Young, Black & Gifted

Young, Black & Gifted

Dance is life!!!”says the 23-year-old. Smangaliso Ngwenya studied Drama & Journalism at Rhodes University and after graduating with an honours equivalent qualification in the Bachelor of Journalism and Media Studies, he decided to go straight for his calling dance

“I have always been a child who follows logic, linearity and the right way.”

He started by doing poetry recitals for school festivals in his early grades and participated in school plays and that is when the theatre bug bit him. He later became more adventurous and did dramatised poetry, prose and later entered the dance section of the local school’s arts festival in grade 10 for which he received the highest results. Through theatre he knew that he had found his niche, something that he is passionate about and that he could excel even though he took it as a hobby, something he did on the side.

It was in grade 11 that his extra English teacher revealed that theatre, drama and the arts is a career. That completely destabilised his set idea of applying to be a doctor/ architect as a career. Smangaliso then tasked himself with fighting to prove his decision to pursue drama as a career, by demonstrating his capabilities on stage to himself, his mother (who watched all his performances without fail) and also his potential. He also had to constantly remind himself that if he wants to make this his livelihood; he had to put his mind, spirit, heart, body and soul in it. Mbongeni Ngemas production Lion of the East helped him see that light: that he is not alone, theres more people that share his passion and he can make a career out of it.

Smangaliso notes that doubt does creep up now and then, especially when he sees the careers chosen by his peers.That what if? question lurks now and then but he finds solace in the joy and peace of knowing that he is doing what he loves. The sad thing though is that most people still dont see a career in the arts and it is this reason that when talking to elders within the black community he sometimes shy away from mentioning what he studied or his career option since he knows to them it is not really immediately recognised as a career especially a career that will put bread on the table.

Theatre, dance and arts will take me where I should be, it is just a matter of time, discipline and hard work; I do feel like a deviant but each day I am learning that my way is the right way for me. It is challenging but it is worth it.

What advice would you give to someone that wants to take up dancing as a career? They should work hard for what they would aim to achieve as a dancer, performer and artist and should never forget or neglect what makes their movement and dance approach unique. You should work on finding what makes you unique as a dancer, capitalise on it but be open to growth, broadening your dance knowledge physically and mentally. You never really arrive as an artist, there is always room for improvement but never forget the love, enjoyment and energy you have for dance- that is what will keep you going. Never lose sight of why you started. If you do, watch and appreciate the enjoyment, freedom, passion and energy with which a child dances, it will revive yours.

Having already performed in a number of successful productions and recently becoming part of the renowned Vuyani Dance Company and took part in the critically acclaimed Cion [choreographed by Gregory Maqoma] this made me realise that I’m conversing with someone that is bound to change the face of dance in this country, the face of the arts, someone extremely young yet knows exactly where he is going and how to get there.

Instagram | @smangalisongwenya

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