1, 2, step... off to Italy

2015-05-05 06:00
The South African ballroom champions Leon Mactavie and Valencia Kannemeyer will be representing the country at the Senior Ballroom World Championships in Italy in July. 


The South African ballroom champions Leon Mactavie and Valencia Kannemeyer will be representing the country at the Senior Ballroom World Championships in Italy in July. PHOTO: supplied

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A dance pair from the southern suburbs is finally starting to reap the fruit of all their hard work, sweat and tears after they were chosen to represent South Africa at the Senior Ballroom World Championships in Italy in July.

The dance couple, who have been dance partners for the past 14 years, were crowned the South African dance champions at the national competition that was held in December.

According to Valencia Kannemeyer from Mitchell’s Plain she met her dance partner, Leon Mactavie from Athlone, at a jazz class and they have been dancing together since.

“I think the key to our successful partnership as dancers is due to great understanding, communication, and having a common goal in sight – to become world dance champs,” says Valencia.

The dance pair normally trains seven days a week for about two to three hours, and are continuing with this schedule ­despite their busy lives.

“It is sometimes a bit difficult, as we both work full-time and Leon works shifts,” says Valencia. “Although it’s hectic, if you love what you do and have a passion for something, you just make it work.”

“We have been very fortunate and blessed to be able to compete internationally so many times. They (international dancers) are just so much more advanced than us when it comes to the sport, so we always have new things to learn and experience when competing with them,” says Leon.

The dance couple has been competing internationally at the world championships since 2009, which is held in a different country each year.

In preparation for the championships in Italy, Valencia says as dancers they have to focus on and perfect their choreography, technique, fitness and mindsets.

“I believe the biggest part of the dancing and competing, especially internationally, is your mindset because you have to express positivity in order to do well. It’s not always easy, because you still have your daily life and challenges to deal with too,” she says.

However, the pair still needs to raise the R25 000 needed each for the trip overseas.

Determined they would qualify for the championships, they started early with fund­raising and have, among others, held a snack dance to help cover travel expenses.

But the costs don’t end there. Valencia needs new outfits and dance shoes, which can cost anything between R3500 and R6000 per dress. Her specially imported dance shoes can cost between R700 and R1500, she says.“When you are passionate about something, you create a way,” says Valencia.

Leon says the best part of competing internationally is the experience you gain and people you meet.

“You try and absorb as much as possible at the competitions, during workshops and by watching the professionals in action. That is what we bring back and plough back into our communities,” says Leon.

To share their talent, the dance partners have started with dance classes at a local school to uplift and engage the youth.

Classes are presented every Monday and Wednesday at Ned Doman School from 17:00 to 18:30 and on Fridays from 16:00 to 19:00.

A small monthly fee is charged to help cover the venue cost, and fundraising events are held to raise money for costumes, entry fees for competitions and cover travel.

“We have kids from Mitchell’s Plain, Manenberg and the greater Athlone area who attend dance classes. They are great and show great talent and commitment. We want to groom them to become champion dancers and achieve great success in life. It’s our way of giving back,” says Valencia.

They currently coach about 24 youngsters ranging from ages five to 23 years

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