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Zama Stars

Andile (Edward) Sotiya
Andile started his ballet career at age 11 after being fascinated by a feature on classical dance on TV. He convinced his parents to let him join the classes at the Gugulethu church where Arlene Westergaard was teaching.

"Despite being mocked by the other boys who called me 'sissy', I loved to dance. I thought it would just be a hobby. I had no idea it would become a full time career," he says.

Andile came from a creative and supportive family background and attributes part of his success to Arlene — "she kept me focused".

His last performance for Zama was in 1993 after which he took up a bursary with Vicki Karras, head of the Pretoria Technikon dance department. In 1995, he beat stiff competition to win the Sanlam International Ballet Competition at the Pretoria State Theatre as well as a Vita Award for the Most Promising Male Dancer in the Contemporary Category at the Dance Umbrella in Johannesburg.

Andile Sotiya

Sotiya was the first recipient of a scholarship to the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in 1994. He remained in London and created his own company, Dancenomad, on becoming Associate Artist at The Place in 2002. He currently lectures at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds.

As a dancer, Sotiya has worked with companies like Phoenix Dance Theatre and Ludus Dance Company (Britain's leading dance in education company) and has toured extensively with pop star Kylie Minogue. He has choreographed work for a range of professional and youth companies and completed a residency in Belfast, Ireland, working with young artists from rival communities.

The Stadium is his most ambitious choreographic work. The avant-garde production reflects the cultural complexity of stadia as urban, creative spaces so as to re-evaluate the dominance of high art in a world that's increasingly characterised by the triumph of the popular.

He has taught extensively in the UK and in South Africa, listing highlights like taking company class for The Lion King in London and training Billy Elliot hopefuls for Billy Elliot The Musical.

In 2004, Sotiya set up Roda to represent a group of creative artists, which he co-directs to facilitate a very successful Leeds-based research and development residency with Tiia Ourila and Douglas Thorpe.

"One of the highlights of my dancing career was arranging for Phoenix Dance Theatre to be involved in the Millennium Square Celebrations in Leeds where we performed for Nelson Mandela and his wife Graça." The dancers were later invited to lunch with the former president and his wife.

His dream is to run his own dance company in Cape Town. "I want to give something back to my community. I know it will be challenging because unlike the UK, where there is huge support for the industry, in South Africa we still have to struggle to keep ballet alive."

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Mamela Nyamza
Contemporary dance teacher and choreographer
Mamela is an award-winning dancer from Gugulethu near Cape Town. At the age of eight, her grandmother enrolled her at Zama Dance School to keep her "off the streets and out of trouble".

In 1997, she completed a national diploma in dance at the then Pretoria Technikon. The following year, she received a one-year international scholarship to attend the Alvin Ailey Dance School in New York.

In 1997, at the age of 20, Mamela was the first South African woman to receive a scholarship for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in New York. "Without the training in strength and technique I learned from Arlene, I don't think I would have been chosen for Alvin Ailey," she says.

Mamela then joined the dance company at the Pretoria State Theatre.

Mamela Nyamza
Photo by Peter Bauermeister.

Career highlights also include dancing the lead role in Richard Loring's African Footprint; performing with The Lion King in The Netherlands; receiving a scholarship to attend the Vienna International Dance Festival; winning the FNB Vita Award for The Dying Swan at Dance Indaba, and being selected as the South African representative for the Superstars of Dance television show in the US. She made it to the semi-final round.

On her return to Cape Town, Mamela taught at Zama Dance School for six months, where she also choreographed two pieces for the school, and has taught and choreographed for various dance companies in the area.

She coordinates a project under MOVE 1524 for the University of Stellenbosch, which addresses social issues such as HIV/Aids, domestic violence and drugs.

Mamela has toured a self-choreographed solo piece, Hatch, to the Netherlands, Mexico and around South Africa. Choreographic commissions include Kutheni for the FNB Dance Umbrella and Mendi for the Baxter Dance Festival.

