If you were born in the 90s, chances are high that you’ve seen The Lion King at least once… or maybe many more times… and probably also sang along to the catchy tunes.
The movie impacted the lives of children all over the world and now Rondebosch dancer, Romy Jo Swales, will help recreate its magic in the international production of the musical, The Lion King.
The dancer who has been moving her feet since the age of three, went through three gruelling auditions, before landing the role and will be heading off to Manila before touring with the cast in Singapore, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Earlier this week, the 23-year-old dancer sat down with the Tatler to chat about her journey as a dancer, the audition experience which left her in tears, and her initial plans to go into chartered accounting.
“When I left school, I wanted to study to be a chartered accountant and I got into business science at UCT,” she said.
“I went to Ernst & Young and job shadowed there for a day. It started at 8am and ended at 4pm and by 12pm I wanted to cry.
“They were doing the books of an air conditioning firm in Durban and I realised that I had too much energy in me to be sitting behind a desk.
“After I matriculated, I went to the Waterfront Theatre College and joined Untimitive by Rudi Smit,” said Ms Swales.
She then studied for six months at the Broadway Dance Centre in New York before returning to Cape Town to perform as one of the ensemble dancers in the movie Bring it On Worldwide #Cheersmack. It was after that that she auditioned for The Lion King before moving to Joburg where she thought there’d be better job prospects.
“Before I left, I auditioned for The Lion King. It was a six-hour audition and I was exhausted. They cut us down from about 62 to six people and I stayed behind last because they wanted to see me do something different.
“In May last year I got a call-back and the (second) audition was in Joburg. It was daunting, with unfamiliar faces and it didn’t go well. I cried all the way home. I put it in the back of my head and did other things in the meantime. I was on Idols as a dancer and I was on SA’s Got Talent as a dancer,” she said.
After she had already put the possibility of dancing with animals out of her mind, Ms Swales received another call-back in August and decided that it was her last shot at wowing The Lion King panel and landing a part in the musical.
Her determination and dedication gained her a spot among a few South African dancers performing with an international cast. She will now take on various roles among the animals who bring the musical to life.
“I (believe) the Lord’s guidance and strength, is what got me through it. I know that all things are possible through him. I’m so thankful for his continued blessings in my life.
“The contract is three years. I’m also registered for a Bcom through Unisa because I did enjoy accounting in high school,” she said.
And because many in the entertainment industry are not prepared for “a nine to five”, she added, “I want to be involved in financial education of the arts.
“We all have a lot of energy and get very excited when we get paid, and at the end of the month we’re left with not much.
“I want to assist those in entertainment to manage their finances,” said Ms Swales.
The musical will be staged in South Africa in 2020.