Championship dancers Aphelele Bhodlisi and Lindokuhle Sibindlana have resolved to fly the University of Fort Hare flag high when they compete in two competitions later this year.
The pair, who have been partners since 2020, have been selected to represent the Eastern Cape team at the provincial championships in July and the South African champs in October.
They took first place in the adult championship category at last month’s Buffalo City competition and Bhodlisi said they were thrilled with the recognition.
“What it means to us is that there are people outside of our Fort Hare circle who have acknowledged the work that we do in dancesport,” said the 27-year-old, who is studying towards a post-graduate diploma in archives and record management.
He said the committee selected the best dancers based on results and although the Fort Hare community knew what effort they put in, their inclusion was acknowledgement from a wider circle.
“It is such an honour. We have committed ourselves to use this opportunity to work hard with our coach to make Fort Hare and dancesport in the Eastern Cape proud.”
Ironically, six years ago Bhodlisi did not even know dancesport existed. He discovered it during a random walk past a hall on the Alice campus.
“I was attracted by the soft music in an area in the sports complex and decided to go in and find out what it was about,” he recalled.
“I spoke to someone who gave me information about the sport and how to join and I started attending practice the next day.”
That led to what he called “an incredible journey” during which he learnt something new every day.
One of the major role-players in his development has been Fort Hare head coach Thandisizwe Matyumza.
“Not only has he taught us so much, he also invites people to share their dance experiences and steps, so this is a journey which is full of lessons.
“I started as a beginner and have developed to reach the championship category, specialising in ballroom dancing.”
He explained that there were two dance styles – Latin American and ballroom.
“The difference is that in Latin American you are not always in contact with your partner whereas in ballroom dancing you are constantly connected.”
This, he added, called for a strong bond between the two dancers and he felt he had achieved this with Sibindlana, a 25-year-old honours student in industrial psychology.
“We first met in 2019 when she joined as a beginner and, as my previous partner had completed her degree, I started a partnership with Lindokuhle.”
They started competing in the Rising Stars category before graduating to championship level.
It had been an interesting journey, with a massive emphasis on developing a proper appreciation for each other, according to Bhodlisi.
“In dancing, you often come from different backgrounds and one of the main things for us is to ensure that there is mutual respect. We respect the paths each of us has travelled and we respect each other’s opinions.”
Bhodlisi said one should remember that ballroom dancing was not an individual exercise as you literally had someone in front of you matching every single step you executed.
“You need to be mindful of them and make sure you work in unison all the time.”
The two have become close friends and did different types of exercises together to stay in shape. They practice as often as they can under the guidance of their coach, who has been the glue in their journey.