Festival of South African Dance

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Mekhiya Gregory | gmekhiya@radford.edu

The Festival of South African Dance featuring Real Actions Pantsula and Stimela ” The Gumboot” Musical was an act directed from Johannesburg, South Africa that described the gold miner’s life through music. It gave an insight on the things they did and how they spent their time while during the dangerous act of going underground mining for gold. The musical was an ensemble of 20 dancers and musicians with bright and cool colors of the scene that definitely would’ve caught your attention, and trapped you into the performance bringing you into that period.

This musical was directed by Thapelo Motluong who according to the brochure handed out “specializes in a Traditional/ Indigenous African Dance, Tap, Pantsula, and Gumboot.” His mission as a director is ” to preserve and restore the African tradition as well as shed light on topics deemed controversial in certain South African communities.” He also had other plays that he directed while being primarily produced in South Africa and New Zealand such as “Like Cain and Abel” (2005) ” a story of love and tolerance regarding LGBTQ community on a global scale.” As well as other musicals that surround historical stories told in the South African community.

About “The Gumboot” Musical it’s a story about the miners and how hard they worked to send money back home to their families. Through songs such as “Gwa – Gwa – Gwa – Gwa,” ” Midodo,” and ” Stimela” they tell a tale of emotion on how the workers felt throughout their time working in the mines. The music added an extra flare to the story as well as the dancing of the men. According to the brochure Gumboot dancing ” also known as Isicathulo was conceived by South African workers in the 1880’s who were transported to Witwatersrand, South African by European settlers to mine for gold. The gold mines were often flooded, so the miners were provided with gumboots to protect their feet. The miners were forbidden to speak while they worked, so they would often jangle their ankle chains to communicate with one another”. As shown in the musical the gumboot dances use the same body movements reminiscing the way the miners would use their chains to communicate. Today the “dance exists as a strong symbol of South African history and culture used in routes on the streets and plazas of tourist areas in Johannesburg and Cape Town.” Motluongs wants to share the South African traditions and Gumboot dance all around the world to help preserve hint the reason for the bring colorful musical.

I interviewed Alexis Spencer a sophomore at Radford University asking how did you like the South African Musical she replied saying “it was interesting they’re really good, but it was a little confusing. It wasn’t in English, but they acted it out pretty well some parts, so I got the gist”. I also asked if the musical inspired her in any way she stated that ” not really but you can just say it inspired me to work harder because I take things for granted. Like currently I’m not working, and I don’t need to, but I could just help out and not rely on my parents”. This musical was very well put together it was very exciting and colorful. It exposed a lot of individual to the tradition of “The Gumboot Dance.”