Taurai Chimina is involved in a physical exercise, which requires spatial awareness, muscle activation and intense concentration. Is he dancing or playing football? Both.
I sat down with the 28-year-old AfriKera graduate to reveal a story of extreme talent, physical, financial disadvantages, universal gifts, a deep passion for ‘the beautiful game’ and ‘sport of the gods.’
Part I – Kickoff on stage
Hello Taurai! How are things in Germany? Which city are you living in?
Things in Germany are good! I stay in Köln.
How long have you been living in Köln? Did you go there to dance?
It’s been around a year and a half, l came here to play football. l stopped dancing full-time two years ago when I was staying in Düren.
I see… so I heard you played football before dancing?
Tell me about your childhood in Mbare, how was that like?
I grew up in a poor family of three, with my sister and younger brother, we had no father. Our mother took care of everything to send us to school. She was selling vegetable, tomatoes etc.
The lifestyle in Mbare, if you don’t have focus, you can fall into drugs. Even young girls can prostitute themselves. So living in this environment, you have to be focused.
Was football your focus growing up?
It’s a talent that l was born with. l still remember when l was four years old in the ghetto, making ‘chikwese’ a ball made of plastic bags. Every time l played with my friends I was the best. They would come by the house calling me. ‘Captain’ was my name in the group! At seven, l went for junior trials with Caps United F.C. It was my first time.
I had no football boots, so played barefoot, while everyone else had shooters! l passed the trials. The coach said, ‘You are part of our team.’ Then he asked for my shoe size. They felt heavy at first, but as time went on, my feet started to ‘kujaira’ break into them.
But l mixed dance with football, because I lived in the same area with former Dance Foundation Course (DFC) Graduate, Simbarashe Fulukia, the founder of Simba Fulukia Dance Group. He taught us traditional dance. This was before he joined the DFC.
Ok how old were you when you started taking classes?
10, l was still in primary school.
Ah… saka wakaipa! You were dancing, playing football and going to school at the same time!?
Yes. l still remember, the first time I met Soukaina (AfriKera Arts Trust Director) at the Dance Trust of Zimbabwe (DTZ) in 2005. I was fifteen, we were performing at the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) with a DFC student, Dennis Mwenye.
Soukaina was at the rehearsals and stood out with one lock on her bald head!
After HIFA, l quit dance to focus more on football because l left Caps for Agatha Shinety Soccer Academy, (ASSA).
But then there was a point where you went back to dance. What happened with the football?
ASSA offered to pay my school fees, transport money, food… everything.
But in my heart I loved dance.
Sounds like you had to make a tough decision.
It was tough you know, l saw my neighbour, Dennis Mwenye’s brother David, touring Europe with Tumbuka. So in my mind l was thinking ‘l want to do what David is doing, to support my family.’
When did you join the DFC (Dance foundation course) – Dance Training program of the DTZ (Dance trust of Zimbabwe) formerly based at the National Ballet of Zimbabwe
I joined the DFC in September 2012.
Was it tough to leave football?
It was not a tough decision because in 2009 the academy collapsed. I played with my neighborhood team Mbare Catholic Saints FC. Then in 2011, l quit football and started focusing on dance. My aim was to be a part of the DFC.
It was the big dream. Plus, I was getting no money but a lot of injuries juggling football and dance.
But then you saw that pursuing a dance career was also hard. What challenges did you face in the training program?
l faced many challenges. Standing in first position, in ballet, with my bow legs was difficult. During showcases, I had no confidence speaking in front of people.
My arms were not straight and my small height worked against me when making big movements in certain styles. For example, if l perform with a taller person, I have to match up my movements to their height.
I didn’t think about all this! Plus, you also had to walk three hours …. no six hours in total to walk from Mbare to school. Sometimes without eating breakfast.
That was challenging.
How did you manage?
Because things were ‘tight’ economically, l just did it. I really don’t know how I managed it!
One of the things that motivated you was seeing some of your classmates going to places like Belgium, while you and some others weren’t picked.
You had never been on a plane How important is it in life to dream?
Very important. I think everyone at one point was excited to travel by plane.
Some people dream about it, but don’t want to work to achieve it. I used to be friends with people like that and they were bringing me down.
Yes, mixing with lazy people is never good. You decided to get serious. When did you graduate?
Part II Tanze und Fußball
You must look back on that moment with pride! You achieved one part of your dream! The next one was to go overseas. How did you get the opportunity to go to Germany?
A guy who owns a German-based circus company, Jabula Africa, came to Zimbabwe searching for traditional dancers. At the audition, we were 60 people and 8 were going to be selected. I was amongst them.
How long were you supposed to stay?
We got a one year staying visa then renewed it.
Were you teaching, performing or doing both?
Which of our traditional styles were you showcasing?
Mbakumba, Muchongoyo, Mbende, Chinyambera and Dinhe
Chinyambera. But l love them all.
But your passion for football came back to haunt you.
Yes, that’s true…
How did you start playing fussbal in Germany?
One day I was in town talking to an Ethiopian guy about football. He asked if I played, then told me about his team. He said ‘If you play good our coach will take you. Come and train with us.’ I went, the coach liked my profile and told the management to sign me.
What is the name of the team?
Rhenia Marianen FC.
Compared to Zimbabwean football, was it easy for you to adapt to German style?
In Germany it is not easy because they work hard and have all the equipment. In Zimbabwe, sometimes you have to buy your own stuff, and there is corruption. If you don’t bribe the coach, you don’t play. You get benched, your replacement can’t even hold the ball, but his parents have money.
But now in Germany you had everything so there were no excuses.
None at all.
Your dance career launched your football career there.
Yes, you can say that, dance gave me the opportunity to come here, otherwise l don’t know how I would have kicked a ball here, except in a park!
You now play for SSV Solbach Buchen, what was the draw?
SSV Solbach offered me everything: Better salary and a house.
Also describe your playing style: are you a creative player? What position do you play?
Right wing, l like to dribble and pass. Cutting inside and scoring is also a common movement of mine.
Have you won any trophies or individual awards with your team?
We’ve won a trophy, winning a knockout tournament. l was ‘man of the match’ in a few games.
How many levels is your league below the Bundesliga ?
Do you have the ambition to one day play in the Bundesliga or are you happy where you are?
Hopefully l will make it there. That’s why l’m working hard everyday.
Now let’s compare dance and football… Which one requires more physical preparation?
How has it helped your football game?
Faster execution of actions on the field. For example: Dribbling, turning, running with the ball, looking up when passing.
How about in reverse, can football skills help with dance?
Yes, you can use football skills to create a choreography… which is a goal of mine.
That would be cool! I know you are focused on football, but do you still dance here and there?
l teach African traditional, showcasing our Zimbabwean styles with a group called Szene 7, who mostly focus on Hip-Hop.
Szene 7. What does it mean? Are German people open to learning African dance?
It means Scene 7. Yes they are very open and enthusiastic.
Nice. Finally,… what advice would you give to aspiring dancers and footballers… since you do both!
If you have something that you want in your life don’t let people drag you down, stay focused and keep on praying because one day God will lift you up.
Amen. Thank you Tau for this talk. I hope to see you playing in the Bundesliga soon!
You are welcome!