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High-kicking SA dancer struts his craft at Moulin Rouge

Chris Ncekana from Gugulethu, Cape Town, joins the Parisian spectacular that has entertained millions since 1889.

By Debbie Hathway
Chris Ncekana in front of the Moulin Rouge © Philippe Wojazer – Moulin Rouge

Dancer, actor and model Chris Ncekana (32) from Cape Town has joined the cast of Moulin Rouge in Paris after successfully auditioning for artistic director Janet Pharaoh in March 2023.

Chris Ncekana – Show 2 © Moulin Rouge – Philippe Wojazer

It’s been a long road since donning ballet shoes at age six in the dusty streets of Gugulethu, deflecting taunts from boys who relate more to goalposts than dance studios. Still, Chris was determined to avoid the perils of growing up in an environment where gangs, substance abuse, unemployment and teenage pregnancy are rife. He joined Dance for All (DFA), based in nearby Athlone, and established to “give children the opportunity to experience the joy of movement while receiving a high standard of dance training.”

Chris Ncekana and Leonid Glushchenko Make up 1 © Moulin Rouge – Philippe Wojazer

Philip Boyd, founder and patron of DFA, remembers Chris as a “model student, a role model to so many other DFA students and always extremely well-mannered and well groomed. I realised from a young age that Chris had an excellent focus and an ambition to do better and go further with his dance training. Chris always respected his dance teachers and he had a maturity beyond his years.”

Chris Ncekana backstage in pirates costume 2 © Moulin Rouge – Philippe Wojazer

Chris attended Alexander Sinton High School through DFA’s Senior Scholarship Programme, where he was taught by Prima Ballerina Assoluta Phyllis Spira and completed his matric with excellent results. “How wonderful it is to see how successful Chris has become as a professional dancer, living his dream on the international stage. We are extremely proud of him,” says Philip.

Chris Ncekana backstage in pirates costume © Moulin Rouge – Philippe Wojazer

Chris went on to work with companies like Bovim Ballet before moving abroad, performing on cruise liners and at the Broadway Theatre in Macau, China. Grant van Ster, co-founder of Figure of 8 Dance Collective, has known Chris since he danced at DFA. “He had a wonderful presence; a gentle, friendly personality. We danced together at Bovim Ballet for years, in many ballets and corporate events. Chris was always punctual, dedicated and a team player. It was fun and inspiring to work with him; he was eager to learn, share and perform. I think he’s a perfect fit for Moulin Rouge. He is a tall guy, a caring dance partner and I know those hips can move. Moulin Rouge is iconic. I’m so happy for him.”

Chris Ncekana, Milan Crawford (on the left) and Erin Blanchfield (on the right) ©Philippe Wojazer – Moulin Rouge

Chris debuted in July 2023 in the current show Féerie, which features talented artists from around the globe. “I had an amazing time on stage. The energy and connection with the audience were surreal,” he says. “Seeing the audience light up with smiles reaffirms my purpose.”

Good to know

Féerie is on six days a week, and the dancers perform two shows per night at 9 pm and 11 pm. The show is just under two hours long, and people start queuing at around 10 pm for the 11 pm staging. Seating is random at tables, supper club style. Be prepared to be dazzled by the atmospheric theatre setting, long, lithe bodies, and a thousand costumes meticulously made of feathers, rhinestones and sequins. Patrons must book long in advance to avoid disappointment. Tickets include a show only with optional drinks, or a show with dinner and optional drinks.

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