For Samson Felo and his infant son Takudzwa, bonding time constituted dance rehearsals and performance trips during his tenure with famed Dance Company, Tumbuka. Little did he know that with each moment, a seed was being sown. That was in the early 2000s, and as he watched his son grow, he envisioned him becoming a computer whiz, due to his knack for technology, street smart ways and being quick on his hands. It never crossed his mind that he would pursue dance. In fact, there was a running joke that Takudzwa had two left feet.
“He struck me as a very smart kid growing up. He was a catch on baby, street lingo, the little things. He had a sharp memory; he could detail things he would have seen and experienced. I never thought that he would want to be in the performing arts because he’s very good with his hands. Things like tech, computers etc.” says Samson
But Takudzwa was quietly learning and carving his own path.
Listening to Takudzwa James Felo, now 20, chronicle his life story, it’s immediately evident that his father has been a great influence on his life.
“Growing up, I just knew my dad danced. Some days he would take me with him to his workplace and I would watch him rehearse. During this time, I saw a lot of what he was doing, and it would fascinate me.” Takudzwa says.
Takudzwa a.k.a Felo Felo or Young Felo as his friends and extended family call him, fondly recalls moments in Old Tafara in Mabvuku, where he grew up and still calls home, attending Tafara Primary School with lingering hopes of becoming a ballet dancer. His weekends were nothing short of eventful, prancing between his mother and father’s place, thankfully, his parents’ divorce did not hamper his relationship with them.
Samson worked hard to secure a place for his son at Churchill High School, and when Takudzwa enrolled at the all-boys school, the glaring wings of conformity came knocking. While there, dance was not within reach and did not seem like an option, and with his tall build, he naturally became a candidate for the school rugby team.
For a moment his attention shifted.
Takudzwa’s passion for dance was ignited once more when African western and traditional dance instructor Catherine Douglas visited Tafara with the DTZ outreach programme for a festival. Takudzwa took the opportunity to choreograph a dance piece under the City Youth Group, and he continued to sail through High School until 2017. Catherine would later cross his path again, to inform him of an opportunity to audition for the AfriKera Arts Trust September 2018 intake, and he took his shot.
The audition process was nerve wrecking for Takudzwa and self-doubt slowly crept in the more he scanned the room and spotted more experienced dancers. However, he tapped into his inner strength and pushed himself to successfully audition and secured a spot at AfriKera.
The first year was not easy, and Takudzwa constantly reminded himself that this had been a lifelong dream.
“I kept pushing myself saying this is my life.” He says.
Now in his second year at AfriKera, Takudzwa has struck a fine balance between his strengths and weaknesses, with ballet clearly being his first love while other genres including contemporary, work to diversify his technique. After a day at AfriKera, he makes his way to DTZ for extra ballet classes, and to date, he has successfully completed Ballet level 1.
His father was surprised at the turn of events for Takudzwa, who seemed headed towards a career in technology, with a promising rugby stint in High School.
“When he said I wanted to be a dancer I was taken aback, he’s not very rhythmic. I was like are you sure and he said yes.”
One of Samson’s concerns for his son was the cut-throat nature of the dance industry, set to derail the faint hearted.
“I had to work hard to earn a place. The industry is tough. You can be demotivated by the small things.” Samson explains
Reflecting on his own path, how he entered the dance scene without any formal training, spending countless hours in the DTZ (Formerly known as National Ballet of Zimbabwe) foyer watching the repertoire and rising through the ranks to perform locally and abroad along some of the most reputable dance companies, he is hardly surprised at how far his son has come.
“He’s passionate like his father, driven as well like his dad.” Samson says.
Samson is looking forward to the gates of the world opening again, so he can travel to Zimbabwe from his United States base, to watch his son dance.