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Noxolo Dlamini in Jiva!
Noxolo Dlamini in Jiva!
Photo: Neo Baepi/Netflix






3/5 Stars


Talented street dancer Ntombi juggles the demands of a dead-end job, family responsibility and a rocky love life when she realises that her dance moves could be her ticket out of her working-class neighbourhood in Durban. But first, she must overcome her fears, beat her rivals and sort out the chaos that is her family.


South Africa has a vibrant street dance culture that has rarely been explored on-screen. In fact, there have only been two local movies centred around dance Hear Me Move (2015) and Pop Lock' n Roll (2017).

Enter Netflix's third African original, Jiva!, which thrusts dance styles from across the African continent on a global stage. In their initial press release, the streaming service called the series a 'colourful ode to African dance culture'. And that it truly is; from the dancing to the music, to the fashion the five-episode series is an authentic African product.

Like every dance movie, this series sticks to the carefully choreographed routine: a talented dancer, in this case, it's Ntombi (Noxolo Dlamini), who, due to life's circumstance, is unable to follow their dreams. A dance competition reignites the passion in her, but she can't do it alone; she needs to assemble a crew, in this case the Trollies. Even then, it's still not smooth sailing. Throw in another obstacle, some romance, and an epic dance routine which finally gets Ntombi and her team into the finals of the dance competition.

I'm not entirely bashing the formula; it works, hence the moderate success of the Step Up franchise. What makes Jiva! stand out is the story's nuances to the South African experience. The challenges the characters face are themes prevalent in our society, like households in which the children are the sole breadwinners, the blesser/blessee relationship, gender-based violence, teenage pregnancy, and the toxicity of the entertainment industry.

Another thing that makes Jiva! stand out is that the show is women-centred, especially with a dance genre that is predominately male-centric. I particularly appreciated the dynamic within the Trollies made up of Ntombi, Candice Modiselle (Vuyiswa), Sne Mbatha (Zinhe), Stella Dlangalala (Lady E) and Zazi Kunene (Nolwazi). In a lot of dance shows, there is always some internal beef within the group; there was some, but it was squashed quickly and a not the main narrative focus. It was refreshing to see the sisterhood and women empowerment which is important in dispelling the narrative that women can't get along.

When it comes to the acting Noxolo Dlamini as the lead carries the show well. Even if you're not a dancer, you can resonate with Ntombi's story; her frustrations, her internal and external conflicts, which Noxolo portrayed with such honesty. The supporting cast comprises both veteran and newcomers, and each of them does well in their respective roles.

The strength of this show really is in the dancing, and I am happy to report that it has A LOT of dancing. The choreographers, Bontle Modiselle and Tom London, took great care in showcasing numerous styles. The lead actors, some who have never danced this style or don't even have professional dance backgrounds, did amazing. The fact that they come across as professional dancers is a testament to their dedication and hard work.

The end of the series sets the show up for a second season – if greenlit, I hope that it will explore some of the backgrounds of the other dancers in the crew and some of the storylines set up, which they just touched on at surface level.

If you're looking for something to binge this weekend, Jiva! is perfect – not only will it make you want to get up and dance, it will also inspire you to chase after those dreams you have been putting on the backburner.


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