Pantsula group help celebs tell African tales in New York

05 November 2017 - 00:00 By LEONIE WAGNER
Via Vyndal members, from left, Kagiso Ngqulunga, Bafana Binde, Sandile Ngqulunga and Daniel Chaka dance at the Thusong Youth Centre in Alexandra.
Via Vyndal members, from left, Kagiso Ngqulunga, Bafana Binde, Sandile Ngqulunga and Daniel Chaka dance at the Thusong Youth Centre in Alexandra.
Image: Alaister Russell

To Americans they might look like South Africa's dancing Power Rangers, but to the people of Alexandra, Johannesburg, they are local celebrities.

Members of the pantsula dance crew Via Vyndal are gearing up to perform in New York. Sandile Ngqulunga, 24, Kagiso Ngqulunga, 21, Daniel Chaka, 22, and Bafana Binde, 25, will be performing the US premiere of The Children's Monologues.

The event is on November 13 at Carnegie Hall, directed by Academy Award winner Danny Boyle. The monologues, adapted for the stage by playwrights, are stories written by youngsters in Africa. In the cast are Trevor Noah, Charlize Theron, Daveed Diggs, Lena Dunham, Daniel Kaluuya, James McAvoy, Audra McDonald, Ewan McGregor, Javier Muñoz and Susan Sarandon.

Boyle held auditions for local pantsula dancers earlier this year and the Alexandra crew were chosen. Chaka said he cried when he heard the news. Sandile Ngqulunga said they were "elated" because none had ever left the country to perform.

Hoping to change the negative perspective of pantsula dancers, he said: "People who don't understand what we do think we vandalise, but we don't. The only time we do that is on stage when we dance."

Sicelo Xaba, their artistic director and founding member of Impilo Mapantsula, an organisation that supports pantsula dancers in South Africa, said: "This is not just important for the guys going, it's also important for pantsula as a culture and a dance form."

WATCH | The Via VYNDAL dance group in action

While Via Vyndal are mesmerising the audience in New York, the youngsters who wrote some of the stories will be performing their monologues in Rammulotsi, Free State.

Beth Wells of creative arts charity Dramatic Need said the project started with more than 1,000 essays from children about "A Day I Will Never Forget". These were whittled down to 15. Proceeds from the fundraiser will go to Dramatic Need.

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