Hartford House

The Home of Good Conversation, Fine Wine and Classic Horses.

Award-winning hotel and restaurant situated at Summerhill Stud on the picturesque KwaZulu-Natal Midlands Meander, South Africa.

Filtering by Tag: World Traditional Dance Championships

HARTFORD HOUSE DANCERS : A National Institution

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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.

The truth is incontrovertible: The Best Value in the World.

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The Hartford Zulu Dance Troupe
(Hartford House)

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One thing you’ll always notice about the change of seasons in the Drakensberg area, is that each season has a distinct character, and this year Spring has been as spectacular as ever.

It’s not only the birds that are singing: undoubtedly the best boy’s choir in the world, the Drakensberg Boys' Choir, is situated just up the road from us and they’re preparing for their Summer and Christmas seasons. If you’re in the vicinity of Hartford House, be sure to let us arrange a visit for you to one of life’s most outstanding choral experiences. We can even pack you a delicious picnic lunch and direct you via South Africa’s art capital, Clarens, all in the same morning.

Besides a burst of greenery and the profusion of young buds, they’re foaling “royalty” at South Africa’s champion racehorse breeding establishment, Summerhill Stud. This weekend also witnessed the departure of more than 100 bouncing two-year-olds to the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Sale in Johannesburg, on their way to racing glory no doubt.

Most of these youngsters have never set foot on a moving vehicle in their lives, and it’s a joy to watch the skills of our young Zulu horsemen coaxing them aboard to the encouraging serenades of school children, wives and "gogos" (or grandmothers) at the loading ramps.

You don’t have to be Ernest Hemingway to get among the trophy trout on this property. Just a few weekends back, two of our young guests availed themselves of our "master-class fly casting lessons", and each came away with prize trout of between six and seven pounds.

Another couple, whilst enjoying a “bomb-proof” horse ride in the direction of the Boathouse and Magic Mirror lake, were thrilled by a sudden stampede of startled Reedbuck and the sighting of the endangered Oribi.

We continue to be surprised, (but oh so pleasantly) at the pilgrimage of foreigners who travel from so far to visit with us at Hartford.

While we’ve always enjoyed a healthy sprinkling of Brits and Europeans, and a throng from the horse-loving countries to the west and east of us, we appear to have new devotees from the United States and Australia. People are supposedly rediscovering their roots, and it seems this area (Hartford House and Summerhill in particular) offers one of the warmest, most hospitable and genuinely authentic experiences on the planet.

There are others who delight in the entertainment of our Zulu dance troupe, and it’s a source of considerable pride to tell you that in a couple of weeks, they'll be winging their way to their third World Traditional Dance Championships to be held in the United States. The troupe have already achieved 2nd and 3rd in Tokyo and Hong Kong respectively and believe they now know how it’s done, and we’re confident they’ll return home the best Traditional Dance troupe in the world.

We know we don’t have to ask you to join us in wishing them well on their way. It’s the visits of our Guests that have encouraged and uplifted our people to such a degree, and we’re forever grateful for the contributions you make.

We sincerely hope this note finds you in the “pink”. If you aren’t already on your way to us, please visit us on our website at www.hartford.co.za for the latest in what’s up at Hartford. There’s just a tiny chance we might be able to lure you back before too long!

With the Rand at unprecedented levels against the major currencies, South Africans will be staying at home more than ever, and our foreign friends will find us the best value in the world, by a country mile.

Warmest regards,

PAULA MACKENZIE
HARTFORD HOUSE