He knows he can dance

2010-08-28 00:00

HUMILITY and an incredibly strong work ethic are what make talented Pietermaritzburg dancer Bonwa Mbontsi stand out from the crowd.

That’s the view of Lyn Chemaly, director of theatre at St Anne’s College in Hilton, who has worked closely with the 21-year-old finalist in SABC1’s reality show, So You Think You Can Dance.

Currently studying for his Bachelor of Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Mbontsi has been dancing for the past four years. The bug really bit when he signed up to perform in the annual schools’ dance extravaganza, Funk, while still a pupil at Maritzburg College.

Since leaving school he has continued to help the school choreograph work for Funk and has worked closely with Chemaly on her productions of Father Michael’s Lottery in 2009 and Chicago this year — helping to choreograph and dance in both shows.

Chemaly said: “The one thing that impresses me about Bonwa, other than his incredible talent in dance performance and choreography, is his outstanding work ethic. In working together on two major dance productions, running three hour rehearsals, day after day, for nearly three months at a time, he never failed to be punctual, organised and prepared, in good humour, full of energy, and an inspiration to everyone in the cast.

“I think these skills are paramount in an industry that tends only to focus on talent. To be capable, flexible, willing to learn, have a strong work ethic and also be incredibly talented, is truly a winning formula. Bonwa understands the role of hard work and sweat to the success of the artist. He deserves to win this competition because he will make full use of the opportunities that it will give him. I expect to see his name in lights in the very near future.”

It’s the second time Mbontsi, who describes himself as a contemporary and ballet dancer, has auditioned for So You Think You Can Dance. Asked why viewers should choose him to be South Africa’s favourite dancer, he said: “I’ve worked really hard over the past few years, I’m passionate about dancing, I’m growing as a dancer, and I believe I have a lot to offer the industry.”

As for what he plans to do with the R250 000 prize money from the show, he says he wants to bring his mother back to South Africa. She left many years ago to work overseas to support him and his three cousins, but is now in poor health.

“I would pay off my mother’s house,” he added, “and help my foster family [Brendan and Jenny Bell] any way I can because I wouldn’t be here, figuring out what to do with R250 000, if it wasn’t for them, and without them I wouldn’t have disco­vered my dancing talent.”

His foster father Brendan, director of the Tatham Art Gallery, said he and the family were very proud and were “supporting Bonwa all the way”.

Asked what he thought of the dance talent in South Africa at the moment, Mbontsi says: “It’s amazing. There is tons and tons of raw, vibrant and exciting talent.” Among the dancers and choreographers he admires are Vincent Mantsoe, Dada Masilo (who is bringing her latest work, Swan Lake, to the Witness Hilton Arts Festival in September) and Gary Gordan.

But, whatever happens in the competition, Mbontsi is keen to tell young people watching that “no matter who or where you come from, what you do or don’t believe in, before embarking on any journey, self-identity is essential.”

He added: “If you don’t know who you are or what you’re worth, if you don’t have some self worth, respect, appreciation, you are not going to reach your fullest potential.”

TWO Durban girls have also been chosen as finalists for So You Think You Can Dance . They are ballet and contemporary dancer Kai Pretorius (far left) and hip hop dancer Snenhlanhla Mbatha.

Pretorius is a graphic design student at the Durban University of Technology and part-time professional dancer at the Break-Thru Dance Co. She was classically trained in ballet from the age of three, has been exposed to a variety of dance styles and has participated in professional productions.

Mbatha is a student and sales assistant. A natural dancer, she grew up following Janet Jackson until krumping came along. She joined Dance Direction International when she was 15 and in 2008 released two krump video clips of her dancing.

WITH the finalists chosen, it’s now up to the public to choose South Africa’s best dancer.

Every Saturday evening, from August 28, the aspiring dance stars will be put through their paces in a variety of dance genres. They will then have to wait until Wednesday nights to see who has been voted off the show.

In the first live episode tonight, the top 16 contestants will be divided into eight couples and will have to perform a dance assigned to them by the judges, Didi Moses, David Matamela and Harold van Buuren.

All Saturday programmes — apart from the first live show on August 28 and the finale on October 16, which start at 6 pm — will be aired on SABC1 from 6.30 pm to 7.30 pm.

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