Lesole’s South African Dancers

Conservancy Sponsors Lesole’s South African dancers at newly renovated Takoma EC

At the first performance event in the newly renovated school, the Lesole’s Dance Project introduced three South African cultures to Takoma EC’s students through their high energy dances: the traditional Indlamu dance from Zulu villages; the Gumboot, a percussive kind of “instant messaging” dance slapped out on gold miners’ rubber boots, and the Pantsula, an upbeat urban dance like American hip-hop but with a cultural twist. After each presentation, native South African Lesole Maine (pronounced Mah-ee-nay), the dance company’s founder, explained the origins and context of the exciting dances and gave the young audience of pre-school through 2nd grade students an opportunity to participate and try the dance steps.

The Indlamu of Zulu villages, is known as “the warrior dance”. Originally it was to train and celebrate the victories of Shaka’s Zulu warriors. Now it is performed to celebrate childbirth and weddings and is danced by both men and women. Gumboots dancing originated in the gold mines of South Africa during the oppressive Apartheid years. Black laborers worked in total darkness for three months at a time in appalling conditions. They were chained to their stations and were forbidden to talk to each other. They stood up to their knees in infected water causing skin diseases; resulting in lost time from work. Those in charge of the mine work discovered that it was too expensive to drain the mines, so they made the workers wear Gumboots. The miners used the gumboots as a method of communication by slapping the boots, stomping their feet and rattling their ankle chains. Later, this became a form of recreation for men during long months away from their families. The Pantsula, a street dance that involves a lot of fast footwork, attitude, and the ability to wiggle and jerk the body into different unusual rhythms, has its origins in the 1960’s. Migrant laborers were taking their families from their homeland to the fast life of Johannesburg townships, children were exposed to city life, different cultures, new ways of living, and new music. They quickly adapted their way of living and dance by mimicking the fast life in the townships. This dance is usually done with colorful attire: Converse “All Star” sneakers, dickies pants and hats “Sporty.” Pantsula became popular in the 80’s among the youth of the townships. Youth clubs would have competitions among themselves and choose the best group/dancer to represent them. Sponsored in partnership with Class Acts Arts. [Jan 2012]

Theater Programs, Takoma, Washington DC