Thoriso Magongwa
Thoriso Magongwa
Image: Supplied

What would you like your story to reflect? 

As one of the first soloist classical ballet dancers of colour for Narodni Divadlo Brno and the very first African with this title, I am humbled and recognise the privilege that comes with it all. I also acknowledge the trajectory of my journey, relentless hard work, my daring nature and the strength to make this majestic career my reality. My story will hopefully become one that highlights the above, but also speak of the passion I have for ballet, my willpower to overcome physical and societal limits while in persistent pursuit of living my enchanting dream.

What drew you to ballet? 

I was drawn to ballet by its mystery, physical challenge, theatrical splendour, rich musical fusion and international appeal. It was an art form so far from my then norm and viscerally latched to my spirit of adventure. I was intrigued by its presentation of a world seemingly better than my own yet presenting equal opportunity to anyone willing to do the work to reap its hidden rewards.

In flight
In flight
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How have you evolved? 

I have been a professional dancer for 21 incredible years. I have gone from student to professional artist, a stint as a young aspiring choreographer turned qualified ballet teacher/coach, an international guest artist, recently choreographers’ assistant and soon international guest ballet master. I am simultaneously a social media content creator and moderator for events, which all feeds my ferocious appetite for personal growth.

How did you end up at the Czech Republic’s national theatre?

While on my travels to Europe, I stumbled across the advertised auditions for BaletNDB (the ballet company of the national theatre of Brno), which is in the Czech Republic and occupies three theatres: Janackovo Divadlo, Mahenovo Divadlo and theatre Reduta. My application to attend the open audition was successful and I was then selected from multitudes of dancers to join the ballet company.

How has your presence at BaletNDB impacted the theatre's culture of dance? 

My presence here at BaletNDB has added a new racial dynamic to the theatre. It was great having everyone from the make up and hair department learning to adjust their norm to accommodate me. My colleagues finally had someone they could speak to about race issues and also learn about South African culture from someone who was next to them. Given my cosmopolitan nature, personality and presence , I also created a huge influence in the company's social dynamics. My presence was harnessed to inspire new choreography and also saw me chosen for particular roles in our existing repertoire.

Thoriso as Hluchota in Beethoven
Thoriso as Hluchota in Beethoven
Image: Supplied

You are currently in the company’s production of Beethoven. Can you tell us more about it?

Beethoven is choreographed by the artistic director of BaletNDB, Mario Radachovsky. This ballet speaks of the complex story of the deaf and the beloved classical music composer Ludwig van Beethoven. I play a mystic dual character called Hluchota. He is the commander of the deaf and the frustrating torment within the speculated mind of Beethoven. As a mental torment, he is closely linked to Beethoven throughout the production and finally lures him to his death. The role was choreographed on me, so it naturally became closely defined by my movement quality and dynamics. The music is the hero of this elaborate production and helped me cultivate the nuances while exploring the complexity of the story.

What themes in the production resonate with you? 

One of the recurring themes in Beethoven is the conundrum of love and its diverse faces, layers and ways it shows up. I relate to this because my career, life and drive is passion based, which in itself is strongly rooted in the ideology of love. As an artist, I wear my heart on my sleeve and consistently need it to be fed by my experiences of love or inspired by the absence thereof.

Thoriso in performance
Thoriso in performance
Image: Supplied

What's it like being an expat in the Czech Republic?

Being an expat in Brno (Czechia) is wonderful. I have acquired permanent residency status which offers me a plethora of opportunities within the country's social and economic benefits. The safety and governance of the country is efficient and a great comfort. As an avid traveler, I take advantage of the immense access to other countries, as Czechia is in the epicenter of Europe. I am grateful for the government’s relentless support for the performing arts which sees me enjoy my career without financial stress and affords me endless opportunities to create, develop and discover new ventures.

What’s next? 

The year 2024 holds many passion projects in my development: a continued love relationship and performances with BaletNDB. I am excited to introduce new narratives, form collaborations within ballet and grow my position while pushing to expand my personal profile within the international arts fraternity.

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