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Vincent Mantsoe comes home

2016-09-11 10:56
Vincent Mantsoe in KonKoriti. Picture: Val Adamson/JOMBA!

Cape Town - Dancer-choreographer Vincent Mantsoe never wanted to be famous.

But today, not even the reluctant celebrity himself can deny that he has “made it.”

This week, Mantsoe, who was born in Soweto and now lives in France, brought his new solo work, KonKoriti, to Johannesburg after it had premiered in France and Germany to sold-out venues.

Mantsoe has won a number of FNB dance awards for choreography and performance, and he also boasts a Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year Award.

He says fame was never his motivation. “I just knew I wanted to work in order to improve my life. There were no opportunities for us because of the political situation, and many people didn’t take my dancing seriously because it wasn’t what we as young black men pursued as a career. But today, at least I can say I’ve made it.”

Mantsoe’s love for dancing started “in my mother’s womb. [My mother] is a sangoma, so dancing and being rhythmic was something that I was born with.”

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Mantsoe and his friends formed a dance group, and would perform at weddings and other functions in and around Soweto. After seeing an advert in the Sowetan for auditions at a dance competition with a dance scholarship as the grand prize, Mantsoe seized the opportunity.

“I auditioned and got accepted into a one-year scholarship at what was then the Braamfontein Recreational Facility. My mentor was Sylvia Glasser, who taught me so much about not just dancing, but about teaching other people to dance and the psychology behind it.”

But because of the “huge adjustment”, Mantsoe wanted to drop out in his third year.

“Sylvia convinced me to stay, and for six months she let me stay at her home, where I was able to hone in on my talents and focus, away from the distractions at home.”

Mantsoe went on to travel the world, starting in Spain. International exposure made him aware of his talent and he decided to form his own dance company.

He says he has enjoyed his time in South Africa – particularly seeing his family – but he also looks forward to returning to his wife and children in France.

Mantsoe is working on plans to collaborate with an orchestra near his hometown of Vichy.

“Vichy is a small, farm-like village, where you hear cows and chickens all day long. It’s famous for two things, the cosmetic brand and the pure water it has,” he says with a laugh. “I love it there because I need to be in a space that is quiet so that I can focus on my projects,” he explains.