lulu mlangeni

The documentary film ‘Lesedi: The Rise of Lulu Mlangeni’ which chronicles Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance 2020 Lulu Mlangeni’s road to fame is showing on Saturday 4 July at the Virtual National Arts Festivale. Image: Supplied

Mover and shaker: Q&A with SBYA award winner for dance Lulu Mlangeni

The Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance warns that ‘dancing is not for the fainthearted’. Don’t miss this fearless dancer’s documentary showing at the Virtual National Arts Festival today.

lulu mlangeni

The documentary film ‘Lesedi: The Rise of Lulu Mlangeni’ which chronicles Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance 2020 Lulu Mlangeni’s road to fame is showing on Saturday 4 July at the Virtual National Arts Festivale. Image: Supplied

The award-winning Mlangeni’s practice incorporates a strong element of texture to the art of movement and has seen her perform on stages across the world. Her recent dance piece Confined is inspired by the life political stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

The South African chatted to the talented dancer, teacher and choreographer ahead of the showing of Lesedi: The Rise of Lulu Mlangeni, which provides a window to Mlangeni’s journey into dance, on Saturday 4 July on. 

The 30-minute documentary film chronicles her humble beginning as a world-renowned dancer and choreographer at Dorah’s Dancers afterschool classes in Soweto, to working with the prominent Vuyani Dance Company.

Where are you from and how did you get started?

I’m from Zone 6 Meadowlands in Soweto. I started dancing because of the reality TV show Shell Road to Fame. I saw Dorah’s Dancers competing, only to realise they are from Zone 10 Meadowlands which was not far from my house — just a zone difference and a few blocks away.

I was drawn to this group and was excited about the possibility of joining them. When I told my uncle, he took the initiative to go and look for them and secure an audition for me the very next day. 

What does your job as a teacher, performer and choreographer entail?

One needs to have passion and commit yourself in this craft. Patience and focus is key, determination, discipline, great sense of planning, staying active and exercising to keep fit and healthy, to have knowledge about the arts, to be a good communicator, a motivator, to have leadership and business skills.

What does a typical work week like look like for you now with COVID-19 taking its course?

It is still very chilled yet effective for me: I wake up every morning go for a 5km jog, come back to do few stretches (sometimes even joining an online yoga classes).

This followed by a lot of audition tapes that I need to record, Zoom meetings and applying for funds for different projects and taking walks in between!

Lulu Mlangeni. Image: Supplied

What is most challenging about what you do?

What is challenging about what I do is the fact that I’m in a male-dominated industry and constantly have to fight for my voice to be heard, recognised and acknowledged.

And most rewarding?

What is most rewarding is being able to heal people (society) in the way I tackle social issues through body movements and seeing its ripple effect crossing over to the youngsters.

What is a common misconception people have about what you do?

The fact that dance is still not recognised as a profession or career, but just a hobby in my community is worrying.

What inspired you to compete in So You Think You Can Dance?

I’m a very competitive person and love challenging myself. I viewed So You Think You Can Dance Season 2 as another stepping stone to learning and being exposed to other dance genres.

Would you say the impact you have made as a female artist in the industry has helped to effect change in your community?

It is still baby steps and I believe I have a bigger crowd of people that I still need to reach out too. I hope that with my vision of opening an art academy, I will be able to assist in educating our society more.

This pertains to the young stars who aspire to be where I’m today and also preserving the importance of the arts in our country.

What advice would you offer someone considering a career in the dance industry? 

It is not for the fainthearted. 

What can we expect from Lesedi: The Rise of Lulu Mlangeni?

The visual documentary was conceived in June specifically for vNAF. It explores the life of Ms Mlangeni developing her interest in dance while growing up in Meadowlands and the rise to prominence in the dance industry in South Africa

We’ve used different elements, such as staccato, chaos, fluidity, stillness and music, to tell the story.

Image: Supplied

It is essentially a mixture of a trail of work I have created over the years of being a choreographer, which advocates for women and takes us on a journey of timeless spiritual truths — fighting the cultural, gender, patriarchal, and race-related experiences that we deal with on a daily basis.

Are the costumes for this piece elaborate or simple?

Everything about me is about making a statement so these costumes were created to translate the work to its full capacity detailing every movement.

Does the musical accompaniment reflect a particular culture or style?

My music is not culturally or historically driven but it is about connecting to souls and energies I collaborate with.  

What is the message and relevance of your dance documentary? 

Looking at the state of the world, we as women are actually living in solitary confinement  where we are constantly fighting dictatorship, inequality, oppression, gender-based violence and for our voices to be heard… and that’s exactly what I’m communicating in this film.

  • To watch Lesedi: The Rise of Lulu Mlngeni today, visit