The art of ‘B-boying’ within a male dominated hip-hop fraternity is far from a widely told story, let alone having a B-girl to tell it. When looking at the elements of hip-hop, the art of ‘B-boying’- also known as break dancing – doesn’t garner as much attention as Emceeing and DJ’ing.
It is rather an injustice that dancers tend to be less recognised and often under-appreciated in the performing arts, as the technicality of breaking or B-boying is rather complex and takes enormous skill and dedication. ‘B-boying’ as the name suggests is often thought of as an art form that only males can handle. This is because of the physical rigour the craft entails. That is, balancing and carrying one’s body-weight while rhythmically moving to the beat. However, don’t let this fool you into thinking that ladies can never do this nor possess the skill to be mean break dancers.
Courtnae’ Paul is one such lady who’s a choreographer, DJ and South Africa’s top B-girl,. But that’s not all there is to this gorgeous lass. Courtnae’ is a commerce scholar and encompasses the present industry paradigm of artists and performers having to also harness an entrepreneurial spirit. Being able to operate and compete in a male dominated industry with as much ease as she does, is testament to her great fortitude and tenacity.
Lavatory Records had the pleasure of talking to this dynamic young woman about her craft and aspirations, developments within the industry and the challenges of being the top B-girl in South Africa.
Lavatory Records: Who is Courtnae’ Paul?
Courtnae’ Paul: A 23 year-old from Durban, now living in Johannesburg. I’m A joker, a sister to two siblings, a mother of one handsome pit-bull and a BCom Management student. Professionally, I’m a B-girl, choreographer, DJ and creative.
LR: When and how did you get into dance?
CP: I stumbled into dance around age 10/11 dancing with my church dance team. It wasn’t something I took too seriously until I got cast for my first big production when I was 16. I was a lead in the show and got to choreograph a few pieces as well. I was terribly underpaid and realised, this was something I could see myself doing for a long while. I applied myself and jumped at every opportunity I could… The rest is history 🙂
LR: As a hip hop dancer, do you regard yourself as just a “B- girl” or a more multi-faceted dancer?
CP: First and foremost, I am a B-girl; it’s something that resonates deeply inside of me. I started dancing long before Breaking came into play, however once I got into it, it defined me. I am well versed in most urban styles and being multi-faceted has definitely pushed my career to where it is now.
LR: Which dancer(s) do you admire?
CP: I admire so many dancers, for so many different reasons it’s hard to name one or two. But one of my favourites is Lorrianne Gibson. She has positioned herself in such a place and way that makes Dance seem like a dream job. I have huge amounts of respect for people who make a solid living out of both the creative and business aspects of Dance.
LR: What kind of music moves you?
All music moves me. I think that is the very reason I am where I am – from actual music, to sounds of everyday life. It’s about finding a rhythm in everything, everywhere.
LR: Do you think dance as a profession is underrated? What needs to be done for it to be placed on par with other performing arts?
CP: Extremely underrated, but it’s getting better. Dance in SA is a fairly new industry and most are still figuring out how to treat it or make it work. Dancers are the hardest working physically and in terms of the hours put in training to be able to be called dancers, yet are still amongst the lowest paid and least respected. I think it goes back to where we sit on the food chain and the kind of reach us as dancers have. Musicians get to have their music played on radio, TV etc. and dancers only really get to be seen live – and usually as a supporting act to an artist. Overseas, dancers/ choreographers are artists.
They are respected as artists. The singers/ rappers are just as excited to work with great choreographers as the choreographer is to work with a great artist because they know these dancers and choreographers are taking their show up and they appreciate the help and give credit where it’s due. Here it is kind of twisted. Where you’re only great when tied to an artist, and even then it’s not about how good you are that has landed you there… but more so how ‘lucky’ you are that that artist has chosen you.
LR: Would you consider branching out into other domains of entertainment?
CP: Of course! Last year I started DJ’ing and have played at some amazing events such as Street Cred and KentPhonic and Friends to name a few. I’ve also had mixes aired on both 5FM and TransAfrica radio a few times. There are many more areas I’d like to tackle, all in due time 🙂
LR: Which artists/ performers have you worked with?
CP: Internationally I’ve opened/ performed / choreographed for Jay Sean, Pitbull, Fatman Scoop, Rea Sremmurd, Burna Boy, Banky W, and Lil Wayne. Locally I’ve performed and choreographed for Toya Delazy – who I toured with for a year, Reason, Lloyd Cele, Mafikizolo, The Graeme Watkins Project, George Avakian, iFani, Khuli Chana, Da L.E.S. and AKA.
LR: What’s been the highlight of your dance career?
CP: It’s hard to give one specific highlight, because every show, job or sponsor I secure still surprises me to an extent. However my highlights have to be every time I get on stage and see the crowd enjoying themselves, clapping and screaming. To know I can do what I am passionate about and have people applaud and appreciate what I do, is just an incomparable feeling.
LR: Are you working on any projects/events where people can catch or watch you?
CP: I am busy with a few exciting things! I am the newest BOUNCE INC SA ambassador, as well as sponsored by Skullcandy, Red Bull and Neff. I am choreographing for some amazing corporates, choreographing for Banky W, as well as choreographing and performing with local artist Da Les.
LR: What are your other fields of interest apart from dance/entertainment?
CP: Along with my background of gymnastics and kickboxing, I’ve got a love for animal welfare, fitness, education and just living life to the fullest.
LR: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to get into Dance as a career?
CP: Do it. No doubts and second guessing yourself… Just do it.
We thank Ms Courtnae’ Paul for taking time to speak with us. Make sure you keep up with her on Facebook, Twitter: @Courtnae_Paul and Instagram: @Courtnae_Paul. You can also subscribe to her YouTube Channel, where you can watch her No Limits project in which she exhibits her skill and talent.