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PORTIA MASHIGO (article first published : 2004-04-27)

Portia Lebohang Mashigo, who appeared in Fantastic Flying Fish Dance Company’s groundbreaking production Grass Garden has received the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Dance.

Portia Lebohang Mashigo is described as “dynamite in a small package”. ‘Just speaking to Portia one is immediately aware of her energy and enthusiasm, and mention her name in dance circles and the same adjectives come up time and again. Portia is a highly talented, energetic dancer and choreographer, who uses her talents to look at women's issues, society, family life and the influences culture and traditions have on our modern life. She uses different dance styles and techniques, which reflect her vast and varied training techniques," says Suzette Le Sueur Executive Director of the Dance Factory.

Portia was born in Soweto on June 9, 1974, and began dancing at a local Youth Club at the age of 13 because as she says "everyone was dancing to Michael Jackson and it was the thing to do". In 1989 she joined Moving Into Dance Mophatong (MIDM), where she received her formal dance training under Sylvia Glasser. Two years later she received a Dance in Education Teachers Diploma.

While with the company she choreographed a number of dance works, which became part of the company repertoire for national and international performances and tours. Portia has given workshops and taught dance in schools locally and abroad as part of Cultural Exchange Programmes.

Her first choreography Let There Be Peace in 1994, earned her the Most Promising Female Award at the FNB Vita Dance Umbrella. In 1999 her choreography on part-time students presented at the same festival got a Pick of the Stepping Stones Award. With a commission received by FNB Vita in 2000, she created the solo piece Mum's Man - My Father which went on to play at the Women's Festival in Durban and subsequently was invited in 2001 to the Celebrate South Africa Festival in London.

In 2002 Portia's Blues for Mama inspired by Xoli Norman's poem (Mama's got the Blues), premiered at the Women's Arts Festival at the Market Theatre. At the 2003 FNB Dance Umbrella Portia presented a commissioned work Hearts Held Hostage where she was also nominated for the most outstanding dancer in contemporary style. This work together with Lady.Lady.!, created in collaboration with Lerato Thooe was to be seen at the Women's Festival at the Dance Factory and the Macufe Arts Festival in Bloemfontein.

As a freelance dancer, she has worked and performed with Vuyani Dance Theatre, African Footprint, Inzalo Dance and Theatre, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Agulhas Theatre Works, Robyn Orlin, Fantastic Flying Fish Dance Company, Bopa Dance Project, First Physical Theatre Dance Company and now runs her own project based Dance Company, Lebohang Dance Project (LDP).

Founded in 2002, the company employs dancers from different backgrounds and training. LDP focuses on being the voice for young women in society by incorporating personal experiences and real life stories. Portia expresses the challenges of being accepted and the breaking away from her cultural norms and family securities. As she says, "LDP has given me the confidence to dream bigger. The individualistic development and collaborative sharing of the dancers is a never ending source of joy for me."




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