Wednesday, December 1, 2010

BRAVO Series: Louis Potgieter

In honour of World AIDS Day, I bring to you Louis' article from the BRAVO series covering each of the band members.

From this article, we can see that he had an extraordinary ballet career. He must have had some incredible talent, not to mention ambition and sheer determination, to not only have made it as a professional ballet-dancer after never taking a lesson until he was 21, and then to go from the very back row (a VERY bad placement, in a ballet dance) to a solo dancer in only 2 years. Such a thing is pretty much unheard of!

RIP, Louis...if only you'd been able to open that ballet-school...

Louis Hendrik Potgieter: The Genghis Khan from Africa

Well, I must be completely honest: when I jump over the stage as Genghis Khan in our newest hit “Moskau,” I sometimes yearn back to my theatre days on the big stage. All the big roles I've danced, in the last five years, come to mind, with the most famous partners, such as Margot Fonteyn, in my arms. That was my world. “Swan Lake,” or “Shah and Scheherezade.” Now I'm just Genghis Khan, with a few steps to rehearse.

But I can't complain. I willingly became Genghis Khan, and I don't regret it. I earn more money now than as a Solo-dancer. I am particularly strained: we travel constantly throughout the world.

I think our group will last a long time. We have with the founder of Dschinghis Khan, Ralph Siegel, a five year contract. It is important to me now to meet people I can later help. Maybe one day I'll even have my own ballet-school.

I am a South African national. My father's forefathers came from Holland, my mother's from France. My father is in Pretoria, the capital of South Africa, a sales director of a construction firm. I have five siblings: a brother (Johan), and four sisters (Analiese, Karin, Erna and Talana). I haven't seen my family in four and a half years.

I speak on the telephone often with my parents. I sang for them “Dschinghis Khan” and “Moskau.” I always send them whatever the newspapers say about us. My parents are very proud of me, although my father was not very enthusiastic at first, when I became a dancer.

Dancing has always fascinated me. In school, I danced at school festivals and even made my own choreography. After I was finished with school, I studied Graphic Arts for two years. I had many ideas in my head: I wanted to be a fashion designer, a musician, or even a dancer.

At 21, I had not taken a single ballet class. I was introduced to the Ballet-Director of the Johannesburg Theatre. He saw that I had talent, and gave me a three-month probationary period. During those three months, I worked like an animal. Six, seven hours daily in the practise room. Afterwards, I could not feel my bones.

But it was worth it. I was hired. Although I was only in the group, and in the last row, I was there. And after two years, I was a solo dancer. My biggest wish was fulfilled.

One of my friends went to Ulm, Germany, as a ballet-chief. He invited me to meet him there. So I left my home and family just under five years ago. I spent a year in Ulm, and a year in the Swiss town of St. Gallen. But I wanted to be on a major stage. I travelled to Frankfurt where three or four times a year, many ballet dancers audition for ballet directors and heads of large houses. There I was hired as a soloist for the Munich Garden Place Theatre.

I had a great time at the Garden Place Theatre, although I had to appear in operettas, which I do not like so much. Incidentally, I was allowed to appear in various TV shows. I owe that to my role as Genghis Khan. The famous choreographer William Millie brought me to Ralph Siegel's attention when he was looking for a dancer.

At first I was curious about what would happen. I thought this might be a job for a few days. I had never seen the other members of Dschinghis Khan before. We were all pretty nervous. If you asked me then, if I ever would have believed in the success of our group, I would have said a thousand times, no. We six have it together. Of course, now and then we have differences of opinion, but they are smoothed over quickly.

As far as I know, we all have the same contract. As a dancer, I earn no more and no less than the others who sing.

I have a small advantage over my colleagues: On the street, no one recognizes me. Unmasked, I have my privacy.


  1. Wow. I'm speechless- what a moving article. He really is open and honest here. Singing Dschinghis Khan and Moskau over the phone to his parents is one of the sweetest things I've ever heard.......

    There's so much I want to comment on- I'll let it sit for a while and then figure out what I want to say. What an incredible article, though. ALL SIX of them have an article like this? Holy........

    Thank you for taking the time to translate this AND to type it all out, Jenn. It was my pleasure to read it........

  2. So the impression I'm left with is that, deep down, he was not happy as Dschinghis Khan. Maybe it was just the questioning, but he talks almost wholly about his dancing life. You don't pull details from your past with such clarity unless you spend a lot of time thinking about it, keeping it all at the front of your mind. He probably replayed that part of his life over and over in his mind's eye........

    And that one sentence says it all: "Now I'm just Genghis Khan, with a few steps to rehearse."

    "Just." "Few." He wasn't happy.......

    But the question then becomes why didn't he go back to dancing after DK broke up? Maybe 34 is too old to be a professional dancer, I don't know- but he joined that other group after DK broke up, so he obviously still wanted to perform.

    I cannot wait for the others, Jenn. Thank you again for posting it-

  3. Thank you so much for posting it! I like Louis so pity for him!
    He was so talented.
    Wish there were his artworks published somwhere too...

  4. Muito talentoso e amava os pais. Que Deus o abençoe.