It was a triumphant moment and an eruption of celebration when Oscar Buthelezi, Moving into Dance Mophatong’s Vosloorus-born dancer and choreographer, was unanimously announced winner of the 2016 Kurt Jooss prize.

Triumph and joy were palpable when the judges – Martin Schläpfer, Reinhild Hoffmann, Nils Christe, Dr. Patricia Stöckemann and Andreas Bomheuer – announced their choice. Buthelezi has walked a long and difficult journey, becoming a world recognised dancer and choreographer at the age of 25. It is also fitting that this global acknowledgement comes following his visceral and athletic piece, aptly titled, Road.

Road analyses the dilemmas of the paths we take and choices we make. It is a poetic and poignant duet – performed alongside fellow MIDM dancer and rehearsal director, Muzi Shili – about navigating to where we want to be and defining the route that guides us there. 

The prize was awarded at a glamourous event in Essen, Germany on Saturday evening.  Over 70 choreographers from 26 countries put forward their choreographic works for judging. From these, three finalists were chosen by the international selection panel, including Buthelezi, who went on to clinch both the high profile choreographic prize and the Audience Choice Award – the first time in history both awards have gone to the same choreographer.

The talented 25-year-old’s Road has been staged on a number of platforms in Africa, including: the Spring-Loaded Festival in Gauteng in 2014, the National Schools Festival in Grahamstown in July 2015, the My Body My Space Festival in 2015 and was well received earlier this year at the MASA (Market For African Performing Arts) Festival in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

Buthelezi said he was emotional, elated and overwhelmed, and saw his success as an achievement for South Africa and MIDM on the world stage, he said.

“This is the most humbling yet proudest moment of my career. The calibre of the other finalists was incredible and I am so grateful and blessed to have won both awards. Winning these motivates me to work even harder, to give back and to keep pushing my choreography in innovative directions,” Buthelezi said.

Buthuezi attended the event with Shili and MIDM artistic director, Mark Hawkins who said he was still taking it all in.

“I’m completely blown away by the double whammy win. We made history on Saturday night. Oscar Buthelezi and Muzi Shili have done South Africa and Moving into Dance so proud,” said Hawkins.

“I’m so proud of Oscar and this recognition couldn’t have gone to a more deserving choreographer. His humility and willingness to learn has taken him far already, and it will do so into the future,” said Nadia Virasamy, MIDM chief executive.

The Kurt Jooss Prize is one of the biggest choreography prize in the world and is held every three years. It was established as a prestigious commendation for young choreographers in 2001, on the occasion of the 100th birthday of Kurt Jooss, co-founder of the Folkwang University of the Arts and founder of the Folkwang Dance Studio.

 The prize is sponsored by the Anna and Hermann Markard Foundation and the German City of Essen and is awarded every three years. It is intended to encourage as well as support choreographers not yet fully established in their profession.

“Thank you to everyone for their support. I couldn’t have done this without the overwhelming support and well wishes of all the people that have walked the road with me. Congratulations have been pouring in from South Africa since the announcement,” Buthelezi said.