A journey through South Africa’s past

Dancer Julio Jantjies

David Kramer’s Langarm is more than dancing on stage for Julio Jantjies; it’s a journey through South Africa’s troubled past.

The 23-year-old from Mowbray only really found his passion for dancing when he was in Grade 11 at Upington High School, but he has been part of some high-profile performances.

“There is not a lot of boys who do dancing in Upington, especially the contemporary dance kind. I did it in my Grade 11 year and got convinced to do an audition for UCT’s School of Dance.”

It’s an opportunity he pursued over the alternative of studying law.

“After the first year, I just fell in love with it, and I just kept going.”

In Langarm, which is set in 1960s South Africa, Jantjies plays Lulu, one of District Six’s best dancers, who like others in the community endures forced removal.

This is the first time Jantjies has a supporting acting role with dialogue. In last year’s West Side Story, he played the non-speaking role of Nibbles. He also played one of the peasants in Cape Town City Ballet’s Giselle at the Artscape last year.

Langarm explores Cape Town ballroom dance culture and mixed-race romance under apartheid. Lead character Jeff Levin (Cameron Botha) agrees to be the dance partner of Angelina (Rushney Ferguson).Jantjies had a chance to work closely with Kramer, who collaborated with the late Taliep Petersen on District Six: The Musical, Kat and the Kings and Ghoema.

“At first, I didn’t know how to approach him; the lovely thing about David is that he allows you to bring yourself to the plate. From there, he would tell us to either give more or less of ourselves.”

Kramer says he chose Jantjies for his dancing skill and because he looked the part and has acting ability.

“It gives me pleasure to be able to create an opportunity for young musical talent like his. The story happened long before he was born, so I believe he has learnt a lot about; what it was like to be discriminated against during the apartheid years. He had to research the period and imagine himself into the role of Lulu,” says Kramer.

Jantjies, a born-free, has heard about apartheid from his parents, his grandparents and his school. This musical, he says, has helped him feel it.

“Being a part of this play, I got to immerse myself into this on what it would feel like. It wasn’t the best feeling; it was an eye-opener of how intense it was.”

Langarm is playing at The Fugard Theatre where shows have been extended to March 3.

Shows are from Tuesday to Friday at 8pm, 3pm and 8pm on Saturdays and at 3pm on a Sunday. Tickets ranging from R150 to R260 can be booked through The Fugard Theatre box office on 021 461 4554 or through The Fugard Theatre’s website at
www.thefugard.com.

There is a 20% discount available for the Friends of The Fugard members.