'I went from being a lokshin boy to being an established choreographer in the UK' – Johannes Radebe

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Strictly Come Dancing's Johannes Radebe on his life in the UK, dancing and breaking boundaries.
Strictly Come Dancing's Johannes Radebe on his life in the UK, dancing and breaking boundaries.

The South African dancer has been living in the UK for years now and has made a name for himself on the British version of the popular ballroom dancing show, Strictly Come Dancing.

Johannes Radebe grew up in Zamdela in Sasolburg where he learnt how to dance, he tells us.

“Everyone in South Africa can dance. I got introduced to ballroom and Latin dance by fluke. There was a dance school opening in my community and I followed my sister there, and I was mesmerised by the caution and the style of dancing. I wanted to be a part of it, and I went back there and when they saw my interest, they nurtured me into growing as a dancer."

"I started competing around, then I realised that there is another world outside the township.”

Prior to joining Strictly Come Dancing UK in 2018, Johannes had won multiple dance competitions in South Africa.

He is a two-time Professional South African Latin Champion and three-time South African Amateur Latin Champion and has reached the final of Strictly Come Dancing South Africa twice.

"I went from being a lokshin boy to being a director and choreographer for a movie to being an established choreographer here in the UK – those are such big achievements for me," Johannes says with pride.

The new season  of Strictly Come Dancing will air on BBC Brit (DStv channel 120) from Sunday 26 September at 7pm’ 

“Strictly Come Dancing continues to push boundaries and for a gay black man to be part of such an establishment – it's liberating. I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am and how I wish to be the first to be partnered with a male contestant, it would be momentous for many.

"It's beautiful that they trust me to be an ambassador for certain things. This new season is going to be a treat in terms of choreography, wardrobe and sets.”

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Johannes says seeing homophobia and violence against gay people in this day and age is heartbreaking.

“When I came to the United Kingdom, I thought that things would different. But even here, people are still facing discrimination. I emphasise us black gay people because we come from families who don’t approve of our lifestyles and probably never will.

"I have a lived experience of that because not everyone is happy with my life. I hate that even back home people can’t exercise their rights.”

The ballroom dancing champion says he lost a friend in SA recently due to homophobia. “It hurts me so much; he was killed because of his sexuality," Johannes says.

The pandemic and its impact have made him realise "I shouldn’t take anything for granted", he adds.

"I used to think that I have time but now I realise that the time is now. I have a new sense of appreciation for life. My mother and my family keep me grounded and motivated in life."

Johannes is planning on doing his first solo tour in the UK, titled Freedom, next year. It was inspired by the fact that he was born on Freedom Day and he wants people to experience freedom in each and every way.

“It is going to be an extravaganza. Freedom is for me an opportunity to dance to my own tune, a mixture of culture and tradition."

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