It made me someone else. The moment I went to rehearsal my emotions changed, and I started feeling like the real me. For the first time I was Emmanuel. It was filling the space that was empty inside of me.
We met Emmanuel Rattle, Dance Tutor in Alexandra Field Band, at his place in Alex. He tells us about how being a member in the Field Band influenced his life, how it made him feel like himself for the first time. He started dancing in the Field Band in Kimberly at the age of 16 when he heard the sounds of drums and music in the neighbourhood. He had always been passionate about dancing and now he had finally found a place where he could unfold his talent.
I remember waking up singing and dancing in front of my grandmother. My passion was there from a very early age; I just loved singing and dancing. I used to grow up loving the art but not knowing where to go to fulfil my talent. In the Field Band I got the opportunity to socialise with others and express myself through music.
Already through his first encounter with the Field Band he felt that he had found a place to belong. He tells us that his favourite moment in the FBF was his first attendance
I just came with this hyper energy, and the teacher said “now look at Emmanuel, do it like him” and then I had to do it again.
His talent was there from the very start and now he was also getting recognized for it.
Feeling free as a homosexual in the Field Band
Despite his success with dancing, growing up was not always easy for Emmanuel. He had to stay though and self-confident through much emotional abuse due to his sexuality.
I always knew that I’m not a straight boy. I was a boy who liked to be with girls most, I was not actually a girl, but a boy more attracted to girl stuff and attracted to men instead of girls. The emotional abuse behind it was very hectic, you was forces to think older, forced to think like a 14 year old in terms of hearing from others: ”you are this , you are that” all the time. I had to stand up, fight for myself because I had to survive. I managed to keep my pride, to not be over emotional about it; I managed to make peace with it.
Emmanuel tells us about other homosexuals that did not manage to cope with this kind of pressure. Some could not manage to control their anger and channelled this frustration in the wrong ways. Others got severally demanded emotionally and physically. Emmanuel had close friends that would support, understand and accept him; this made it easier for him to face the difficulties. He also felt that the Field Band was a safe space for him to be himself and through his dance-talent he really got the chance to shine.
When I came into the Field Band I was already out and strong, but Field Band for me I was relaxed, I remember I thought: “oh my word this is like paradise for me”. The main thing in Field Band it focused about non-sexist, non-homophonic, non-xenophobic attitudes. We combat drugs, bad things and HIV and aids. Emotionally and psychologically this made a huge difference. Some others were also gay and on a later stage they came out, in Field Band, when they realize that this is not a homophobic space, they thought ;”I can come out being free”.
A talent for teaching: getting two students into the National School of Arts
With his energetic presence and strong passion for dance, Emmanuel grew quickly within the organisation and soon got the opportunity to become a teacher himself. This turned out to be something he really loved doing and something he was extremely talented at. He tells us that he at the age of nine already loved being a leader and role model for smaller kids in the street.
At the same time as I was growing up, maybe at the age of nine I would look after the small ones, pick up the kids of the street and have them do choreography with them and teach them, copying choreographies I saw on TV and stuff like that. I used to do that. Clapping my hands, I would sing the songs.
After finishing his metric in Kimberly, Emmanuel got asked to move to East London to become a dance tutor for the Field Band there. This was something new for him because he never had a chance to become a tutor in Kimberly.
My first year as a dance tutor I did very good, my kids got first position, and I had a solo dancer she also got first position. I choreographed all their dances. I thought her the choreography and told her: “you gonna present this, you gonna do this and this and this!” It was amazing for me to teach 180 kids in the rural areas and still manage to get first position.
After this success as a dance teacher in East London he personally requested to move to Alex in Johannesburg. He saw the Alex band perform and felt that they needed uplifting because at the time, he felt that they were not good enough. In Alex he grew as a teacher and became recognized in the community as a dancer, teacher and choreographer. He even accomplished to get two of his dance students in the Field Band to get accepted at the South African National School of Arts.
The most important part for me as a tutor is trying my utmost best to get two of my student to go to the School of Arts. I never got a chance to do it myself. This makes me so proud and emotional. I will end up old and very, very proud because I gave other people this opportunity. I was part of it; I made it possible for them. I close my eyes at night and just smile thinking of them, I know I’m good at teaching them, but now they are gonna get more good.
In addition to his success as a dance teacher in the Field Band Foundation, Emmanuel has also managed to build himself a carrier outside the foundation. He has done cooperate work on life promotion for big companies like Vodacom and Amstel, done choreography for different churches and organisations around Alex and worked as a dance teacher and choreographer for different dance institutions around Johannesburg. Emmanuel is a true inspiration for the many dancers in the Field Band Foundation and we hope to see more of his like in the future.
Written by Lisa Katrine Svendsen