Soweto-born Gregory Vuyani Maqoma took up dance in the late 1980s as a refuge from the political tensions in the township, and quickly began excelling. He embarked on his formal dance training at Moving Into Dance Mophatong in 1990 where, in 2002, he would return to serve a five-year stint as associate artistic director.
Today, Maqoma is an internationally renowned dancer, choreographer, teacher, director and scriptwriter. He has also distinguished himself for his artistic collaborations, including working with British-based choreographer Akram Khan and the London Sinfonietta, as well as South African fashion designer David Tlale, singer-songwriter Simphiwe Dana and theatre maker Brett Bailey.
He counts director James Ngcobo among his frequent collaborators, creating the choreography for award-winning theatre productions such as The Lion and the Jewel, The Hill, Crazy for Jazz, Thirst, Master Harold and the Boys, Sunjata, and Songs of Migration with Hugh Masekela. Maqoma also worked with Ngcobo on the ANC centenary celebration musical Tshihumbudzo in Bloemfontein. Another career highlight was serving as head choreographer for the FIFA World Cup Kick-Off Concert in Soweto.
He founded Vuyani Dance Theatre (now grown to include Vuyani Dance Company (PTY) Ltd) in 1999, and several works in the company repertoire have earned accolades and international acclaim. This includes FNB Vita Choreographer of the Year in 1999, 2001 and 2002 for Rhythm 1.2.3, Rhythm Blues and Southern Comfort respectively. Maqoma is well known for his dance trilogies, including the Beautiful Trilogy (for which he won the Gauteng MEC Award in 2006 and 2007).
Maqoma received the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Dance in 2002. He was a finalist in the Daimler Chrysler Choreography Award in 2002 and in the Rolex Mentorship Programme in 2003. In 2011 he won the Dance Manyano Choreographer of the Decade Dance Award, and received the 2012 Tunkie Award for elevating the standard and visibility of dance in South Africa.
An inspirational leader and teacher as well as a creative force, Maqoma has served as associate artistic director of Moving Into Dance Mophatong, the Dance Umbrella festival and the Afro-Vibes Festival in the Netherlands and the UK. He is currently serving on the dance committee of the National Arts Festival.
Maqoma teaches at various universities in Africa, America and Europe, including the University of California. He has created repertoire for Moving Into Dance Mophatong, Jazzart Contemporary Dance Theatre, the South African Ballet Theatre and the Cape Academy of Performing Arts, among others
Luyanda Sidiya’s interest in dance originated at school, where he worked with various township dance, music and drama groups and mentored juvenile offenders. In 1999, he attended classes at the Dance Factory before embarking on formal training at Moving Into Dance Mophatong (MIDM).
As a dancer with the MIDM company, Sidiya performed nationally and internationally, from Botswana and the USA to Europe, as well as facilitating dance workshops abroad.
This rapidly rising star was soon appointed Afro-fusion dance teacher and rehearsal director at MIDM. He taught African dance and choreography at Bennington College in the USA before joining the ACE Dance and Music Company in the UK, first as dancer and then as rehearsal director. He also created a work for ACE Youth.
Sidiya continued to excel as a dancer, performing extensively locally and abroad. He won the award for Most Outstanding Dancer in a Contemporary Style at the 2007 Dance Umbrella festival, and his creation Umnikelo was part of the double bill Mayhem, which won a Silver Standard Bank Ovation Award at the 2012 National Arts Festival. A standout moment was serving as dance captain for the 2010 FIFA World Cup Opening Concert.
Sidiya also co-founded Luthando Arts Academy. Currently, as artistic director at Vuyani, he is working on a collaboration titled 7 Pillars , which will premiere at Dance Umbrella 2014 and tour the United Kingdom.
In 2014, Lulu Mlangeni was named the first recipient of the Sophie Mgcina Best Emerging Voice Award, supported by the Market Theatre, at the Naledi Theatre Awards. The accolade is an acknowledgment of the influence this remarkable young performer, dance facilitator and choreographer is already exerting among her peers and in the communities she mentors, as an inspirational and aspirational female dancer.
She views the award as an acknowledgement of the synergies that are increasingly in play between dance, music and theatre, as it will afford her the opportunity to create a production that will be staged at the Market Theatre.
This is not the first award Mlangeni has received: she was the overall winner of the South African reality dance television show So You Think You Can Dance in 2010, and was named Most Outstanding Dancer at the Lesedi Awards in 2007.
Over the years, she has worked with prominent local artists such as Hugh Masekela and Sibongile Khumalo. Mlangeni has also performed in Germany, Switzerland, France, Réunion Island, Burkina Faso, Brazil, Mozambique, Madagascar and the Netherlands.
Her personal motto is: “If you follow your passion, success will follow you.”
Julia Burnham began dancing at a young age with various community groups in the township of Alexandra. Her exposure to modern dance and traditional South African dance influenced her to join Moving Into Dance Mophatong, where she later progressed to full-time company member. She has worked with various choreographers, and received an award for Best Upcoming Dancer at the Joburg City Festival. She took part in the 2010 FIFA World Cup concert, and has toured 22 cities around the world, performing Robyn Orlin’s work. Burnham joined Vuyani Dance Company in 2014.
Born in Heidelberg, Otto Nhlapo started out with the Juvenile Development Cultural Group in 2004, specialising in Zulu dance genres (umkhomazi, isizingili and umzansi). He has performed for dignitaries including President Jacob Zuma and former President Thabo Mbeki. In 2007 he took part in a cultural exchange programme in Germany, and later studied to be a dance teacher at Moving Into Dance Mophatong. There, he had the opportunity to perform as part of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. In 2012 he won the Pick of the Stepping Stones Award at the Dance Umbrella festival.
Roseline Keppler was a professional ballroom and Latin American dancer at championship level, and a seven-time undefeated titleholder. She was then introduced to a whole new world of dancing when she joined Moving Into Dance Mophatong in 2010, where she trained in African contemporary dance. Keppler joined Vuyani in 2011 as a trainee, then a junior and is now a fully-fledged senior company member. Career highlights include performing across Europe, as well as at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the ANC’s centenary celebration, the Metro FM Music Awards and the Vienna Jazz Festival.
Phumlani Mndebele began his dance career in 2011 while studying at the East Rand School of the Arts. He joined Vuyani Dance Company in 2013 and counts performing at the Metro FM Music Awards among his most memorable appearances to date. He also toured France with the company in 2014.
Phumlani Nyanga began his dance career in the Eastern Cape in 1996. He won the Dance Umbrella Pick of the Stepping Stones Award in 2010, and in the same year he joined Moving Into Dance Mophatong’s residency training programme. Nyanga’s standout moments include performing in the ANC’s centenary celebration work with Gregory Maqoma and Luyanda Sidiya, in addition to touring and performing on European stages.
Xolisile Bongwana’s dance career started in 1999. In 2005 he joined Uphondo Lwe Africa in Port Elizabeth, before spending several years with the Dodgy Clutch Company, touring the UK and the USA and working with choreographer Robyn Orlin. Bongwana performed at the ANC centenary celebrations, has worked extensively with Gregory Maqoma and Luyanda Sidiya, and has toured with Vuyani Dance Company to France and Finland. Currently, he is a senior dancer with the company.
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