South African dancer Londiwe Khoza – one of seven talented young artists from around the world to participate in the 2016-2017 Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative – was selected in the dance category by Israeli mentor Ohad Naharin, Artistic Director of the renowned Batsheva Dance Company of Tel Aviv.
An apprentice with Batsheva’s The Young Ensemble since May 2016, Londiwe Khoza has recently been offered a contract by Naharin to perform with The Ensemble, officially taking up her position in August 2017. This appointment marks a personal milestone for Khoza who, although her artistic training in South Africa was centred on ballet, has always demonstrated an interest to build on her creativity and versatility. As part of her year-long mentorship with Naharin, she has been broadening her horizons further by immersing herself in Gaga, the innovative movement language he developed. From the outset, Naharin recognised Khoza as a standout talent. ‘Dancers, good dancers, all share something that is beyond our school, which has to do with coordination, groove, explosiveness, the ability to connect with their imagination and their clear form. People like that like to reflect on ideas and the things that we discuss here. They are able to go beyond their familiar limits on a daily basis and give up old ideas for better new ones.’ For Khoza, it was the beginning of a period of self-discovery. ‘I walked into this year knowing that this was a “once-in-a-lifetime experience” and I am overwhelmed on a daily basis at how much truth that statement holds. The things I have learned about myself, both professionally and personally, are things that have opened up doors and channels to my journey as an artist.’
Lately, when I see her, I get moved. I feel happy to see what she is researching, what she is achieving, her choices
The Rolex Mentor and Protégé programme was an opportunity to harness, challenge and refine Khoza’s talent. Naharin explains how he as a mentor also grew from the experience. ‘It was very interesting for me to… open up [Londiwe’s] imagination and her physicality to many new other possibilities without cancelling what she [had done in the past]. Rather, I wanted to include what she did, but to really give her a much larger range. And because she is talented, curious and loves to dance, I knew that we would be able to do that in a short time, a year.’ Khoza took the challenges in her stride, learning about her body and her craft in the process. She explains that, in many ways, it felt like learning to walk again. As she studied under Naharin, everything she knew was turned upside down. She had to teach her body a new way of speaking while finding a way to merge all the principles it already knew. She adds, ‘I think one of the hardest things for me was to learn to listen to my body rather than just telling it what to do. Learning to listen to the weight of my body, the natural curves and path and rhythms of my body. It sounds really simple, but when it’s something that hasn’t been the norm, it’s something that can be challenging.’
The things I have learned about myself, both professionally and personally, are things that have opened up doors and channels to my journey as an artist
Once her body had adjusted to its new language, the result was beautiful. Commenting on the artistic development of his protégé over the past year, Naharin says, ‘Lately, when I see her, I get moved. I feel happy to see what she is researching, what she is achieving, her choices. When this happens, it is huge because not everybody moves me. And not everybody takes the [Gaga] toolbox and makes something happen with it.’ Khoza is definitely making something out of her year as a protégé in the Rolex programme and is flourishing in Israel. She is also pursuing personal goals and starring in every one of the company’s performances this season. These include four works: DecaDance, Kamuyot, Virus and Mamootot. ‘I feel like there are endless possibilities. However, in terms of the near future, I begin my contract with the Batsheva Young Ensemble in August 2017 and hopefully that will be the beginning of many wonderful things,’ she says. As an artist, Khoza is grateful for the opportunity that Rolex has provided her with to help her hone her craft and give her international exposure. The support from such initiatives ensures that creativity thrives within the arts and that talents such as Khoza are nurtured. She encourages other artists to pursue their passions: ‘Never lose your passion, your identity, your groove; because that’s what makes you unique. And it’s hard to hold on to all of that at times, but without your passion and your identity, you’re just doing steps.’