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Mantu (Michael) Jakavula
Mantu trained at Zama Dance School from the age of eight. He won a scholarship to study for a national dance diploma at Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria. Mantu was then sent by the Ackerman Family Foundation to participate in a six week summer intensive workshop at the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre in New York.

He returned in 2007 to perform in The Lion King SA, which toured to Taipei. He subsequently worked with choreographer Adele Blank, before joining Bovim Ballet for its inaugural season of Tango Nights at Artscape Theatre in 2009. Thereafter, he joined Dance for All's Inspirations Dance Company. He now works as a freelance artist.

Mantu Javakula
Photo by Richard Olivier

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Nontle Monde

Nontle Monde
Nontle arrived at Zama Dance School a very talented seven year old with a strong physical structure as can be seen in this photo of her “rising up onto demi pointe and never stopping until she stood barefoot on full pointe”. She came from a very troubled and impoverished background and extra sandwiches were always available for her to eat during the breaks at rehearsals.

Nontle had no direction when she came to Zama but it wasn’t long before she became a member of the performing team and Zama became her “home away from home” as it still does for many of its students. From then onwards she blossomed from a lost little soul into the successful, confident, professional musical theatre performer that she is today.

"When our new school first opened, I looked up one day in the middle of a rehearsal and there was Nontle sitting on our benches quietly observing the rehearsals that she used to take part in as a child. We immediately ran towards one another, throwing our arms around each other in a forever hug," says artistic director Arlene Westergaard. "She told me that when she heard about our new school, she couldn’t wait to come and visit us; she had just arrived in Cape Town after a tour to Hong Kong."

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Patrick Mngeni
Patrick started dancing when he was seven years old at Zama Dance School in Gugulethu near Cape Town.

After completing matric in 2003, he enrolled for a dance diploma at the Pretoria Technikon where he studied classical ballet, jazz, African and contemporary dance. During that time, he performed in several productions including Kgwadi Ja Marumo, Cumbelele and Futhi and Tjommies choreographed by Debbie Gush.

Patrick Mngeni
Sanmarie Kreuzhuber, Guy Wheatstone and Patrick Mngeni.
Photograph: Jean-Claire Bischoff

In 2004, Patrick performed in the Miss South Africa and Miss Teen pageants and the following year at the Kora Music Awards. In 2006, he performed at the Miss Limpopo and Miss Teen pageants and travelled to Hong Kong where he participated in the Hong Kong Dance Festival.

After graduating, Patrick successfully auditioned for The Lion King as a swing with the local cast at Montecasino. He then joined the Taiwan cast and eventually returned to South Africa in 2008. That year, he was a finalist in the Dance Africa competition and joined The South African Ballet Theatre (SABT), the country's largest professional ballet company, as a full-time member of the corps de ballet. He appeared in seasons of La Traviata, Rock-a-Tutu, Arts Alive and The Sleeping Beauty.

As a member of SABT's senior corps de ballet, Patrick performed in the company's FNB Dance Umbrella entry Motho mang ke mang in 2009. He also performed in Coppélia, as Buttons in Cinderella - The Ballet, made his debut as Wilfred in FNB's Giselle and performed in Janice Honeyman's Pinocchio during the festive season.

He now works as a freelance artist.

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Songezo Mchilizeli
Songezo was drawn to dance "by the strange music" he kept hearing from a church in Gugulethu. On further investigation, he discovered Zama Dance School's ballet classes. He was 13 years old. He trained five days a week from noon until 7pm and says artistic director Arlene Westergaard taught him that "hard work and quality" lead to success.

When he was 18, he won a bursary to study towards a national dance diploma at Tshwane University of Technology. He was a founding member of Tshwane Dance Theatre and worked with prominent local and international choreographers. He then joined Disney Production Company, taking part in The Lion King in South Africa and the tour to Taiwan.

In 2009, he was a member of Dance for All's Inspirations Dance Company. In addition, he performed in Dada Masilo's Romeo and Juliet at the Baxter Theatre.

Songezo Mchilizeli

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