Oti Mabuse remembers how her mother started her own dance school in her hometown in South Africa to give her daughters opportunities she didn’t have as adults.
The 31-year-old dancer has had a successful career, winning the South African Latin American Championships eight times and is one of the most successful professionals to have appeared on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing – having won twice.
Her older sister Phemelo also pursued dancing as a child, while the eldest Mabuse sibling, Motsi, went on to become a professional ballroom dancer and currently sits on the Strictly judging panel.
Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, Mabuse explained how much her mother Dudu loved ballroom dancing, but growing up in apartheid South Africa she didn’t have the opportunity to learn it.
She said: “The opportunities weren’t there for them, they weren’t dance schools, they weren’t dance teachers. It was also very separate.
“And she always loved it, she always wanted to do it, she always wanted to wear those big ballroom dresses and get her hair done.
“But even in those years, black people weren’t even allowed to be in the same room or on the same dance floor as white people.”
She recalled how her mother was motivated to start her own dance school since “nobody was teaching black kids to dance” where they lived at the time.
Mabuse noted that this was a few years before she was born, at a time when Nelson Mandela was still in prison and “a lot of segregation still existed”.
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The dancer added that the community they grew up in was “really dangerous” due to civil unrest, which is why her mother also set up her own transport system to take children to and from school to keep them safe.
Raised in this environment, Mabuse explained that dance was “all she saw,” but that her mother maintained a very strict regime for her children that included only school, sports, and dance.
Mabuse added: “She just didn’t want us to grow up and feel like we didn’t have opportunities and she wanted to make sure we were always busy so we wouldn’t have been on the road, we weren’t any nonsense set up.”
Among the CDs the desert island dancer chose was Boyz 2 Men’s track A Song For Mama, as it reminds her how lucky she is to have her mother, whom she described as “amazing” and “determined.” designated.
“She has always fought for us and taught us to fight for ourselves and not take no for an answer and to be as ambitious, dedicated and competitive as we are,” she added.
Mabuse said she got her fighting spirit from her father, who worked as a lawyer and would help those who couldn’t afford to pay for representation if they were wrongfully arrested.
That determination has helped her win the coveted Strictly Come Dancing Glitterball twice, first in 2019 with actor Kelvin Fletcher and then in 2020 with comedian Bill Bailey.
She admitted she “absolutely didn’t” think she was going to win with Bailey when they first hit the dance floor, but said it was part of the strict “magic” that anything is possible.
Mabuse announced last month that she was leaving the show after appearing as a professional for seven years.
The dancer is currently on the Dancing On Ice judging panel and recently announced that she is embarking on her first ever UK tour to perform her stage show ‘I Am Here’.
Beginning in April, she will perform more than 50 performances at venues across the country in a show celebrating her journey from her native South Africa to becoming a professional dancer.
– Desert Island Discs airs Sunday at 11am on BBC Sounds and BBC Radio 4.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/oti-mabuse-on-her-mother-creating-a-dance-school-to-provide-her-with-opportunity-41416190.html Oti Mabuse on her mother, who is starting a dance school to give her a chance