Fana Tshabalala

Fana Tshabalala is a storyteller who uses the expressive medium of dance to relay his message. Through dance 26-year-old Tshabalala is grappling with the social issues that threaten to unravel the seams of his childhood community of Sebokeng and his current home of Soweto. He explains that through his work “people can experience glimpses into new ways of being, allowing them to connect with the change we hope to see”. His sincere commitment to empowering South Africa’s most marginalised and the authenticity it gives his work were acknowledged this year when he won the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Dance. Tshabalala, who is currently Assistant Artistic Director of the University of Johannesburg-based Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative, was crafted by Moving into Dance Mophatong. In 2009 he embraced the opportunity to work with European choreographer Michel Keleminis, a decision that resulted in the development of productive relationships with a number of dance schools and artists in France. In 2012 he used a residency programme in France to refine his duet, Gates of Hell. The piece was very well received at both the 2013 Dance Umbrella and the National Arts Festival. Tshabalala contends that travel is central to the life and success of African dancers. On the artistic side it engenders a more nuanced and reflective approach to choreography and on the more pragmatic side it creates international networks of support that offset South Africa’s sometimes insecure funding environment. Confident that he has something special to offer the dance community, Tshabalala, with two colleagues, Themba Mbuli and Thulani Chauke, has embarked on a non-profit venture, the Broken Borders Arts Project. Recognising the gender chasm that persists in South Africa, Broken Borders aims to train and carve out a creative space for women dancers and choreographers. — Taryn Mackay