TRIBUTE TO PULE KGARATSI, RESEARCHED BY LERATO NTILI.
A humble mentor, beautiful dancing talent and gifted educator, Pule Kgaratsi was one of the formative dancers of Moving Into Dance Mophatong. He was killed in a shoot-out South of Johannesburg on 30 July 2017. He was 51.
Orphaned at a young age, Kgaratsi was raised by his sister Queen and her husband George Molefe. Fondly known as Malome Pule, he grew into a father for the fatherless and a dancer who courted the ancestors in his work. In 1990, he was in his 20s and studying education, when he was noticed by a dance scout and offered a scholarship by cold drink business Schweppes to join Sylvia Glasser’s dance company Moving Into Dance Mophatong. The company was just 12 years old, and Kgaratsi, one of several youngsters chosen for the opportunity — including Gregory Maqoma and Vincent Mantsoe — was ripe for the challenge.
At the time, Glasser was developing MID’s repertoire and was creating her iconic work Tranceformations, a contemplation of the San trance dance from a contemporary choreographic and South African ethnographic perspective. By all accounts, it was a work that shook South Africa’s formerly conservative dance values to their foundations.
Being part of the seminal cast of Tranceformations was one thing, but Kgaratsi’s association with MIDM was quite another. He collaborated in works of the ilk of Stone Cast Ritual, Hanano and Paths of Sound, to name a few, and was a stalwart of the company in its international travels. His final tour with the company as a full time professional was in 1996; even after having left the company he continued to keep a toe in the dance world and to teach open dance classes there, until 2012.
Under Glasser’s ethos, MID initiated the concept of Edudance, a groundbreaking understanding of education through dance. It was developed as a teaching principle for a range of subjects, including mathematics, biology and science, and Kgaratsi took to the concept rapidly. He was so excited with the mix of these two values, that he eventually shifted his whole career’s focus from dance to education. His objective was to move youngsters forward through dance, exploring all that it can do for a child, from strengthening their confidence, to developing their understanding of rhythm and structure.
Born in Soweto on 29 January 1966 Kgaratsi began his educational journey at various schools in Soweto. He obtained his Higher Diploma in Secondary Education in 2000 and his Bachelor of Education degree in 2004, at Wits University. He taught at Iterele-Zenzele Secondary School in Diepsloot, before being appointed Deputy Principal at Fons Luminis Secondary School in Diepkloof, Soweto. In 2015 he became Sandown High School’s first black principal. He was deeply loved by pupils and colleagues alike, for his enthusiasm, his generosity and his unstinting loyalty.
Pule Kgaratsi, who was a close friend of Gregory Maqoma, leaves his sister Queen and her family, loving dance colleagues and fans.