From Wupperthal to Los Angeles - Rooibos country's Riel dancers are doing us proud
Die Nuwe Graskoue Trappers: dancing from Wupperthal to the world stage
In July this year, a Riel dance group from the Cederberg area around Clanwilliam travelled to Los Angeles in the USA to compete in the World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA). Participants from 62 countries performed at this "Olympics of Performing Arts".
This Riel dance group, called Die Nuwe Graskoue Trappers, was invited to take part in the WCOPA based on their performance at the South African Championships of the Performing Arts where they won the Grand Champion Award for Best Group Performance as well as the Gold medal in Ethnic Folk Dance.
Funding the trip to the USA
Holding on to their dream to represent South Africa on the world's performing arts stage, the Riel dance group first had to find the resources to travel to the USA - at the cost of R65 000 per person. Floris Smit, the group's manager, approached various individuals and businesses, among them Rooibos Ltd.
Gerda de Wet, Communication Manager at Rooibos Ltd, explained: "We supported these dancers wholeheartedly because they help to make the world aware of this beautiful part of our country with its unique Rooibos, Riel dancing and rugged Cederberg mountains. The renewed interest in the Riel keeps this traditional dance form alive."
Said Floris Smit, manager of Die Nuwe Graskoue Trappers, "It has been an experience of a lifetime and life-changing for these kids. From Wupperthal to Hollywood, and they fitted in right from the word go and they drew a lot of attention. The main sponsors were Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat and the Tollman Family, supported by sponsors such as Rooibos Ltd. These dancers have become global ambassadors for South Africa."
More about Riel dancing
The traditional Riel dance form is recognised as the oldest dance form in South Africa and a creative cultural expression. It was very popular in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, but has sadly been neglected in recent decades. Born out of traditional Khoi and San ceremonial dances around the fire, the Riel dance has been practiced by descendants of these indigenous cultures for many years. Popular Riel dances include courtship rituals mimicking animal antics along with lots of bravado, showmanship and foot stomping. Riel has only recently been revived through the efforts of writer and storyteller Elias Nel of the Afrikaanse Taal- en Kultuurvereniging (ATKV), who introduced the ATKV Riel Dance Competition in 2006 to help ensure the survival of the dance.
Returning as true South African ambassadors
Die Nuwe Graskoue Trappers represented South Africa as true ambassadors. They have indeed helped to build awareness of the importance of this country's traditional dance forms and the Riel dance in particular. Or as Floris Smit said, "Riel dancing holds possibilities for young South Africans daring to dream!" Die Nuwe Graskoue Trappers and their band won a total of 13 medals and two trophies at the 19th annual WCOPA in Long Beach, California.
This is how the media reported on Die Nuwe Graskoue Trappers' performance at the WCOPA: