What a time to be alive! Today, we draw our inspiration from Mpotseng Nhlapo, a young woman from Pimville, Soweto. She is the founder and creative director of Verve Studio House which I established on 16 June 2015.
My name is Mpotseng Nhlapo, I am the youngest of three siblings raised by a single mother and our late grandmother. I was born on June 1st 1991, I come from Pimville Zone 6 in Soweto. I attended both primary and secondary school in Pimville (Khandubuhle Primary School & Emshukantambo Secondary School). After that, I pursued my career in the performing arts.
What were the challenges and great things about growing up?
There weren’t many challenges. My mother worked very hard to make sure that we had all that we needed for school and for the household. Strict discipline was instilled throughout my life. Perhaps a few challenges that I can mention was that of peer pressure which is normal for any teenager growing up, getting through school successfully and receiving proper realistic guidance about life from our mom and teachers in school. But other than that, my childhood was pretty much alright.
Your career? What is it that you do? What inspired you to do what you do?
I am proud to say that I am a professional dancer with 9 years of experience. I have had the pleasure of being trained and also work with South Africa’s leading choreographers in the theatre industry such as Gregory Maqoma, Sonia Radebe, Douglas Sekete, Gustin Makgeledisa, Alfred “Zulu” Phakathi, Sizakele Mdi, Georges Mamboye (Ivory Coast), Constanza Macras (Germany) and others in the commercial industry such as David Matamela, Nadia and Kerri Katz, Versha Magan and Chetna Shivdasani.
I am the founder and creative director of Verve Studio House which I established on June 16th,2015. In the company, I also serve as a dance instructor and choreographer. Since the company’s existence, we have staged 2 productions (Just a Dream & It Takes Time) both were held at the Space.com theatre at Joburg Theatre as well as our Rhythm Dance classes at the Cas Coovadia Studio at Joburg Theatre.
But just to take you back to how it all began, during my high school years, there was a dance group that would practice during break times religiously (girls only). They were not particularly ‘sbujwa’ dancers which is the popular dance culture in the townships. I came to learn that their style was called modern dance. Of course, at the time I was an onlooker too shy to ask to be included in the group because they were on fire led by my good friend Othandiwe Lerato Sekhibane (Founder and director of Nna Le Bokamoso Sciearts). So, one day in an effort to stay fit my school friend and I decided to commit to jogging after school and on that very first day, I saw the same group of girls with others from different surrounding schools practising inside the Batsogile Primary School hall. We went in, I spoke with the leader of the group at that time Tebogo Mokwena and shared my interest in joining them and after a short conversation with him, I was welcomed to the group. The jogging never happened again.
We were taught by Yuhl and Melusi and I got to learn about Vuyani Dance Theatre which belonged to Gregory Maqoma. I was forced to stop attending practice because it was quite a distance to home, but I remained committed at the school break-time practice. After matriculating in 2008, I went for the trainee auditions at Vuyani Dance Theatre and so my career began.
What do you like most about yourself and the work that you do?
About myself? I love to learn something new the fact that I’m teachable. I have been taught several different genres including Kathak a traditional Indian dance, Latin, and Zahouli a traditional dance from Ivory Coast. I even worked as a sales assistant at one time when life got tough and I came out with a flattering letter of recommendation.
About the work that I do? The growth for sure. Even when the project is difficult the growth is definite if I apply myself 110%.
What are some of the challenges which you’ve faced and how did you overcome them?
Sustaining my life financially. The work that I would get would pay only a certain amount of money which meant I had to make sure I always have work. That’s one of the reasons why I decided that I need to establish my own company. I also noticed that some dancers thrive because they have a certain personality that attracts people into their space easily, either as friends or industry acquaintances. I won’t lie, at some point it made me question my confidence, but I later realised that either way, I still get jobs, good paying ones even with my reserved and seemingly introverted attitude.
What are some of your life highlights for you so far? What are you most proud of?
Wow, perhaps I should be saying being part of the AFRIKA AFRIKA! 2018 tour around Europe and getting to work with fellow artists exclusively from the African continent, learning their traditional dances, languages and enjoying their cuisine. Yes, it was absolutely amazing, and I’m super blessed to have that experience make it in my resume. However, staging my own productions hits home in a profound way. So, the work at Verve Studio House is at the top of my list. Lastly, teaching a dance class gives me such a great fulfilment. I have taught many different dance fanatics. Professionals, amateurs, young and old. It is an honour and a true joy to share a bit of what I know.
What, in your opinion, are the most important factors to keep in mind to make it in your career or life in general?
You have to be serious! You got to mean business and stay clear-minded about everything you must do to succeed. Practice makes perfect, always. If you don’t invest time into your craft, it’ll show.
Where would you like to see yourself in the next three years?
Still keeping the same principles that carry me today, still focusing, still working hard and pushing myself to go further in life and in my endeavours to succeed.
If there was anything you could do differently, what would it be?
Do my homework and plan way ahead. That is what I’m currently tweaking into my work ethics.
Are there any specific people or organisations that you look up to and draw inspiration from and why?
Many! I recently met a powerful woman called Sylvia Milosevic. She has that clear-mindedness that I just admire and find so inspiring. And despite her success, she has a really good heart.
Are there any inspiring projects which you’re involved in?
Yes! We are currently promoting our Rhythm Dance classes taking place every Sunday in October from the 7th to the 28th and this time we are bringing them to them to Soweto at the Nomsa Manaka Dance Studio at the Walter Sisulu Square in Kliptown.
Lastly, what advice would you give to others out there looking to follow in your footsteps?
Be unapologetic about what sets you apart from the rest. Sure, we are all unique, build on your uniqueness. Be it your talent, how you wear your hair, how you dress or your interests. Embrace it and make it desirable.
How can the public contact you?
Facebook: Braven Dance Maniac