Being a dancer, or rather former performing artist. I am pleased to introduce dancer, director, creator, educator Musa Hlatswayo
Musa Hlatshwayo is my name. I am performing artist, choreographer, founder and artistic director of Mhayise Productions and The Movement Laboratory. Born and raised kwaMaphumulo but currently resides in Durban in KZN. -How long have you been dancing?
I have been in the industry for 16 years now as a performing artist but my own company Mhayise Productions is 10 years old this year. -Other than dance, what other dance related works do you do/ have you done?
I am the artistic director of my own company called Mhayise Productions where we create edgy contemporary performance work that seeks to foster the creation of dialogue across communities with a keen interest on issues of identity and socio-political (in)justice. We also create customised works for coperate events and companies, facilitate creative arts workshops and programmes in educational institutions, arts centres and community spaces. Mhayise Productions also runs a training platform called the Movement Laboratory for anyone who wants to explore their movement abilities with others or those seeking mentorship and peer guidance by others on the same path as them.
I also teach in dance studios, schools and universities and in various communities where I use theatre, movement and dance as a means of self and community development.
What do you love about dancing?
Dance is a means of physical expression that allows one the freedom of expressing emotions, thoughts and ideas that might at times be difficult to communicate orally. It is a powerful medium of expressions that transcends cultural, religious and political barriers and allows one a means to communicate and release complex thoughts, ideas and processes. It has the power to be a catalyst for artists and audiences to engage critically on socio-political matters while opening space for a dialogue. It has the ability to liberate the mind, body and soul collectively and holistically. -What are the perks of working in the performing arts/ dance?
Some of the perks include being able to keep the child in me alive. I enjoy being able to play, laugh and cry out without being judged as behaving improperly as I continue engaging with processes and methodologies that at the end present somewhat controversial and engaging subject matters. Working with a medium of expression that is physical also allows the mind and the soul to constantly tap into new fresh territories. It allows me a space for continuos growth, discovery and adventure. It allows me that physical exercise that keep my mind and body exercising. It forces me to appreciate my health as a priority. -What is the role of dance practitioners in uplifting the community?
I have always seen the role of dance practitioners or any contemporary creative artist equivalent to that of the traditional imbongi (a praise singer that is called into service through their God-given gift and the messages relayed by his ancestors). We celebrate identity, highlight and magnify issues of current affairs particularly those of community interest. We expose social injustice and call for consciousness and active participation to changing things for the better. We preserve and promote the memory of that which contributes to our being; our history and our present. We foretell the future, heal the past and honour the present with our minds, bodies and souls.
– Do you think artists, especially dancers do not get the recognition they deserve?
I don’t think artists especially dancers are getting the recognition they deserve. In fact, the battle that all other artists are fighting is not the same as that of the dancers. Dance is still regarded as hobby and an extramural activity that one does for the sake of…Our government, particularly in South Africa is yet to fully understand the importance and the need for dance within a developing country that has a history and a socio-political imbalance like our own. Our business sector is yet to learn and appreciate the synergies that can be creative with private business and contemporary creative arts and artists without us being extras, features or entertainers to their events and campaigns. Other artists are still to learn of dancers and choreographers as creators, authors and composers of a revolutionary art form that forever evolves with time and resonates across political barriers. That, I hope, will help them see us as frontline collaborators – not back bench features who come in to shake and jirate as sex symbols as how things might have been in the past.
-What keeps you motivated in your work?
The need to express myself, the need to speak out, the need to explore my create edge, the many stories; positive and negative that God, life and Africa continue blessing us with through life’s experience. My dreams, my desires, the child in me and life with its multi-layers.
– Any wisdom you would like to share with aspiring dancers/ artists?
HEHEHEHE, wisdom? Keep the child and the dream alive until your last breathe on earth. Your life story matters and that’s why you were giving the gift of creating and expressing yourself in unique and dynamic ways. Dance, create and speak knowing that you do so even for your forefathers whose voices might have been muted by insecurities and circumstances that rendered them foreign inferiority complexes. Who else do you think the sun emulates? Your sways and your glows. So go on…and on…and on.
Pics by Val Adamson.