HARTFORD HOUSE DANCERS : A National Institution
Hartford House Zulu Dance Troupe
(Photo : Summerhill Stud)
About ten years ago, a group of local kids approached us with a view to auditioning as a traditional dance troupe. Mick Goss grew up in the heartland of traditional dancing in one of the remotest parts of South Africa, and he’d seen just about every traditional dance there was to be seen. Reluctantly, and only because they represented families of our disadvantaged, he and Cheryl agreed to attend an audition on Hartford’s front lawn. In the event, some 30 turned up, ranging from ages 8 to 18, together with six makeshift drums, strapped with animal hides and beaten with garden hoses as substitutes for the traditional drumsticks.
Remember, the judges had sat through more than a thousand renditions of traditional dance routines in their lives to that point, so this had to be impressive to become anything more than just another audition. Yet these kids were so good, when the show was over, it took the Gosses less than a minute to decide they would be a permanent fixture, on duty every Saturday evening at Hartford House for as long as the weather permitted. These youngsters were not just talented, they had regaled themselves in the full ceremonial gear at their own expense, yet they were part of an impoverished community. No doubt about their determination, not to mention their self belief.
Until three years ago, they’d never ventured beyond the confines of Mooi River, then, out of the blue, they were invited to perform at the Provincial Championships in Durban. There they won the right to represent KZN at the National Championships, and the rest is a fairytale. As the best dance group in South Africa, they were sent to Tokyo for the World Traditional Dance Championships, and on debut, they ranked third, in the whole darn world! It’s barely believable, we know, but here they were, the only team on the African continent to rank this high, and a year later, in Hong Kong, they finished second.
Reality is, this team is still a “work in progress”, and they’re getting better by the day, to the degree that we were confident, had it taken place as scheduled in the United States earlier this year, they might’ve returned with the World crown. Sadly, the present economic climate in the United States has led to the postponement of the event, but these youngsters will still have their day.
You need only ask those that’ve witnessed their routine to know how good they are. And while a man of Michael Jackson’s dance talents owes everything he’s knows to his African roots, he’d struggle to make the “bench” in the Hartford troupe.