I Am UWC: Ameera Juta, Dancing with (and about) the stars
Second-year BA student Ameera Juta is one of those dancers you’d definitely notice in a crowd of performers - it’s hard to miss her energy and enthusiasm.
That’s why the longtime Pinelands resident was selected as one of the youngest of the talented group of professional and semi-professional dancers and actors in Miriam Makeba Mama Africa - The Musical, a tribute show celebrating the life of this musical legend.
The show, a collaboration that marks the 30th anniversary of the relationship between UWC and the University of Missouri, as well as the 10th anniversary of Makeba’s passing, tells the story of the struggles and successes of one of South Africa’s most important and interesting figures, and features 30 of her most popular songs to boot.
And for Ameera, being part of a show like this is a dream come true - even if it does get a little hectic sometimes.
Ameera’s love for the performing arts began early on. “I started acting in primary school and did my first musical (Hair Spray) in high school - I couldn’t get enough of it,” she says. “I’d be the one with the beaming face enjoying the stage lights - it was so much fun.
But after matric, she had to decide on a career - a tough decision between following her passion for performing, and preparing for a mainstream degree by going to UWC.
BA wasn’t her first choice, but it turned out to be a good one. “I find myself reading and writing a lot now, and I really enjoy doing it, despite the sleepless nights spent studying. It excites me as it has a lot to do with the arts, media, film - all things that are close to me.”
Then one day she responded to a campus emailer about a musical, and come February this year she suddenly found herself in a tough rehearsal for a seriously professional production.
“There were actors there with their agents, and I was all on my own, and I wasn’t really confident about my dancing,” she says. “But I just did my own thing, and I managed to convince them I could manage a dancing role.”
Travelling the world and living the dream, one day at a time
This is Ameera’s first big professional production, and working on the musical has been a blessing - but it’s been a lot of hard work as well.
“Between rehearsals at the Centre for Performing Arts I’ve had to run back and forth to classes, and by the end of the week I’m exhausted,” she remarks. “But luckily my friends are always willing to keep extra notes for me, and my fellow cast members help me out if I miss rehearsals. That’s the secret to a great campus experience - great friends who’re always ready to help out, even if you don’t have the time to socialize properly.“
It’s not just her friends, either. Her family has always supported her and allowed her to go for whatever she wanted, and the quality time she spends with them (especially her little nephew) and with her boyfriend on the weekends, strolling in Sea Point, having a nice lunch or just relaxing, has helped keep her sane.
Ameera’s dream is to perform on Broadway - and with the musical set to tour the US this year and keep moving from there, that dream could come true sooner than she ever thought possible. Unfortunately, touring presents another studies-based dilemma - it’s hard to attend your classes from a whole different continent.
“When the time comes for touring I’ll probably have to complete my degree through a correspondence course,” she says. “But I take every day as it comes, and for now I’ll be following my other dream and making the best of the opportunities I’m being offered.”
Miriam Makeba Mama Africa - The Musical has just completed a run at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology Auditorium, and the show will be touring the United States later this year. But feel free to get a little taste of the action here...
Listen to Ameera’s KFM interview here...