Young artist launches dance theatre for contemporary dancers

Thabo Kobeli wants to challenge youths to do what they love and not simply pursue the traditional career routes.

South Africa, as diverse as it may be, has yet to develop a bigger market for different forms of art as career choices. This is more true for the Free State province and while many artists in their different fields are working hard to ensure that arts in the province are celebrated, much work remains to be done.
Dancer, choreographer and founder of the Free State Dance Theatre (FSDT), Thabo Kobeli, says he too is seeking to become one of the pioneers of art in the province. His area of specialty lies in contemporary dance. Kobeli originally hails from Botshabelo, a town not too far from Bloemfontein. He says he would like to introduce opportunities in the contemporary dance arena to black communities in Botshabelo, Thaba Nchu and Bloemfontein. The reason for this is because black people only think of traditional dancing as a form of theatre dance and are oblivious to other dance forms available. He also adds that in the province, Latin and Ballroom dancing are fast becoming a competitive dance sport, leaving little to nothing for theatre dance in the province. His love and passion for contemporary dance is the reason he founded the FSDT. He says, “I have a vision that one day, contemporary dance will be the artistic language for the Free State. It will also become one of the ways the province creates and retains these talents to showcase to the rest of the world.”
Having travelled the world through dance, Kobeli hopes to challenge stereotypes that plague black communities with regards to dancing. The optimistic dancer says that one stereotype about male dancers is that people often assume they are “gay”. Unless you’re performing “pantsula” or traditional dances perceived to be masculine, male dancing is taboo in Black communities. According to Kobeli another misconception is that people do not understand dancing, especially theatrical dance forms. These dance forms are often labelled “for white people” as blacks are not well represented in dance theatre and people will always fear what they do not know.
Kobeli wants to open up the potential of dancing as a career opportunity to the youth and their parents. He aims to use his life story and travels to inspire children in communities who are either interested in dance or already dancing recreationally. More than anything, he wants to challenge the youth to do what they love, as he did, and to promote dance and theatre as one of the ways to do that and not simply pursue the traditional career routes given to scholars and students, even when they feel that “this may not be for me”.
Currently, the project, which will be held in the mornings and afternoons at the Mmabana Cultural Centre in Thaba Nchu, is open for all those interested in dance and exploring the tune to which their bodies may move to. The classes will run until 17 February 2017. On the last day, viewers can attend a showcase by those who attended on what they had learnt during the time. There are classes for children as well as young adults and people of all ages who are interested.
While he is not yet certain what his plans for the organisation are after the show, he says talks with Mmabana are underway to ensure that he has an office at the centre where he’ll continue running open classes from. He further adds that he was funded through a project by the Department of Arts and Culture and also, when Mmabana heard of his intentions, they were too happy to avail their facilities to him. The interest from the community and members of the public has been amazing. He further hopes this project will be ongoing and that one day when Free State Arts is mentioned, contemporary dance will also be one of the most celebrated art showcases the Free State has to offer to citizens and the world at large.
If you want to find out about this moving project, visit Free State Dance Theatre on Facebook or call Thabo Kobeli on 076-918-5875. – Pulane Choane