My girls

“And one- two-three, one- two- three-come on people, where is that forcefulness that your mothers gave birth to you with?!”

I hear some giggles from the girls at the back. Feisty and Polo. They are the more experienced dancers on my team. They don’t take me seriously. I will not have that.

“ Is there anything funny ladies?” I shout and the whole studio falls silent. This is the fun part.
“In here we are all about movement and I don’t see those big lips of yours moving!” I hear the other dancers let out gasps. There is
tension in the room now. They all have my attention. This is when they hear me best.

“I said is there anything funny?”

Feisty and Polo look at me defiantly, trying hard not to protest. They know me well enough to decide not to.

“I didn’t think so!” I say loudly and turn to the whole group of
dancers who are looking at me like I am a monster. That is the least of my worries. “Now, in case you are not aware, we have 500 000 Maluti waiting for us. Do you hear me? For us! Because we are
winning this competition! Now laughing is not going to get that money nor is being cheeky. Lea nkutloa?!”

I see a few reluctant nods.

“I said do you hear me?”

“We hear you!” they shout in unison. I can hear it in their voices. They want it too. They want to win. That is what I like to hear.

I nod and allow the silence that follows to insist. Their eyes dart about nervously as I eye each and every one of them. These are my girls. I may not know everything about them out there. But, in here, within these walls that have witnessed us dance, I know them so well. Even better than they know themselves.

Polo dances to prove something. I have never known what that something is but I have seen that it pushes her to do the
unimaginable with her body. Feisty is unafraid. She has sharp and articulate movements almost as feisty as she is. Tsebo keeps her eyes to her feet. But she is not shy or ashamed of anything. She never looks me in the eyes when I speak but I know she listens. Her
movements are informed and well calculated like a plan to build a city. Batsamaile is a like a huge house with many unexplored rooms. I never know what she will give us because everytime she dances, you see her in a different light. Look at this one – Lebo. She is a bundle of energies; a storm when she needs to be and a breeze when she wants to be.
‘Makatleho gives me a look that none of the others do. When I show them a new choreography, she traces my every movement with her eyes, as if making a mental picture of my every muscle in action. She is a creator. Lexy is a quiet one but she dances so loud. I always have her movements resound in my mind long after she is done dancing. I swear this girl pours out herself through her body. It is something to witness. Then there is Grace. And she could not be anything but graceful. She reminds me of my mother’s tenderness when she held me and her gracefulness when she moved about
the house as if we were not there. Grace is a nurturer.

These are my eight girls. They are the forces that keep moving. They just don’t know it. Within the walls of this studio, nothing can stop them. Nothing can harm them.

Then, of course, there is me. I am just a woman who has had her voice stifled for too long. I am a voice that finally broke through and took the shape of a body. I am a dancer. That’s all these girls need to know about me. It’s a bad world out there for these girls. I will teach them to dance like their lives depend on it.

My son barges into the studio, eyes out of his sockets and his face drenched in tears.

“MAMA!” he shouts, “our house – our house – is burning!”

My girls all gasp and turn to look at me. Before I can stop it, I am on the floor.


No strength in my bones.

All I have been doing is teaching them to dance. These walls have always witnessed me and my girls dance like nothing can harm us. In here, we are invincible. But out there. . .

I need to teach them the kind of courage that I am still looking for myself.

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