Travelling abroad, working with major artists, putting on shows on Some of South Africa’s biggest stages and starring in South Africa’s first dance film… This may sound like the beginning of a speech prior to an artist receiving their lifetime achievement award BUT it is only the beginning of a new and exciting chapter in the lives of Bontle Modiselle, Mindo Sefafe and Megan Coltman.
Growing up in households with more than one sibling each, family plays an important part in their lives. And that is exactly why it was a little tough for Bontle and Megan when their families took a while to warm up the idea of them making a career out of dance. Conversely, Mindo had her father’s support from the get-go while her mom took longer to follow suit.
Even though her sister sends her voice notes about how proud she has made her and everyone in her family reps #TeamMegan now, they weren’t always that happy about her dance career. When she left her post-matric office job to dance full time, her family gave her the biggest Michelle Obama-esque side-eye. She had been living with her sister and sharing living expenses 50/50 at that time. That decision can definitely be referred to as ‘a leap of faith of note’ because she barely knew anyone in Johannesburg, so she couldn’t network for jobs and she was broke for nearly a year as a result. During that time, her sister made sure to let the whole family know that Megan wasn’t pulling her weight. The family then came to the consensus that she should just get a 9 to 5. It was only when her family saw her feature in her first music video that they began to realize that she was right.
Playing the lead female character in Hear Me Move (South Africa’s first large-scale dance movie) is Bontle’s biggest performance to date. That and dancing alongside Candice Swanepoel in the latest ‘RE: Jeans’ ad campaign.
She described Candice as “an angel” (no pun intended, but it is nice to know that she lives up to the title) with the innate ability to move seeing as she took salsa lessons. She managed to learn the choreography quite easily but “there were moments on set when she got nervous and she needed the team to kind of back her up.” She was so open to guidance in terms of getting the help she needed so the whole process was a breeze.
Bontle seems to have nothing but love for the big names she has worked with and she got to do a lot of that while filming Hear Me Move. People like Lorcia Cooper, Lillian Dube, Boity, Amanda Dupont, Trevor Gumbi, Khanyi Mbau, Thembi Seete all made the list. Her most memorable scene was with someone who Bontle describes as a clown, Lillian Dube. “She says some really hilarious things and almost everything that comes out of her mouth is hilarious and it makes it really difficult to work. You get into that moment where you wanna get serious but you can hear her in the background saying this, that and the other but it was awesome.” Thembi Seete and Khanyi Mbau were also described as ‘such angels’. “They are both so sweet and they are such beautiful souls who are very giving in advice and in guidance. There were people who came to set, did their jobs and got out of there and they really were not interested in anything you had to do or say. Thembi and Khanyi on the other hand, took the time to get to know who you are and they would sit at the same table as nobodies,” explains Bontle.
She adds that she feels as though the movie is going to do really well. And then she takes deep breath before she runs through the scripted summary; “it’s about a young boy named Muzi who goes on a journey to learn who his father is and was. His father has passed on. And on this journey, he discovers a lot about himself and he does it through dance and the experience of dance which we tried to keep as indigenous as possible using sbujwa. So I think a lot of people are going to grow a massive appreciation for it instead of getting Beyonce to do isipantsula in ‘Run the World.’”
Mindo has had the crazy-fabulous experience of working with Rihanna and even though it is such a big deal, the soft-spoken dancer plays it down.Among her biggest performances, Megan lists; performing in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup and 2010 World Cup ceremonies as a fan dancer, being on the Big Brother Africa stage alongside her girls and working for various, well-known artists in and around Africa (like DJ Dimplez, SK, Kwesta, Cabo Snoop, WizKid and Ice Prince).
Fashion and Style
Being introduced to new things all the time is something that Bontle considers a bonus to being a part of the entertainment industry. She does however add that she has learned to differentiate between the two worlds and stick to who she is. When she is on stage, she realizes that it is a character and merely that. And before Mindo could expose her, she admits that her personal style was highly affected by her character in the film. She attributes it to the fact that she liked what she saw, she liked who her character was and what she was about.
Mindo did not hesitate to say that her style is definitely affected by her dance career and that it has changed as a result. “I used to be the kind of person who was comfortable wearing trackpants Monday to Friday or Sunday to Sunday rather and as an excuse I used to say, ‘I’m a dancer, so what?’ But through doing different things, being involved in different productions and playing the role of Pinky [in Hear Me Move] I must say that my style has changed.”
Megan’s style is divided between the worlds of comfort and glamour. Comfort and simplicity are King for her but on occasion when she does get dolled-up, she is aiming to turn heads, break necks and snatch the wig off of whoever is staring.
Dance has both brought the world to the girls and taken them beyond South Africa’s borders.
While Bontle has been to Holland and Germany for a Dance and Culture exchange programme, Mindo has been to Germany, London, Los Angeles in America, Egypt and other African countries like Kenya, Mozambique and so on. She is surprisingly still on her first passport. Megan has been to Malawi, where she performed for the President of Malawi at a parliamentary event, in addition to a 6-month cabaret contract in Turkey. “Not the best experience – stayed there for two months and got my a** back home!”
When asked about their ideal destinations, Bontle has always believed that her “alternate universe is in Trinindad & Tobago or somewhere in the islands” because she has always been such a tranquil human being. The fact that she has dreadlocks is just a bonus. Mindo has always wanted to visit Brazil “only because… Oh my! I have seen some HOT people there.” Megan on the other hand is all about America and it’s dance culture and has been ever since she was a little girl. “Outside of dancing, the atmosphere there just seems so amazing and that just describes me… as alive and on-the-go and just fun. Music, lights, cameras… everything” she adds.
