Thabo Rapoo: dancing to inspire

11 November 2008

From dancing the traditional Prawiroguna in Indonesia to Afro-fusion in the inner city of Johannesburg, the winner of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Dance 2009 is leaping his way into the hearts of national and international audiences.

Thabo Rapoo (29) studied at the Johannesburg Dance Foundation before joining Johannesburg-based Moving Into Dance Mophatong as an aspirant dancer in 2002, becoming a company member in 2003.

In 2002 he danced solo in Mumbai, Jaipur, Calcutta and Delhi. Since then, with Moving into Dance Mophatong, Rapoo has graced the stages of international festivals in Luxembourg, Bolzano, Vienna, Turin, Sweden, Kuopio, Washington, Finland and India.

In 2004, he made his debut as a choreographer with the Moving Into Dance production Kgotla, which was performed in Johannesburg, Luxembourg, Bolzano and Vienna.

In 2005 he choreographed eMandulo for a Moving Into Dance and Vuyani Dance Theatre joint season, and in 2006 he attended international choreographers’ workshops in Senegal.

In 2007 Rapoo choreographed Time to Dance for the JIM-Jack Arts & Culture Company, and received a Phillip Stein Young Choreographer’s Grant to create a new work for the 2008 FNB Dance Umbrella.

Se-Hume Tlokweng, a tribute to his mentor, legendary musician Tlokwe Sehume, was presented at the 2008 FNB Dance Umbrella, where Rapoo received an award for most promising male dancer in a contemporary style.

For Rapoo, whose favourite style is Afro-fusion, dance is not just artistic expression. It’s an opportunity to inspire his generation.

“I chose dance as a career because of my passion for it,” he says. “It is a non-verbal form of communication.”

He has facilitated workshops for emerging choreographers at the FNB Dance Umbrella, as well as for the Gauteng Dance Manyano.

Rapoo, who calls Newtown, Johannesburg his home, is currently studying through an arts and culture scholarship programme in Surakarta, Indonesia.

While he loves the appreciative South Africa audiences, he worries that they are often small, and that so many young artists are leaving the country to build a career elsewhere.

“I will encourage my peers not to leave South Africa to seek jobs elsewhere, because the grass is not always greener on the other side,” he says.

Rapoo says he wants to use the opportunity that the Standard Bank Young Artist Award has given him to do a piece that he has been dreaming about for a long time but has never had the funds to bring to fruition.

“I am looking forward to giving some of my peers an opportunity to work with me, and to create a job for them for the time that I will be working with them.”

The annual Standard bank Young Artist Awards were started in 1981 by the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, with Standard Bank coming on board as a sponsor in 1984.

The awards, seen as one of the most prestigious of their kind in the country, honour young South African artists who have not yet gained widespread national exposure or acclaim, but who are making a significant mark in their field.

The awards recognize and actively promote the talent of these young artists, providing them with financial support and a platform for experimentation. Winners receive a cash prize and financial support for their participation on the main programme of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown.

Source: National Arts Festival, Grahamstown