By Sarah Rose de Villiers
Rafe’ Green must have magic in his feet. What else could explain the beauty in his twists, turns and delicate leaps?
A second year humanities student at Rhodes University and one of the six dancers involved in The Gathering Project, Rafe’ seems to live for dancing. But why exactly does he love dancing, whose music moves him, and what is his spirit animal?
1. Let’s begin with the basics – who are you, what are you up to and what should we know about you?
Well, first things first: I’m the realest (sorry I had to). My name is Rafe’ Green, and although I largely prefer my full name, a lot of people have taken to calling me Fe’, which I’m quite okay with. I feel like it’s come to fit into my overall character. My digs mates sometimes call me Fe’Bae, which I’m also quite happy with because I honestly feel like I’m bae material.
I’m from Durban and currently my second year at Rhodes University, majoring in Drama and Art History.
My spirit animal is an old woman wearing a pink tracksuit in the gym, chilling on the equipment with a giant glass of wine, or Sue Sylvester from Glee. It alternates from day to day, but I feel the deepest connection with Sue because she takes no shit. She is the best.
2. What are the greatest loves in your life?
Definitely dancing, photography and writing. Although I don’t write as much as I used to. That’s usually something that I come back to during the vac as it helps to vent out frustrations if I can’t dance.
Photography is one of my more recent passions and I enjoy every minute of it. I enjoy being able to freeze a moment in time and then keep it in my possession forever. Nothing will ever be quite the same as that moment, and I’ll never be the same as I was in that moment. It’s like constantly having a piece of a past me, and of the past itself. What a wonderful way to view the world, yeah?
(Also, totally feel free to follow me on InstaInsta @formerlyknownasgreen. My account is largely pictures I’ve taken with captions that’ll just make you go ‘hmmm, tcha feel?’)
But my heart is in dancing – specifically, contemporary dancing. As beautiful as ballet is, there is a rawness in contemporary dancing that can express so much more than ballet is able to do. Contemporary dancing also isn’t predetermined (I think that’s the word I’m looking for) or dictated by perfect lines, perfectly pointed feet or gestures that have been established over centuries to be used over and over again. Things can be done differently, lines can be altered and bodies can be morphed into horrid things that ballet normally shies away from.
Sonya Tayeh from So You Think You Can Dance? (SYTYCD) showed me the beauty of contemporary dancing, or its versatility. Her style of choreography is absolutely delightful. She likes to work with these dark themes and movements and overlays them with softer and lighter movements to create a brilliant amalgamation of stunning beauty that just sweeps you away. What makes her work so captivating is that she breaks from the standardised ways of moving that are commonly found in ballet. This really got me into dancing.
Although my training has been largely in a classical style, it is from this classical style that I am able to branch off and try to figure out the multiple ways that my own body can move, and try to create things within me that are as beautiful as Sonya’s.
Also, dancing is all about communication. Being able to communicate with your whole being is something that is so amazing. Sometimes we’re not able to express ourselves, or language barriers keep us from adequately communicating with one another. But dance is a universal language.
3. Why do you dance?
I dance because a) I am good at it, b) I love it, and c) it’s a way for me to get my thoughts together.
One of my favourite things to do is to put on some music and improvise my way through the multitude of sounds and words. I just let my body do what it wants. By the end of it, I can think more clearly than before. It also keeps me in pretty decent shape, which is always a great thing.
4. How would you describe dancing?
You know when you go into a used bookshop, or an old library and you simply walk through the different aisles, going from A to D and then from E to G, and there’s that atmosphere of wistfulness around the entire place? Sort of like you’re being lost in the vast worlds that are calling out to you and trying to get you to grab and reach them because they want to be read? That’s what dancing feels like. It’s that same feeling. Being lost in such a beautiful place. There’s a lot of words I could use to try and describe it, but I’d rather not because I could simply go on forever.
5. What type of music do you prefer dancing to?
I like things that have excellent musicality for me to work with, or things that have a lot of emotion behind them. The artists I usually come back to are Daughter (Still, Smother, Youth, Your Kisses are favourites); Florence + the Machine (What the Water Gave Me, Try a Little Tenderness and Bedroom Hymns are ones I particularly enjoy) and Little Dragon (anything they do is good for me).
Songs that I usually end up coming back to, simply because of how amazing they are, include:
• Falling – Bastille (ft. Ralph of To Kill a King)
• Eli, Eli (A Walk to Caesarea) – Sophie Milman
• Je Suis Malade – Laura Fabian
• Por Toda Minha Vida – Elis Regina
• Hero – Regina Spektor
I tend to avoid super ‘now’ music, partly because I just don’t enjoy it, but also just because I don’t really feel much connection to it. It’s like East Coast Radio – they play a jam so much that you feel nauseous after hearing it. Like when you go out and have way too much vodka, and the next time you smell of vodka, it just makes you ill.
6. What does The Gathering mean to you?
The Gatherings/Intlangano is a chance for me to break down my classically trained self, rebuild what I know as dancing and increase my vocabulary to understand dancing and movement in a new light.
So far, it’s been pretty rough. IsiPantsula is not a comfort zone for me, but I have pushed through it and managed to learn so much more about myself. Doing gumboot dancing is fine for me, since just about every child that did anything related to drama in my high school was inducted into a gumboot piece at least a million times a year.
Although it was initially like, “argh, I gotta do this again”, I’ve come to enjoy it so much more. Now it’s being looked at from a different perspective, and it’s brought the entire team together.
7. What’s the most embarrassing thing to have happened to you while dancing?
It’s not really that embarrassing now because I’m quite used to it, but I’ve had my pants tear a good couple times during class. It’s never fun losing clothes.
I think the worst thing that happened last year was that I pulled a muscle in a class after overstretching. This year I had one of the ligaments in my knee shift out of place and then back into place. It all hurt so much, but it taught me about how careful I have to be.
8. If you could dance anywhere in the world – where would it be?
New York. Definitely. It has to be there. Sonya Tayeh has been signed onto the Martha Graham Dance Company. I’d just love a chance to be able to work with her. That is my ultimate goal in life.
Other than New York, I’d like to travel and learn dance styles, or ways of moving and incorporating it into my vocabulary as dancer so that I could do more, discover more and teach more.
9. If you had the chance to dance with anybody – who would it be?
It would have to Alison Holker – recently Alison Boss. She’s one of the all-stars from SYTYCD and the way she moves and dances blows my mind. I’d also like a chance to dance with Melanie Moore. She usually works with Sonya Tayeh and is also an all-star on SYTYCD. They’re both amazing.
If I had to pick someone that’s no longer around to dance with I’d pick my mom. She would play her music and always ask me to dance with her, and I’d always shy away. I think that is one of the only regrets I have in life. Not dancing, and not dancing with my mom when I had the chance.
10. Is there a song, poem, quote or proverb that captures who you are, or who you want to be?
I can provide one for each, although they won’t necessarily describe where I want to go, but rather, who I am or where I am at the moment. (Except for a proverb, soz LOL)
Quote: “Some people have lives. Some people have music”.