How often do we get to learn from creators directly from the African continent ? These types of opportunities are rare, so when they happen we must take advantage of them. Zoyi Lindiwe Muendane and Eugene Baloyi, choreographers for the WOMAN KING movie, graced NYC with their presence offering a stellar class breaking down popular South African steps, and giving the context and origins behind the steps.
Often, we forget the connections between popular urban Afro dances, and their traditional foundation/origin. We are seeing the trend of Afro technique being modified to have more European and American movement influences. This can often erase the authenticity and cultural connections of the dance. But as we dig deeper into urban Afro dances, connect with the creators and artists living and existing in the culture, we are learning and understanding more the roots of the dance. Knowing the connection of how tribal dances influence the technique of South African urban dance, one can now understand the groove and posture that is critical to the dance.
Zoyi and Eugene broke down the technique in simple terms, outlining the beat and how the body should respond to the beat in a South African way. They showed the difference between how one responds to the beat when listening to house music or hip hop music, then showed how the flow of the body changes when the beat is South African. They tied it all back to the traditional roots of the dance. For black people of the diaspora who may be removed from tribal identity and tribal cultural dances, this is a key detail that must be understood and respected. As lovers of Afro dance regardless of race, recognizing the role of dance in African cultures, will help us in respecting and understanding the various cultures and dances. Additionally, it will make us all better Afro dancers.
Check out below our interview with Zoyi and Eugene
AFROCONEX: Zoyi, Eugene, first off thank you for the amazing class. For those who may not be familiar with you, can you briefly introduce yourself.
EUGENE: I am Eugene Khomanani Remember Baloyi. I am a 31 year old black male from Atteridgeville, Pretoria, South Africa. I was born after the end of Apartheid. I am a choreographer, Dancer, Mentor & Entrepreneur. I am also the Co Founder of Kryptonite Dance Academy and Kryptonite Kreativz. I graduated with a marketing degree and received my dance training from Kreativz Mindz In LA and Urban Dance Camp in Germany.
Some of my career highlights include
• The Woman King Movie Choreographer
• 5 Times World Dance Champion & award-
• South Africa Got Talent Winner & Choreographer for Kryptonite Dance Academy
• Top 6 Sports Arts & Culture in business
recipient hosted by the Raising Legends Award
• Choreographer of the Year Nominee
• Co founder of Kryptonite Dance Academy which is an institution aimed at educating
youth In a language they understand through dance and music.
• Co founder of Kryptonite Kreativz which is a creative agency specialising in
producing dance movement content through choreography for Film, TV,
Commercials, music videos & live stage
ZOYI: I am Zoyi Lindiwe Muendane a South African-American choreographer/Creative Director. I see myself as a movement architect telling and sharing stories through dance. A lover of food and a traveler. A daughter of refugees, a teacher and a student.
AFROCONEX: You toured USA with your South African dance workshop, titled WOMAN KING TOUR. What are some of the things you hope people learned from the workshops ?
EUGENE: The idea of the workshop was to take people on a journey to understand our culture better and how that influences our music and movement. It is not just about doing popular steps but understanding the true meaning behind those movements.
In the workshops we also talked about our process for creating all the dance pieces in the Woman King movie. It was important for us to stay true to the Dahomey tribe/culture but also keep everything relevant to the time that we are in. This was the challenge given by our awesome director Gina Prince - Bythewood
ZOYI: The workshops were pure VAAAAARBZ 😁. We weren’t trying to just teach the step but give the meaning behind it and identify which African tribes have contributed to the movement. There are fundamental techniques within African movement and we wanted to bring this understanding to the people taking our classes.
AFROCONEX: South African dance is trending right now, how does that make you feel to see not only the acceptance of South African music on a global scale, but the love and admiration for South African dance!
EUGENE: This makes us feel finally seen and heard. People have no idea how long
and how many artists sacrificed to get not only South African music but
African music seen on a Global stage. I am super proud because everyone wins, from the actual artists, to DJs, to dancers and choreographers. Since the music is now popular it is now our collective responsibility as artists in our own right to promote and share, so it does die out again. I would say we are all doing a great job thus far.
ZOYI: It’s absolutely amazing. South Africa only got independence in 1994. Our identity as a country, what that looks like, still needs to be figure out, we are years behind. With the popularity of our dance and music you actually begin to feel like there is a space for you, like you aren't so far away from the world.
AFROCONEX: It was refreshing to hear such deep knowledge of the dance during your workshop. Why was important to draw the parallel between South African tribal dances and popular South African urban steps ?
EUGENE/ZOYI: All movement comes from somewhere so we didn't want dancers taking our classes to only walk away with choreography or steps. We wanted
them to also take home a part of our culture. This opens up the door to gaining a better understanding and moving much better. In the same way, it was important for us to understand Hip Hop culture, it is the same way we believe all African music and dances need to be understood
AFROCONEX: In a fast moving world trends come and go, what do you think needs to be done to maintain the evolution and popularity of South African dance ?
EUGENE/ZOYI: It is going to take a collective effort of more South African Choreographers traveling to share. It is also important that the choreographers living aboard, even if they are not South African, study the culture and music. They need to make sure they are also sharing the right music. It is super expensive for Africans to travel to the US for long periods, so we all need each other to share this sound. Support the local DJs and artists that come out but at the same time, it is also important for the artists to continue celebrating dance culture and not just take from it through dance promos for music promotion only.
AFROCONEX: Lastly, the music you played in the workshop was on point! Can you give us 3-5 South African songs we should have on a playlists ?
You will notice that most of the music is new. I like sharing music that people are not playing yet. We need DJs to also add more undiscovered songs to keep taking people on a journey.
Some clips from their New York Workshop: