Soweto's Vincent Sekwati Koto Mantsoe once moonwalked for Johannesburg crowds as a member of the Joy Dancers, a Michael Jackson- inspired troupe he formed with friends as a teen. Today, he incorporates ritual movements into his choreography, borrowing from the mystical tradition his mother, a sangoma (traditional healer), exposed him to. "It's not something I do because I like this move," he says. "[I] dance four or five, six, seven hours before [I] can be taken to a different state. . . . In a year, I have to perform two ceremonies to [ask the ancestors to] borrow and modify certain moves."

Choreographer Reggie Wilson, who will moderate a post-show discussion of Mantsoe's Ndaa ("greeting") and Motswa Hole ("person from far") on opening night, sees a "natural connection" between "heritage dance" and the choreographer. "You're dealing with an issue of translating or transliterating . . . not different from what a medium, priest, [or] priestess might do."

Mantsoe: From moonwalk to mysticism
photo: John Hogg
Mantsoe: From moonwalk to mysticism


Dance Theater Workshop
219 West 19th Street
February 10 through 12

Mantsoe says his works are "rooted in the African philosophy," and ultimately about culture preservation. "Obviously, we cannot understand [every aspect] of culture, but we can acknowledge [and] accept it."