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danceI Dance (and the music it exposes one to) I feel has given me an advantage. Dance is something everyone should do, something I love and will never stop doing. Dance and skating have not only been an opportunity to express myself and develop as a person and artist, but have added energy, purpose and diversity to my music too.

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 years of Ceroc (a modern hybrid of Ballroom, Latin and various forms of partner dancing), Spanish, and then Street dance (various Hip-hop styles). Spanish came extremely naturally because of my music background, and that as well as Street dance are my current favourites.

A dance high-light for me was briefly meeting Li Cunxin when he came to give a talk in SA once.

photo-book-signFor me it wasn’t even the fact that I was living a dream to be learning to dance well, it was the inner upliftment that came with it (or should I say the dance came with the inner upliftment – it goes both ways) and the fact that I became something no one ever thought I would . And a school teacher who once said “I can’t IMAGINE that girl playing an instrument”, when someone asked me if I wanted to try something, and I was teased a lot by the boys at school for being unattractive and they never wanted to include me in any of their games for that reason. At one time I had a particular teacher who used to literally harass me for being too shy, and that made me recoil and be even more self-conscious. And many more painful things like that. This was what I had for my entire growing up).

People now actually don’t believe me when I tell them some of these stories. And I am still surprised if anyone says they think I’m beautiful. But it makes no difference to me whether they think so or not.

Frankly it didn’t bother me, I knew if I believed in myself I could do anything, and I never asked anyone to call me pretty or talented, and the fact that no one did only made me more strong and beautiful on the inside.

I was sure life had more to offer than any of them could begin to imagine.

All I can say is that your inner beauty will eventually be expressed outwardly too. When you stop looking in the mirror, and just work and work and work at the right things without looking back, you will one day see yourself by accident in a reflection somewhere – perhaps in people’s eyes – and be amaze

Years later some of the people who never had faith in me would say, “Well I never. What a surprise to see YOU turn out like THIS”. Or they just had no words. People who used to be rude to me now actually ask me for advice.

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Skating on a burning bridge

skatingI had an unusual, interesting and challenging adventure that people keep on asking me about. I also did this to keep inspiring myself never to give up. My skating story in a way represents my whole life in skating form.

I had a keen interest for ice skating since I was small after seeing Holiday on Ice in Pretoria. But trying to become good at figure skating in Pretoria was never easy, every step of the way was hard.

I was about 10 when I went ice skating for the first time. We used to go skating approximately once a year for a birthday or something (normally mine) and I couldn’t wait for it. However, for several of those I could not stop gripping the barrier for the entire session. I would then have to wait for my next birthday to skate again.

When I was back in the country waiting to start studying, I phoned the figure-skating club and asked if there was skating again since the rink re-opened. The coach told me that there was private figure skating but that there was no point in someone grown-up like me wasting coaches time but I could try phoning the coaches if I wanted to. That put me off.

A couple of years later during my degree I saw some high quality skating on TV and had the itch to start skating again.

Halfway though university a good Russian skating company came to the country for the first time doing Sleeping Beauty on Ice. A particular experience made a strong impression on me.

During exam time I glanced through a newspaper lying on the table and saw a picture of skaters from the company. When I glanced at it, to my amazement it was a competition offering the winners a special class with skaters from the company. I didn’t think I should enter. But I just did. I didn’t even know why I did it. I knew I wasn’t good and that I hadn’t skated for some time. I knew I wouldn’t get in.

To my surprise I got a call from the paper telling me to come and have a lesson with them. The class was inspiring and like something out-of-this-world. There was something about the quality and standard of the Russian skating as well as the beauty of the show that I saw that motivated me, and I realised there was more to skating that what I saw in Pretoria or even on TV. It also left me with the frustrating feeling that I wished I had had more opportunity to skate when I was younger.

(A few years later when the company came to the country again, I heard local skaters still talking about that class that was also in the papers afterwards, and how – extraordinarily – they gave a lesson to a couple of Pretoria skaters. They didn’t realise I was one of them, and I never said anything. When I asked one of the main coaches why they didn’t contact the company who were in town again, the coach just said to me, “Well, if I did organise something it would only be for the likes of my students, not for people like you.”)

The next year I started skating again at the bottom of the academy for beginners in a group class learning figure skating basics (not even bothering to try and get into the private figure skating). There were some good teachers at the time and a nice crowd of people and I worked hard and enjoyed improving on my technique and it improved fast.

I worked my way through the academy tests. There was one test I did where a German coach tested me and gave me 10/10 for my spirals (balletic positions held while gliding across the ice) – the highest she said she had ever given. Even her own students didn’t normally get more than 5 she sai

At that time Estonia (previously a part of Russia) was not a Schengen state, and the only way to get a visa was to go and apply in London. Among other challenges the ticket for the particular flight I booked was also cancelled just before the trip – nothing was going my favour at all, and it was only thanks to the most extraordinary travel agent I have ever had that I got there (and on top of that he offered to find me a sponsor for my skating without me asking).

