about my decision. She only started to warm to the idea when I started earning money and when  I was awarded the City of Tshwane ambassadorship. She wanted me to have something sustainable.

Tell us about the Dare to Dream Foundation that you’re involved with.

It’s a foundation I’m part of. It’s there to develop the youth and show the importance of dreaming. It was founded in 2011 and since then we’ve done workshops that have inspired and changed young people’s lives for the better.

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