By any measure, dancer Paul Modjadji is an international superstar whose list of achievements and awards is breathtaking.
“I use my work and my craft to spread the message among young people that anything is possible if you dream big,” he says.
In 2002, straight out of school, Modjadji won a scholarship to study dance in Denmark, and made his name on the world stage when he was given a Global Young Leader’s award by the US-based Global Young Leaders Council. After a year, he returned home to study at the Tshwane University of Technology’s dance department and landed a role in the TV soapie Backstage.
Modjadji later gained a qualification in journalism and media studies and began a career juggling his love for dance with his passion for writing and the entertainment business.
Modjadji won the European Star Dance Union World Championships in the solo jazz category in 2011 and last year was crowned the world’s best dancer in the 40th Annual Talent America Showcase competition. He also won the National Heritage Council youth advocacy award at the Golden Shield Awards in 2013.
His passion for dance has taken him all around the world – a long way from his roots in his hometown of Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria. But his focus remains on Africa and on empowering young people.
He founded The Dare to Dream Movement with this in mind. The project aims to empower youngsters to follow their own dreams by offering programmes such as free art education to youth in townships, and theatre and leadership initiatives, among others. He is also now working on a documentary about his life that he hopes will inspire other young South Africans by showing what’s possible with drive and commitment.
“Unemployment is a huge concern in this country, even for those with a good education. What I’d like to see is young people pulling together and creating their own businesses – not sitting back and waiting for opportunities to be handed out to them,” he says. — Greg Gordon