But by the end of the week it was also one of the most invigorating times of my life. There were many skaters there that year from many different countries. I did a very short routine in the gala with some spirals, and years after people told me that they still remember that nice moment when a South African came and did that.

I was the only South African ever to have attended any of the international camps as far as I know. I don’t think the international Mishin camps still exist, but it was an experience like nothing South African skaters could imagine. We had four to seven hours a day of training, some on ice, some off-ice, ballet classes, other dance or stretch or fitness classes, and a public gala at the end of each week. The discipline and manners of the skaters and the hard work was incredible.”Don’t be afraid!”, “Eat the ice!”, “If you fall you fall”, etc. Mishin himsel

Spanish on ice

But just before I left Cape Town the same company that did Sleeping Beauty on Ice many years ago happened to be in town again doing another show.

I had the good fortune of meeting one of the producers of the show before the show one night, and when I told him by the way that I was working on a strange routine I was trying to put together with some Spanish dancing on the ice, he was interested and asked me if I would like a lesson with one of his skaters. I said I didn’t want to waste their time. But he insisted (when he took me backstage to meet one or two skaters I also said I thought I was too old for skating and they just laughed at me). So I had a special lesson with one of his top skaters and choreographers who helped smooth over my routine and choreography for my “Spanish on Ice”.

Amazingly, the next Mishin skating summer school was that year in Spain in a beautiful ice rink in a town called Jaca.

So I attended that, and at the end of the second week did my Spanish routine for a Spanish audience as well as the very high-profile skaters. The video footage (except for the photos at the end) is genuine footage from the event, the once-off performance.

I had to practise the castanets etc. off ice, the moves with the music off ice (which is very different from on the ice) and the choreography without music or any Spanish apparatuses on ice. But never everything together until the actual performance.

An example of how things came together during the actual performance was doing the spin playing the castanets (with the skirt) in time to the music. It was a calculated risk, and that bit was miraculously flawless (but unfortunately inaudible in the bad quality video so the clip here has different music there which I did use later in the program). Also, I realised in one or two places I was running out of music, so the spiral positions were’t as high as they could have been and everything felt rushed and I didn’t get down into it enough. I was also terrified, and it was also a scorchingly hot afternoon and we had been working hard all day, but I stuck to the music religiously to the end.

Back in Pretoria the video I made of Spanish on ice clips and highlights of the camp had quite a ripple effect in the dance world as well as in the SA skating community.

That routine left me with a feeling that, even though there were lots to things that weren’t perfect, I had had an adventure, and did something I dreamed of. I didn’t know where or when or if I would skate again, but it didn’t matter.

I didn’t feel I was treated with respect by the people at the rink which was nothing new, and won’t continue skating in Pretoria. I don’t know what skating I will still do, I feel I have achieved what I set out to do and more. I do still have some ideas, and hopefully I will still pull off another routine of mine sometime some place, but mainly just to enjoy it.

skatesThe first thing people think when they see someone they think is beautiful or achieving something is – you must have been born with all of that, lots of money, talent and beauty. I wouldn’t say I started off with any of those things. Its more of a bi-product of growth in character. What it takes is courage, hope, perseverance. Fire. I have seen many skaters who have had skating training served to them on a sliver platter since they were small, and they aren’t amazing. They take it for granted. Its what you make of it. How you do it. Life enrichment, dance training and music are what made my skating different and special to me. I was never spoon fed, I did my own choreography, designed and put together own outfits, and did my own music.

People are capable of more than they think they are. If someone says to you, you are inclined to have this and that limitations, you’ll never reach this, you’re bad at that – just use everything to improve yourself. If I had accepted the limitations other people had set for me or cared what people thought, I never would have done any of this.

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there was a lot left to be desired in the figure-skating scene in Gauteng. I always wished I could help facilitate something that would help figure skaters.

In 2014 I came close to initiating the opening of a private figure skating ‘studio’ to give people in Pretoria an opportunity they had never had that I always wished I had. But to help direct that would have taken most of my time and energy that couldn’t spare with my career in music. Those involved realised it was too risky to manage a project like that and it was abandoned.

 skater’s training and to encourage good choreography, music appreciation, discipline, set higher standards, encourage self awareness and awareness of others, good manners, give performance opportunities and provide shows for the community.

Its colours were blue and gold. The idea was that the environment has a big impact on a person, and is important – such as beautiful ice design and natural surroundings, nice lighting, good music, which all play a role in inspiring good skating and in de-stressing which creates greater pountry folk skating on lakes. Figure-skating is also very scientific, and requires great accuracy, planning, and an understanding of momentum and all the different elements. Other good qualities that figure skating develops is confidence, memory, balance, strength, co-ordination, it enriches, distresses and creates opportunities for self-expression. Apart from being very beautiful to watch, it also helps develop self-control, awareness of others, overcoming of fears, freedom, exercise, focus, respect for others, independence and individuality that can be applied to anything in life.

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