Luyanda Sidiya: SBYAA for Dance

Born in the Vaal Triangle, South of Johannesburg, dancer, choreographer, teacher and mentor - Luyanda Sidiya (31) - has been named by the National Arts Festival as the 2015 Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance.

His interest in dance started as early as primary school when he saw a drama production presented to the community by an outreach programme. Already at that early stage he knew this was his calling. Being a dancer was firmly seeded in Sidiya as he joined the group and gained insight into modern and traditional dance. A few years later the interest within the group grew and in 1996 they were introduced to contemporary dance and choreography at The Dance Factory in Newtown, Johannesburg. Through weekend and holiday classes Sidiya learned about choreographers who were heading up the Moving Into Dance Mophatong group and he reflects: “My world was now dance and choreography and that fulfilled me deeply as this was a discovery and a realisation that this it is no hobby to certain individuals but a life, career and work.”

From there, Sidiya went through many auditions to be part of various dance schools and his persistence, perseverance and dedication paid off when in 1999 he was selected to do an intense teachers training course at the 2000 Community Dance project at Moving Into Dance Mophatong. His works are largely influenced by socio-political issues, and he allows the works to shape him through his choreographic process.

When Sidiya is not choreographing, he spends his time teaching, pitching on new projects and planning for festivals and performances. He has always emphasised the importance of giving back to the community which has played a consistent part in his career, and goes as far back as 1998 when he gave classes at Groenpunt Juvenile Prison with the hope of giving the young boys a new perspective in life. He now shares his experience as a dancer and a choreographer with dance students, which in turn motivates his career.

Sidiya has travelled extensively with his work to places including Botswana, The United Kingdom, The United States, Sweden, Austria, Finland, Italy and Luxembourg. While working abroad for Moving into Dance Mophatong Sidiya facilitated workshops through a range of dance companies and universities, specifically in the Afrofusion style, and went on to become the rehearsal director, working on dance pieces with professionals and students alike.

Among the works Sidiya has performed in, a solo work choreographed by Vincent Mantsoe in 2004 for the Kuopio International Festival in Finland was one of his most memorable. Sidiya spent three years in the UK working with ACE Dance and Music Company as a dancer, and went on to become a rehearsal director for the company. Following this, in 2007, Sidiya won the award for the Most Outstanding Dancer in the Contemporary Style for the Dance Umbrella Festival. Since then he has worked on a number of pieces for the festival. Among some of his most esteemed accolades, Sidiya was a dance captain for the 2010 World Cup FIFA Opening Concert.  In 2012 he choreographed the work Umnikelo which was part of the double bill Mayhem winning the Silver Standard Bank Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown that year.

Between being a dancer, choreographer and running a business, Sidiya spends evenings and weekends with his wife- who is also a dancer- and his two daughters.

Sidiya is currently the Artistic Director at Vuyani Dance Theatre.  His latest creation 7 pillars premiered at the 2014 Dance Umbrella Festival as part of the Johannesburg Arts Alive International Festival.  He begins working on his debut piece for the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown for 2015. His fond memories of performing at the Festival extend back to 2008, he says “The most exciting experience was to perform at the National Arts Festival with the ACE Dance and Music Company after being away for three and a half years. I performed a production titled Skin which had great reviews in the CUE newspaper.”

Sidiya, expresses his gratitude to Standard Bank by adding “I am happy to be one of the recipients among giants that have carried this award. This award to me epitomises the excellent work that young artists are doing and I take it as recognition, yet a key to open a door of possibilities.”

The recipients of the 2015 Standard Bank Young Artist Award are Christiaan Olwagen (Theatre), Luyanda Sidiya (Dance), Musa Ngqunqwana (Music), Athi- Patra Ruga (Performance Art), Kemang Wa Lehulere (Visual Art) and Nduduzo Makhathini (Jazz).