“You have to have Rhythm. Tap is all about rhythm.” After watching Gianina (a first year film student at Wits) perform an exquisite tap routine, I can see what she means about the importance of rhythm in tap dancing. Her dance career is an integral part of who she is and a testament to the hard work she has put into it. She’s so good in fact that, she had the amazing opportunity of taking part in the world championships.
“I started Modern and tap when I was 5 and I stared ballet when I was 6. My mom was a dance teacher, actually, as her first profession so she just put me in dancing. And I remember how I started off—my teacher was in a little bowling club in the area that I live in… So it was little smoky, tiny little hole that had a bar- singular- on the wall and I just remember that very clearly.”
Gianina’s account of her first dance experience is one that shows that although there is something inherent about being able to dance, everyone has to start somewhere. She goes on to speak about how during that first lesson she knew absolutely nothing, which is hard to believe when you see her now.
For interest’s sake, I asked Gianina and a Friend of hers- and dancing partner- Carla, to debunk some of the stereotypes that people often have about dancers. For one, dancers aren’t always as bitchy as they are believed to be. Gianina and Carla recall having met some of the most beautiful people in their dance studio and how they are all so supportive and close knit. Gianina points out that some of the more “bitchy” dancers have helped her not only to grow, but also to build a thick skin and an everlasting resilience.
Carla adds another stereotype: “People assume that you’re not supposed to eat or anything.” So we now know that dancers do actually eat and Gianina points out that food is one of her passions, and so, something she could never go without. I find it interesting to point out these stereotypes because it’s important to realise that while dancers share a similar passion, they are still individuals, with their own unique experiences.
I managed to learn a lot from the girls but I really love how they both think about dance as a thing that’s not all consuming. “[Dance] is not my whole life,” Gianina says, “It’s just an element of who I am. I am not ‘a dancer’, dancing is something that I do.” I appreciate this humble approach because there is so much truth in it: that as an artist, your art is just an element of who you are, not something that is all defining.
Before they left I asked the girls to share some final thoughts with me, some inspiration and “words of wisdom”- for lack of a better phrase. They chuckle slightly at my clichéd end of interview question. They pause before saying how dance boils down to just going out and doing it. Gianina marks the importance of how although dance is a highly technical thing, it’s not all about the technique, it is also about just letting yourself go and being able to perform rather than just doing a series of steps. “Dancing is like anything” she states, “If you actually put your head down and if you’re determined– if you work really hard at it, you can be phenomenal.”
Written by Nomsa Fakude
Photography by Sameera Soorjee Photography