Mamela Nyamza

© Esa Alexander


Mamela Nyamza is a South African dancer, performer, choreographer and curator. She started dancing at the age of eight at Zama Dance School in Gugulethu, a Cape Town township, followed by training in Pretoria and a study scholarship for the Alvin Ailey Dance School in New York. Despite a lack of black role models in her chosen field, ballet offered her a true vocation and a chance of surviving and prospering. Initial disapproval of her athletic body type – alien to the standards of classical ballet – duly led her to an in-depth analysis of body politics. Following successful turns in international musical productions and work to extend her own techniques to include Pantsula, hip hop and contemporary dance, Mamela Nyamza’s own projects began to focus on the deconstruction of expectations and normative conceptions in the genre of dance. Her pieces address cultural traditions and social ills, and her projects with young people tackle such issues as HIV/AIDS, domestic violence and drug abuse. The enabling of equality is a central concern of her work as a curator.

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