Contemporary dance

Katlehong’s King, Lucky, a dancer who gave as good as he got


KING of dance, Lucky Kele was not afraid to dress up and make magic.

HE WAS MORE than just a dancer, choreographer and artistic director. Lucky Kele was an interpreter of dance dreams, a man with a real passion for making things happen in the dance fraternity, and for pushing dance boundaries. Known by so many as ‘King’, Kele tragically  passed away in a motor accident on October 27 2018. He was 37.

Always imbued with a very developed passion for the arts, since he was a small child, Kele was born on May 5 1981. He was of the generation tainted by the indignities of apartheid, but he invested his energy in the country’s collaborative arts projects which mushroomed over the years in township and informal communities. These were projects which offered a feisty, sometimes underground, challenge to the regime and a sanctuary for young black people. Including Taltas African Artist, Together as One, Via Katlehong, African Flag and Vukani, to name a few, the projects offered creative nurturing to the young Lucky.

Indeed, his friend and collaborator, Thabiso Mofokeng remembers how one such group visited Morojaneng Primary School, where Lucky was a child in the late 1980s. The seed was sown and “this young boy became the engine of Taltas,” Mofokeng remembers. Kele went on to be schooled at Alafang High School, but that dance energy would not be quelled.

Kele moved between dance companies, essentially maintaining the status of being ‘self-taught’. He did, however enjoy passing associations with such companies and  platforms as Dance Umbrella, Moving Into Dance Mophatong, Sibikwa, Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative and Ekurhuleni’s My Body My Space Festival, to name but a few. Having studied dance in Tunis, he won support for his developing career from the French Institute, which enabled him to hone in on the specifics of African, traditional and contemporary dance in Senegal. And while it was important for him to learn as much as he could, he took outreach very seriously and gave back to the community from his heart.

In 2000, he branched out to start his own dance company, Lucky Dance Theatre, in Katlehong, with a specialised focus on Afro-Fusion, African traditional and western contemporary, and a heart that focused on setting the hearts of disadvantaged youngsters in the community on fire with the sense of dance possibility.

Over the years, Lucky Dance Theatre was invited to perform in numerous contemporary dance festivals across Africa, the United States and Europe. It collaborated with international dance companies such as Daara Dance (Ivory Coast/USA), Compagnie NEMA (Niger), IsraelArt (Nigeria), Djorombala (Madagascar) and Mari Maede Collective (New York), amongst others.

In 2006, Kele was acknowledged by the Gauteng MEC Awards for Choreography as the most promising male dancer in contemporary dance. He garnered scholarships in dance from Vuyani Dance Theatre and FATC. People noticed his work. And they loved his thinking and his relentless, selfless energy. “I am interested in pushing boundaries in the platform of contemporary stages, exploring different possibilities without limitation in dance, choreography and freedom of expression,” he said at the time of the inaugural My Body My Space festival in Daveyton, east of Johannesburg.

An extremely prolific choreographer, with a great diversity of works under his belt, Lucky was also a generous collaborator in his own right, who focused energy on advocacy dance projects that addressed issues such as awareness of gender violence in the township communities.

Lucky is survived by his wife Matu Elizabeth Mahumapelo and his children Boitumelo and Karabo. He lost his mother many years ago in a car accident, but leaves his father who lives in Zonkizizwe, near Katlehong, as well as a vast and loving fraternity of students and colleagues, dancers and friends.

  • A memorial will be held in celebration of Lucky Kele’s life, work and achievements at the Katlehong Art Centre, 203 Sontonga Street, Katlehong on November 1 at 15:00. Contact Malaika 061 098 5497, Jerry 073 040 7927 or Vusi 076 401 1521 for further information.

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