He’s back under the glare of the spotlight, even if he is reluctant about it. Arthur Mafokate, former kwaito star, dancer, producer, businessman and now TV presenter chats to FARRAH FRANCIS about his TV debut as judge on Step Up or Step Out, the reality dance show on e.tv
Welcome back to the mainstream! Are you excited about being back in the spotlight?
I am excited about finally doing a TV show but I am not excited about being back in the spotlight; that’s why I ran away from it. I have been doing this for 15 years and needed a break from it. Maybe now I’ll enjoy it a bit more than I did so many years ago.
How did you land the Step Up or Step Out gig?
Well, I was head-hunted. Initially I said no because for years I have been trying to get a TV series like this on-air without any luck. But eventually I was persuaded to take part in the show as a judge.
What’s your take on the South African dance scene?
It’s amazing to see the young, fresh talent out there. From the auditions, I can see that the dance scene has improved and developed over the past few years. This has presented the youth with many opportunities.
What is your definition of a good dancer?
Somebody who is passionate, innovative and fresh. And a good dancer must be a crowd-pleaser.
Do you think this show is going to help you become relevant to today’s youth?
I don’t know if I am irrelevant to today’s youth, but the show is going to make me more visible. I believe I’ve always been influential for young people.
You were a kwaito/pantsula dancer in your days. What do you think of the new styles like krunk and popping ’n locking?
These styles have always been around, they’ve just been remixed. With exposure to the American music scene in SA, dancers have taken their style and changed it.
For me, krunk is the only dance style which is a bit fresh.
Is the pantsula culture over?
It’s still alive, you just have to look in the right places to find it. It’s not given enough space and exposure like it used to get, but then again pantsula is the poor man’s dance and like soccer in this country, it will never go away.
Can dance ever be a career?
Yes. I based my career on dance and am still doing it today. Many South Africans are using dance as a career and you can really grow and turn it into a success. Look at people like Chomee and Somizi (Mhlongo); they have made it a success in their lives.
Is kwaito dead?
I don’t know if this will ever be the truth. Just look at the SA Music Awards nominations for this year; so many songs are kwaito. I bet that Professor’s Jezebel will win record of the year. In fact, I am telling you that it will win. So how can kwaito be dead?
Why do you put your female dancers – and protégée Chomee – in skimpy clothing for shows?
I haven’t seen that in the last two years! Of course, clothing plays a big role in dance, but when I look at who went through during the audition phases of this show, it was mostly guy groups and not because of the way they were dressed but simply because they were better dancers.
As one of the founding fathers of kwaito, do you think you’re getting the respect and recognition from your entertainment peers?
I have earned their respect, but only as a dancer. Once you are labelled a dancer, it feels like you are always known as that. You decide what you want to be labelled as.?.. I have always been a businessman, not just a dancer.
What legacy do you hope to leave your children?
That you can make it in life in the entertainment industry and that you can be successful at it.