Dancing In South Africa

Dance culture permeates South Africa, be it in the streets of its shanty towns or on the stages of its magnificent art houses, South African dancers have always displayed the kind of skill that leaves audiences awestruck. A naturally rhythmic country that, to a certain extent, jived to its freedom.

At the battle of Isandlwana the war-shuffle of the Zulus is said to have largely caused the fear that gripped the British troops before they were decimated.

Dance culture in South Africa is integral in a country whose history is shot-through with examples of dance as an expression of all that life’s rich pageant has to offer.

Warriors did it with spears and shields on the battlefield, and once the dust settled, women did it with a sexy shuffle in the shebeens or watering holes. Before 1994 when the country joyfully leaped to its well-deserved freedom, its people formed a phalanx against their oppressors with a jump-step protest dance.

And there’s much more to dance culture of South Africa than the umgubha, patha-patha, and the toyi-toyi. The Nama people of the Northern Cape also have their own, wild and fast-stepping, way of dancing called the Nama Reel. To see this in action, you have to visit the Williston Winter Festival in September.

South African dance culture can be appreciated across the country in well-equipped venues or in cosy corners where the dancing is often done to the din of revelry.

In Johannesburg ballet, contemporary, gumboot, and other forms of cultural dance are performed at the Joburg Theatre in Braamfontein, the Lyric at Gold Reef City, the Victory Theatre in Orange Grove, or if your timing is right, you could catch the versatile and vibrant spread at the FNC Dance Umbrella, the biggest such showcase in Africa.

The capital’s only 60 kilometres away for audiences interested in grand style first-world ballet productions at the Pretoria State Theatre. In 2006 the St. Petersburg Ballet performed Swan Lake here to packed houses.

The country’s colonial threshold, Cape Town, has an equal abundance of typically South African dance experiences. Cape Town City Ballet with its backdrop of Table Mountain must certainly be one of the most exquisitely positioned classic dance companies in the world.

One of the city’s most famous citizens, the late Phyllis Spira, still one of only 8 prima ballerina absolutas in the world, launched an outreach programme in Gugulethu that has introduced to the world stage several African dancers second to none!


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