In 2008, two brothers decided to dedicate their blood sweat and tears into the art of dance. Adopting hip hop as their core genre, Tendai and Tinashe were known then as the dancing duo TNT. As they continued dancing, they infused spirituality by putting God at the centre of their journey. Today TNT, now known as Thee Naughty Toddlers, boasts of over 15 dancers of South African, Zimbabwean, Zambian, Motswana and Malawian origin. Through Art of the Soul Organization, our blogger Boitshepo Motsamai caught up with co-founder CJ to talk about it’s growth so far, and being a hip hop based dance group in Africa.
Tell us how TNT’s journey began
It first started off with the two of us me and my brother, back in 2008. I mean we went for a while for 2 years by ourselves. People liked what we were doing and someone wanted to join but I don’t think we were ready for people to join us, uhm either way we ended up recruiting more guys. More guys came through until we reached to a point where we were 15 – and that was more recent.
We basically started off with hip hop that’s our base, that’s what we do the most , break dancing, krumping, popping locking, animation all of that. For the crowd that we were dancing for at the time and still even now, it’s mostly high school kids and even the young kids they really like it and that’s what kept us motivated; dancing for people. Especially us as Christians, we are a Christian dance group and we feel that what we were given should be displayed and help people understand what God has for them because – we feel like there is a purpose intended for us to dance and show off the glory for Him because it has helped allot of people.
I know for a fact that if I and my brother were not dancing at all, something would’ve just gone wrong in our lives. Because there was a point where – our family isn’t really, you know. We are not rich so if we stopped dancing, I think we would’ve gone to something bad- probably been arrested a few times or something
Having God at the centre of your dance group, how has it affected the lives of other people that you have recruited?
There are a couple of guys who were into bad things, let me just say that. And they used to hang around us a lot. And we were actually amongst the best dancers in Gaborone at the time. And a lot of people wanted me and my brother and they probably thought – I’m sure this is what God is doing for them let me give it a try and it actually worked well for them. I know one of the guys was into some bad stuff and now he’s a chef at a big hotel in Francistown. I know that if he was here right now he would say dance really changed him. Especially the way we dance it changed his life and made him go on a better way in his life. This goes for other guys in our crew and people came and went.
The fact that hip hop isn’t a culture necessarily accustomed to Africa it didn’t start here, but yet you guys have managed to dance professionally in this arena. How did you manage to do so?
We honestly just kept on no matter what anyone said because for us it is what we do best. But over the years we’ve seen two or three dance groups comes and there are not hip hop infused, but we’ve seen that sometimes you have to include other genres that people are also accustomed to. I know for a fact not the whole country likes hip hop. There are a few select audiences that like it. So we can’t sustain the whole environment on it, we need to appeal to the whole country. So what we realized particularly this year, is that we get into more African culture, more African dancing, contemporary so that also if people look at us from outside Africa we learn that TNT is not just a hip hop dance group, they have African infusion too.
Where do you look to when you try to perfect your skills?
We’ve been looking at videos on YouTube and all that, one thing we’ve noticed is that – because we’ve been trying for years to get out of Africa to dance- it’s not going to happen for a fact. Because if we want to go to America and dance in a competition and win, we should think of groups like Jabba Wockees who we have to compete with and win, and it’s a really huge mountain to climb.
I’m sure we can do it one day, but for us to get somewhere further we also have to include our roots of African dance. So we’ve been learning a lot of African dance moves and dancing to African music, the groove has been inside us. I believe the more we do this, the better our chances of us being recognized.
Let us go back to the African types of dances. Are we looking into traditionally or African pop culture?
Unfortunately we weren’t blessed enough to get African traditional into our dances but i used to work with a group called Mophato dance theatre. I got a lot of experience from them. So it was easy for me to try and incorporate what I have learnt from them and to bring it into us. I’m not trying to get rid of our hip hop, I’m just trying to bring in what I learnt. Just to add African into it – it’s like a big pot that’s been stewing for a while. So were just still putting in ingredients and all that.
Do you hope that one day you’ll be able to create your own genre of dance?
Yes we hope so, we have a show in October called exodus, its going to be a two part show: one part showing you the hip hop side of TNT the other part showing you our new stuff. So i think the best thing to say people want to come check out what TNT can do, if there is any new dance which I can say we would have. I think by that show we would be ready to show what we have. But by that time the show would be a great ideal.
more on their collaboration with Art of the Soul and their goals for 2020 on the next page