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Jiva! Star Sne Mbatha Plans To Go All The Way Up

Sne played the role of Zinhle in the Netflix series

BY Naledi K

Sep 01, 2021, 10:29 AM

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As far as passion goes, actress, dancer and choreographer Sne Mbatha packs a mean punch. Her passion for dance is seen in her moves and in the moves she creates for people dancing with her and she tells YAZA that it’s that burning passion that drives her to want to bring positive to the industry she loves.

Many people only got to learn about Sne when she played the role of Zinhle on the very popular Netflix dance series Jiva! However, as a dancer, Sne is a well known and well-respected name in the game and has been dancing for more than two decades.

“I am an actress, a choreographer… a creative. I’ve choreographed awards events, videos, live concerts and all that jazz. I just recently moved to Cape Town to explore more of my career and learn more about the industry because there’s more of an international touch, here in Cape Town.”
“So I’m filling up my knowledge and I’ve been working with Red Bull ever since they started working with dancers which is like 10 yeas ago. I’ve been working with them for 10 but I’ve been dancing - how old am I now? - for something like 23 of my life.” 
Sne giggles as she thinks back to how she used to be the kid opening dance circles at family events. She's basically been dancing for coins and sometimes sweets since she was a kid.

The Jiva! star says dance is her language of choice and when she speaks that’s when she feels aligned with her purpose.

“For me, dance is kind of different to how a lot of people perceive it, so it's a language. Hence, there wasn’t a big moment or a magical moment where it clicked that I want to dance as a career. Like it’s a language for me… you don’t speak English and then be like ‘OMG I can speak English” you just do. Dance has always been my language and where I take it has never been with the intention of doing anything other than speaking, using my body.”
“I prefer speaking through dance. This is how I am serving my purpose.”
The dancer admits that career-wise, she was pressured to get a degree “like other kids”. She chose graphic design but knew even as she filled in the application forms that it was never going to work out because her heart was already captured by dance. So, after giving her mom an ultimatum, Sne dropped out of school and headed to Joburg with nothing but the intention to prove herself.

“I gave my mom an ultimatum. I was like ‘Ma’am, either you are going to let me make money (using dance) or you are going to continue losing money over a qualification that doesn’t even guarantee me getting a job. Also, the way that KZN was set up at the time, they never cared or catered to graphic designers and  I was studying graphic design. Look, I knew there was a future for me in that field if I chose to continue but at the same time I didn’t trust it."
"So I decided to move to Johannesburg to pursue my dream and I got an amazing job opportunity.”
Doors opened for Sne as she navigated the dance industry in the city of gold. After she did some work with Red Bull in 2011, she and her crew choreographed moves for US superstar Usher Raymond’s concert in 2012. 

She may be a well-established name in dance right now but that wasn’t always the case and it took a lot for her to get here. One of her biggest challenges was convincing her mother and then everyone else that dance was sustainable as a career.

“My qualms with the government and their lack of support for this particular industry is rooted in how they have failed to make it sustainable. The problem here for me, was when I started out, my mother couldn’t see dance as a career. I didn’t understand why at the time but I realised that it’s because all the stakeholders that should help make her understand that I can make a living out of dance don’t put the effort into doing so.”
The Jiva! star explained that it wasn’t even a “Black mothers” thing, it was all parents in general, no matter their colour or race. She added that children often dance their way into international competitions and big prizes but when it comes the time for choosing careers, their parents never allow them to pursue dance.

“For example, if you want to be a doctor, you will be supported by the school. From the learning subjects to information about that particular career. It’s just there, it's available and you don’t even have to search or ask for it. But for a dancer, you literally have to wait until you are in a certain grade to choose whether you want to do things like fine art or anything arts-related, and that's only even applicable in certain schools.”
For Sne, the lack of support for the dance industry needs urgent intervention because she says as an African country, arts and dance are part of our DNA and therefore can not continue to be sidelined.