Theatre

Tumi Trent Tladi: Showing Americans how it's done

Andile Nayika

South Africa's export to American hip-hop dancing, Tumi Trent Tladi, is the first of our local talent to attract the world's top dance experts.

Tladi has secured a teaching spot at Los Angeles' Edge Performing Arts Centre in Hollywood. (Supplied)

Tladi has also secured a spot to teach at Los Angeles' Edge Performing Arts Centre in Hollywood.

The son of businessman and marketer Peter Tladi, the 20-year-old has been a finalist at the International Dance Organisation (IDO) Hip-Hop Street Dancing Championships since 2006 – when he was only 14.

A champion of the IDO, Tladi awed choreographers Kumari Suraj (So You Think You Can Dance), Nick Demoura (Justin Bieber's choreographer), Brice Professor Lock (Madonna's dancer and choreographer), Tony Czar (Usher and Britney Spears' dancer) on their trip to South Africa and Cristian Gutterre, a former manager of Asian musician and jazz fusion keyboardist Keiko Matsui.

Tladi, who recently performed in Willow and Jaden Smith's new music video – directed by Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith – shares more with the Mail and Guardian.

How is the American dream treating you?
I'm so exhausted … I just performed at the LA Carnival. I'm going to pass out now [giggling].

So who were you performing with?
A couple of dancers like Twitch from So You Think You Can Dance? I performed for my friend Rudi and a rapper called Kid Ink, he is huge here and the crowd went bonkers for him.

Who have you run into?
I have met Robert Hoffman, greeted Wiz Khalifa on Hollywood Boulevard while shopping for clothes. I saw the Kardashians walking into the Dash store, so you see a lot of celebs but everyone here treats them normally because dancers don't care about their fame.

What is your focus right now?
I'm focusing on debuting my choreography at LA Carnival next month.

So what is your schedule like?
Classes every day and rehearsals if there is a show and I'm going for auditions soon.

How do you think the overseas dance scene is different from the local one?
Everyone here is on a 24-hour constant hustle and everyone is just talented and business minded and ridiculously driven, it's shocking.

How do you feel about dancing in a music video with the Smiths?
It was amazing and the Smiths are so humble and down-to-earth and so talented. I had a solo spot in the music video and got a 10 out of 10 from Jada Pinkett-Smith. Amazing experience and I represented South Africa properly.

Aren't you homesick at all?
Yes, I am a little because no one here understands our humour so that really sucks.

How are the Americans treating you?
It's getting better because they are getting to know me. At some point it felt like I was the new kid on the block.

What have you taught the Americans?
I have taught a lot of sbujwa dance moves and they love it so it's so much fun and I just tell them how we, as South Africans, dance.

You are due home on November 20, are you looking forward to coming back?
Half of me doesn't want to and my sponsor doesn't want me to go because I need more time here. I'm supposed to be here at least for three years. But then again I need to lead South African dance.

Do you ever feel discouraged?
No, because I know I don't have a choice. I know I'll dance no matter how bad someone thinks I am. It's just an opportunity to improve.

What do you think can be done to improve the local entertainment industry?
Media should tap into youth lifestyles like young teenage celebrities because the youth pay the most money. People also follow the young celebrities in the media. Hollywood wouldn't be Hollywood without female, young and older fans. The youth here rule America in the entertainment industry and that is where most of the money comes in from.

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