For the Love of Dance

Bonwa Mbontsi is a true dancing star within our community. We stopped for a quick chat with him to find out more about how he started his dance career and creating positive change one step at a time.

Bonwabise, or “Bonwa” for short, Mbontsi is the co-founder and Artistic Director of BoNana Dance – Einander Sehen, the dramatic arts teacher at Cordwalles Preparatory School for Boys in Pietermaritzburg, and one of the BalletRIP instructors in KwaZulu-Natal. He boasts over a decade of dancing experience, having worked as a dancer, choreographer, mentor and fitness and health coach with various organisations, non-profits, dance companies, churches, gyms and more. Although he loves contemporary dance, he is also proficient in ballet, hip-hop, Afro-fusion, jazz, modern, pantsula, ballroom, Latin, gumboot and tap dance.


Bonwa grew up in Richmond, KwaZulu-Natal, and is umXhosa by birth. He started dancing in 2006, during his later high school years at Maritzburg College. It was through an inter-school platform called Millenium Funk, where he choreographed his first dance piece, that he discovered dance. He was then encouraged by his drama teachers to pursue dance further. Having come from sportsmanship already, Bonwa shared, “Dance felt more holistic and allowed me to experience life on a whole new level. I was hooked”.


After high school, Bonwa obtained his BA degree in Psychology and Drama and Performance Studies and was one of the top 16 finalists in the South African “So You Think You Can Dance” series (season 2) on SABC 1 in 2010. He interned at The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collective (FATC) in 2012 where he worked with several top choreographers and dancers in the industry, namely PJ Sabbagha, Fana Tshabalala, Shanell Winlock, and Craig Morris.


In 2013, he taught at Maritzburg College for four years and co-founded the ReRouted Dance Theatre. He started his NPO in 2017 (after taking a sabbatical) called Bonwa Dance Co., in which, he explains, he focused his efforts on developing dance from the grassroots level with children and youth at the Slangspruit Primary School and Melmoth in association with J.A.W. (Justice and Women) and Ukulapha.


More recently, in 2020, he partnered with Nadja Bartel and started their NPC BoNana Dance – Einander Sehen, which is at the heart of what Bonwa loves to do. “Community work has always been at the core of my vocation,” he says.


You might wonder what the name means! “Bonana” is isiXhosa/isiZulu and “Einander Sehen” is German, both meaning “to see each other, seeing each other, to meet, to visit”. Their mission is to foster fellowship, connection and co-operation between people through the arts, and in particular, through dance”. Some of their work includes outreach programs like Slangspruit Super Troupers, Mpumelelo Youth Development (MYD) Super Troupers, and Siyabeseka Youth Arts in Mthonjaneni in KwaZulu-Natal, and Tshepong Community Centre in Clarens among others.


Additionally, they are also planning an international collaboration and exchange with Germany through their dance pieces such as “Open the Door”, “Sommer” and “Umgido Wabazukulu, Khala Dadla”. BoNana Dance is cultivating and developing a thriving dance community and culture through its initiatives. Furthermore, Bonwa’s dream for the future is to see dancing taught as one of the core subjects in schooling curriculums and redefine the nature of work and that “dance can play a crucial role in creating and providing sustainable jobs now and in the future.”


We are proud to have someone so dedicated and committed to helping others take that leap into their dreams of dance. We leave you with a lesson Bonwa has learnt over the years: “Dance (the kind that we teach and promote) is a simple solution to some of life’s most complex problems – not easy, but simple! Dance humanises us, allows us to go to the core of who we are, and enables us to cultivate core values like courage, integrity, commitment, respect, and compassion. It enables us to fortify ourselves and teaches us to collaborate and work with others with a great sense of humility and dignity.”


Words: Alicia du Plessis


Photos: Katie-Lee Wisdom, Benjamin Bell