/ 20 October 2006

Tough guys do dance

He’s not really a bad guy, just naughty.” That’s the way former Yo-TV presenter Siphiwe Mtshali describes DJ, the character he plays in the new local drama series Tsha Tsha on SABC1.DJ is a feisty fellow from Soweto, a cool cat who ‘wears all the right clothes, knows the right dances and pretends to know everything about everything”. But after he lands in a spot of trouble with gangsters, Soweto quickly becomes a dangerous place to be, and DJ flees to Lubusi, a small Eastern Cape town.He expects to be the flashy city guy in the sleepy little town, the one who will bring style and sexy moves to the clueless rural people — almost like a Xhosa Footloose. But his view soon changes as he gets to know the villagers, falls in love and develops personally. ‘Basically DJ grows up and learns what it is to be a man,” says Mtshali. An exciting and distinguishing element of Tsha Tsha is that DJ also learns Latin-American dancing in Lubusi.The Zulu-speaking Mtshali had to brush up on his dance moves as well as his knowledge of the Xhosa culture and language. DJ eventually takes part in a Xhosa manhood ceremony — proof that, even though he’s adept at the tango and cha-cha, he’s all man. ‘I had to learn about the Xhosa culture and initiation,” says Mtshali. ‘I really gained a respect for and understanding of the Xhosa culture.”’Guys think it’s sissies who dance,” says Mtshali about the way Latin-American dancing is perceived in the Zulu and Xhosa cultures. ‘They think that guys who do it are gay. This story shows that dance isn’t just a girls’ sport. Tough guys can also dance. I was quite excited about shooting the dance sequences, because I love dancing.”Tsha Tsha is about changing stereotypes like this, but, Mtshali explains, it also moves to a rural setting to show that rural youths ‘also have talent. They are not backwards. I hope this will start to build an understanding between rural and urban people, that we all face the same problems.”The producers of Tsha Tsha are so certain of its success that filming of a second season has already started in the Eastern Cape town of Peddie (all the extras in the series are locals — some even have a line or two of dialogue in the series). Mtshali agrees that Tsha Tsha should prove to be popular. ‘It’s going to be different,” he says. ‘It’s not just a drama about angry youths. This is also about other issues. Tsha Tsha has real messages, but it’s not patronising. I think it will show people that there are so many stories to tell, that stories don’t just happen in Soweto.”Mtshali worked as a Yo-TV presented for five years before moving on to Jam Alley and bit parts in Generations and Gaz’lam. He has always wanted to be an actor and musician. ‘I want to get into music as a kwaito artist and eventually produce,” he says of his future plans. ‘I also want to keep working in drama and television.”

See Tsha Tsha on SABC1 on Fridays at 8.30pm.