Choreographer, Oscar Buthelezi, has come a long way since he started dancing pantsula at the age of seven in his hometown of Vosloorus.
At 25, Oscar recently went to Germany to compete against two other finalists chosen out of 70 choreographers from 26 countries.
His dance piece, Road, won the Kurt Jooss prize in May, one of the most prestigious prizes in the dance world. His win was historic because he’s the first black choreographer to win the prize. Oscar is also the first choreographer to win the main award and the Audience Choice awards – something that has never happened in the history of the competition.
The win was a shock, says Oscar
When I meet him at his dance studio in Newtown, shortly after his return from Germany, I’m amused at how short Oscar is in person. Another revelation is that he was shocked to be announced as the winner, especially the Audience Choice award, because more than 2000 people voted for him. Road is Oscar’s first dance piece to get world recognition, and performing it was nerve-wracking, he says. “After my performance, I wanted to watch other dancers, but I couldn’t because I didn’t want to doubt my performance.”
The reason the piece was a success might be because, like Kurt Jooss, Oscar dealt with real life issues. Jooss disliked “plotless dances“, and tackled moral themes in his work. “Road is actually all the roads I’ve been through with my father and it was emotional working on it.” Muzi Shili portrays Oscar’s dad in the dance piece, and sometimes they switch roles.
His love for dancing started when he was seven
Oscar says that his love for dancing started when he was young, first as part of the pantsula group, Via Vosloorus, at age seven. Then in 2003, he joined another dance group in Vosloorus called Dlala Mapantsula, where he started choreographing his own pieces. His talent didn’t go unrecognised because by 2006 he was involved in TV productions such as YO TV Groove and Jika Majika, where he choreographed a number of pieces.
When Oscar finished matric, in 2009, his brother, Nkosinathi, advised him to get into performance art, which is when he enrolled into a year-long course at the dance company Moving Into Dance Mophatong. And Oscar has never stopped learning. He didn’t know about Kurt Jooss until his mentor Mark Hawkins advised him to submit his work. “I submitted it in December 2015 and started doing my research about Kurt Jooss, I learnt that he was a refugee in Germany and a respected ballet dancer.”And there are more learning and opportunities to come for this talented dancer. Oscar is now working on a local version of Romeo and Juliet, which will be performed in Italy in September.
Images by Mark Wessels
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