Most Valued Possessions from Abroad
Lessons and experiences were more of a common thread in all their stories than possessions.
Mindo values the wealth of acting knowledge that she came home with while Megan values “the evil eye” that she got from Turkey (not only because it is a gorgeous trinket but because of the adorable story behind it). It was a gift from the concierge at the hotel she stayed at – where she spent weeks in bed after she fractured both her ankles. Despite how menacing its name sounds, it is known to have protective and lucky properties. The concerned concierge surprised Megan with a beautiful silver necklace studded with stones and a purple Evil Eye at the centre for her birthday. “It was a part of Turkey that came home with me … memories and what not.”
Bontle on the other hand regrets not “collecting things.” She explains that it is because she is a person who lives in the moment and takes in the experience and THAT is where her memories come from. She did gain a major love and appreciation for the arts from Germany.
Mindo’s most valued lesson came from a video given to her by a fellow dancer while she was in LA filming Rihanna’s “Where Have You Been” music video. Her roommate Coco shared a video with her taken when she first started dancing. In the video, Coco discussed her feelings and fears about life as a dancer versus how much she really wanted to make a career out of it.
When asked about their social media experience, the ladies have had some bad with the good but their online support outweighs any negativity. Bontle admits that she has been attacked but she always manages to reign herself in before she goes on the defensive. She also says that she is lucky enough to have supporters who are willing to go in on her behalf.
Bontle also doesn’t have time to entertain men who hit on her. “I have been it a relationship for… it will be five years in October so I am very solid and set in my relationship so if you are going to come with something new, it does nothing for me. But I am also the type of person who isn’t completely rude… Megz and Bontle are trying to teach me how to be more sassy. Megan is extremely feisty.”
Megan says “on social media, I have got this thing where – if you send me a friend request, let say on FB, me accepting you is the most I can do. As soon as you send me that inbox I am like [throws hands up] “I did you favour by accepting you, let’s just leave it there… Most of the time [in person] guys can be upfront on some ‘yo! Hey babe’ and all that jazz, but I pretend that I do not hear you. I just put my earphones in and I might not be listening to any music but please realize that I am ‘listening’ to something.’”
Conversely, Mindo is nice to everyone. “I am never like ‘okay he is crazy so I am not going to say hi if he greets me’, I will greet back but you can always tell if someone is one of the crazy ones…”
Odd Questions on Social Media…
A bit off track but still under the topic of ‘silly/crazy’ questions, Bontle recalls a time when they put on a cabaret show and audience members [old enough to be their mothers] would go up to them and ask them for tips. “The tips ranged from things like how to keep their husbands and boyfriends to how to take the sexiness back home,” adds Megan.
They knew that there were a lot of women who lack confidence and they thought that women collectively deal with the question of how to keep their men at home so they didn’t mind the questions. Megan emphasizes that “we as women come in different shades, shapes and sizes and heights… whatever and one of the reasons we did the cabaret show was to boost women’s confidence no matter what they look like and to let them know that they can do this at home. So it was just like a trial … take what you see on stage and go home and do if for your man, wear something sexy, play “Red Light Special” by TLC, just do something!” The awkward part, as Bontle describes it, was figuring out how they – as youngsters – could teach their “mothers” to dip it low and pick it up slow. Time and conflicting schedules are what currently stand in the way of them turning this into a series of dance classes.
Men have also made assumptions based on the costumes that the girls wear for shows and they have asked them to do a number of things from attending bachelor parties as strippers to twerking in music videos. Megan reiterates that they’ve got nothing against twerking but for her, twerking for bae is where it stops.
Still on the topic of persistent men…
Megan tells the eyebrow raising story of one audience member – who was supposedly a doctor – that did quite a few presumptuous things to get her attention.
Things like sending waiters up to their hotel rooms the morning after the show with a tray of drinks and an envelope with money, his number and a note in it that said “please call me when you get time.” It started with R1000 and instructions like “go buy yourself sweets” and escalated to him, showing up in person to offer her thousands to go do her hair. It escalated even further when the mystery man managed to get access to their stage director and he would actually watch the show sitting next to the stage director and offer him R15000 for her number.
When that didn’t work out, he set his sights on Mindo. From offering her R250 to buy herself some popcorn to tracking down her number sending her some money via e-wallet with text messages along the lines of “I hope you have a great day,” the doctor refused to give up. Two weeks after that incedent, he sent her a screen grab of his bank balance. He eventually gave up and the persistent pursuit fizzled out.
Bontle had a sweeter experience with a secret admirer. “It was just so nunus” she says as she recalls a day out in Melville when she got a rose made from serviettes. Attached to it was a note from her admirer telling her that he appreciated how “beautifully confident” she was.
The girls are all in consensus about evolving from simply being dancers. “I am going to speak for myself and say I love to consider myself an artist so if someone asks me, “who are you?” I would love to say “an artist.” So I am still a dancer and I can call myself an actress now and ultimately I do want to be a creative director” says Bontle.
Going behind the scenes to be the brains behind an incredible production is the new goal that they have all set their sights on. So here’s to watching their upward trajectory and prepping questions for my future interview with the media’s creative minds of tomorrow.
Follow me on Twitter: @Kay_Tatyana