Otlile Mabuse

SA pro­fes­sional dancer Otlile ‘Oti’ Mabuse, 28, on chang­ing ca­reers, be­ing a global cit­i­zen, and star­ring in Strictly Come Danc­ing UK…

Essentials (South Africa) - - BACK PAGE -

It’s no sur­prise that I fell in love with danc­ing. My mother trans­formed her day care fa­cil­ity in Mabopane, Tsh­wane, into a danc­ing stu­dio for my two sis­ters. She wanted them to keep busy af­ter school with some­thing pos­i­tive. They’re 10 years older than me, and as a four year old, I would watch ev­ery move, des­per­ate to dance like them. Even­tu­ally when I started mim­ick­ing their per­for­mances close to per­fec­tion, I was al­lowed to dance com­pet­i­tively.

My orig­i­nal ca­reer goal was to be an en­gi­neer, not a dancer. Af­ter I com­pleted my civil en­gi­neer­ing de­gree in 2008 at Tsh­wane Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, I was of­fered a great in-ser­vice train­ing op­por­tu­nity. I had to choose be­tween be­ing an en­gi­neer or a dancer, and chose the for­mer. But I felt un­ful­filled at work, and, with my mother’s sup­port, I de­cided to quit my train­ing and go to Ger­many to stay with my sis­ter, Motsi Mabuse, who’s a pro­fes­sional ball­room dancer.

Mak­ing that move was one of the best de­ci­sions of my life. I hadn’t stopped danc­ing – in fact, I’d won the SA Latin Amer­i­can cham­pion ti­tle eight times – and I also ended up com­pet­ing in Ger­many. I be­came a vice-Euro­pean and Ger­man ball­room cham­pion, and I was ranked third in the world in Latin Amer­i­can dance. What’s more, my dance part­ner, Mar­ius, be­came my hus­band!

Be­ing kind to a stranger landed me a spot on a ma­jor TV show.

I helped a man place an order at a café in Nurem­berg, be­cause he couldn’t speak any Ger­man. The next day I per­formed on Strictly Come Danc­ing Ger­many, and the same man was in the front row. Af­ter the show, he came up to me and in­tro­duced him­self as a pro­ducer from the BBC, and in­vited me to au­di­tion for the UK Strictly show, which is screened all over the world.

Be­ing kind to a stranger landed me a spot on a ma­jor TV show!

Although so much has changed for me, South Africa will al­ways be home. I live in Nurem­berg, but be­cause of my work com­mit­ments I’m now based pre­dom­i­nantly in Lon­don, and I’m mar­ried to a Ro­ma­nian – I’d like to think of my­self as a global cit­i­zen.

I never tire of the dance rou­tines as no sea­son of Strictly is the same. This sea­son I’m re­ally ex­cited to have a fel­low SA dancer, Jo­hannes Radebe, on the show with me. To­gether we can have fun adding an African twist to some of the rou­tines.

✱ Watch Oti on Strictly Come Danc­ing UK Sea­son 16 on BBC Brit, DS tv Chan­nel 120, Sun­days at 6pm.

Samba was the first African- in­spired dance on S trictly UK

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