Pantsula 4 life
The doubled-jointed dance style is not just about swag, it’s also a fun way to work out
Pantsula is undoubtedly the unofficial dance of Mzansi, and no other music act has pioneered modern pantsula like iconic kwaito group Trompies. Through its ghetto-fabulous lyrics, banger beats, double-jointed moves, and fresh kasi threads, Trompies will forever be synonymous with the sub-culture. Shoutout to members Zynne “Mahoota” Sibika, Mandla “Spikiri” Mofokeng, Jairus “Jakarumba” Nkwe, Eugene “Donald Duck” Mthethwa, and Mojalefa “Mjokes” Matsane (RIP, grootman).
Pantsula’s influence has even transcended our borders. Remember in 2011 when US superstar Beyoncé released the video for Run the World (Girls), heavily influenced by pantsula?
Sure, Pantsula is all about swag — in fact, fitness is the last thing on our minds when it comes to the dance style. But zooming in on their archives in the Mzansi Magic four-part documentary The Kalawa Jazmee Story, you realise that Trompies’s members weren’t just great performers — they rehearsed and sweated it out on the dance floor too.
“When you’re young you have the energy to do everything. We practised all the time. We were making money and had a passion for it, you know. We would rehearse for like five hours a day at the local hall,” says Spikiri. “When you love something you do you have the energy for it, only now we are a bit tired and have our bones kicking in, although we still perform and love it,” he laughs.
Jakarumba and Spikiri’s relationship with dance dates to when they would perform at neighbourhood parties and weddings, resulting in their entering dance competitions. “Spikiri and Jakarumba would win all the competitions around Gauteng and Soweto. They were Amapantsula kings and started dancing for [musician and producer Sello] Chicco Twala — that’s where their love of dance came from,” says Mahoota. “If you look at Chicco’s I Need Some Money video, you’ll see the dance that every South African refers to as pantsula, which was heavily inspired by Spikiri. It’s like our national dance.”
Although the group has been a big influence on the pantsula dance and culture, Spikiri emphasises that the culture has always been there and was something he grew up seeing. They view the dance as something innate and not something that has a set routine. It is about bringing your own flair and expressing yourself.
“It was difficult for a guy like me, because I am not a dancer,” Mahoota admits. “Remember, each song we performed had to come with choreography. I had to be taught and had to adapt. They had to teach me how to make it look seamless and spontaneous. I had to work extra hard to catch up with them. Even today I still don’t consider myself a dancer. Back then I used to go to gym at a place called Health & Racquet before it became Virgin Active, and I would run on the treadmill for 30 minutes. [Kwaito musician] Kabelo Mabalane would come and ask me how I did it, because I would train every day. Now we have swapped roles — he is so fit — but I inspired him.”
Like Mahoota, as a gym bunny I do not consider myself a dancer, no matter how hard I try. However, I recently started taking a step class and realised the trick is all in the footwork. Choreographer and fitness trainer LePantsula, who runs workshops on gumboot dancing and pantsula for fitness, says it is a full-body workout. “The dance is a natural thing; it is an everyday movement expressed through music. Pantsula is an expression of township life through movement, and because township life evolves, so does the dance,” explains LePantsula. “My movement is not the same as yours, because the way you hear music is not the same.”
Much like kwaito, which emphasises the freedom of identity and expression, pantsula embodies a philosophy of being open to interpretation and creativity. LePantsula breaks down six key movements to add to your fitness routine.
“This is the movement that resembles hitting and holding on and hitting the staff of the train. As it moves through the platform you go in and out while it’s in motion. It’s a sound you make. Not everyone can do it, because you need to be able to calculate the momentum of the train and stylise how you get in and out,” says LePantsula. It is inspired by the culture of train riding, also known as “go tswarra staff”.
This movement is made up of a jump and a kick. “It resembles kicking something on the ground and is inspired by the violence in townships,” adds LePantsula.
In this iconic movement you do knee-highs with each leg while pointing your finger in the air, almost like you are toyi-toying. “It is inspired by the culture of going to a place of money, like the Joburg CBD was,” says LePantsula. “It resembles members of the community who catch taxis to go hustle; you know, when you’re taking a taxi to town you point one finger in the air. You can even gesture a 7.”
“This movement is made up of shuffling your feet; you can shuffle one leg or you can shuffle from side to side — it is the movement of rushing somewhere,” says LePantsula. “It comes from everyday life, trying all you can to make things work, it’s about being fast-paced and up to something, almost running and manoeuvring your way through life.”
This move is inspired by the way pantsulas would walk, bumping from side to side to the beat of the music.
Izaka or Inyuku
This is the most recognisable movement in pantsula and consists of moving your hand in a way that resembles trying to get rid of water. “Some call it Izaga, because it is a way of showing off the rings you have or the material assets you have required, almost like flexing,” says LePantsula. “More than 80% of the dance moves you see in pantsula do not have names, they are just moves people make up. And some have other names for them, depending on where they grew up.”