Written by Tatenda Kanengoni
I first met Jonathan Kudakwashe Daniel in 2018 when he was completing the first year of his AfriKera Professional Dance Training. I remember how he coyly meshed within the crowd, and yet a few years later, now a graduate, I am faced with a totally different person, an astute performer, and the world is taking notice. Fresh from his US tour with Nora Chipaumire’s Nehanda production, we met to catch up on his newfound journey as a professional dancer.
Born in Harare’s oldest high-density suburb Mbare, Jonathan would not have imagined the course his life would take, but a few clues along the way signaled that he was destined to be a dancer.
“I started dancing when I was in my mother’s womb.” he chuckled, equating his prenatal kicks to a performance of sorts. He attended St Michael’s School in Mbare where at the age of 12, another clue pointed to his destiny. He joined the traditional dance group at his school and took part in various competitions before being selected for popular children’s performing arts collective Chipawo. While completing his final year in primary school, he took his talents across the Zimbabwean borders.
“In 2014, when I was in Grade 7, I was selected to attend auditions, they were looking for three boys and three girls to attend the “Brave Kids” children and youth festival in Poland. I was one of the selected students and I spent one month in Poland. People jokingly started calling me Jona Poland.”
Jonathan took quite well to traditional dance and after his time with Chipawo, he joined Ngorimba Arts Trust which specialized in the genre. Before long, he was head hunted by Simba Arts through which he attended the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA), where he met AfriKera alumni and instructor Tatenda Chabarwa. Amazed by Tatenda’s talent, Jonathan probed where he learnt how to dance and Tatenda mentioned AfriKera Arts Trust.
“I asked if they were looking for dancers, and he invited me to audition. I wound up at AfriKera one day and met the Institution’s Founder and Creative Director Soukaina M-L Edom and I told her I wanted to join. Tatenda Chabarwa brought me the audition form, I was 18 at the time, working at a tuckshop, I was contemplating if I should leave the tuckshop and study full-time.”
He chose the latter, and successfully completed auditions and enrolled at AfriKera on full scholarship. With minimal support from family, he withered a few storms including lack of resources and having only his best friend attend most shows to support him until he graduated in October 2021.
Jonathan performing “Varakashi” choreographed by Tatenda Chabarwa
After graduation, Jonathan was asked by Soukaina to teach at the French school, where he taught two afro-fusion classes, and when the stint ended, he felt stuck as to what step to take next.
“Tatenda Chabarwa told me he was rehearsing for a trip to America, and said he spoke to Mcintosh Jerahuni and he would get in touch with me.”
Mcintosh, a former AfriKera instructor and Nora Chipaumire, founder and director of Company Chipaumire put Jonathan through an audition process that he successfully completed and joined the “Nehanda” production.
And so, Jonathan and the rest of the production crew embarked on a 2-month US tour which included an intense schedule he described as “no child play.” However, thanks to the intense 3-year APDT he had undergone, he was prepared for the journey.
At the tail end of 2022, Jonathan joined the Nehanda cast for the Paris leg of the tour, and he is looking forward to more international productions and showcases in 2023.